Dorsal spines (total): 13-15; Dorsal soft rays (total): 9-12; Anal spines: 3-3; Anal soft rays: 7-9; Vertebrae: 25. Diagnosis: mouth small, premaxilla moderately protractile (Ref. 43352). Snout short (Ref. 43352) and obtuse, scarcely longer than eye (Ref. 522). 2 middle teeth of upper jaw scarcely longer than others; scales on cheek in 3-4 series (Ref. 552). Pharyngeal bone roughly triangular, heavily dentigerous (Ref. 43352), with 22-24 teeth along posterior margin (Ref. 3032, 43352). Pharyngeal teeth bicuspid with clearly defined minor cusp (Ref. 3032, 43352). Median pharyngeal teeth non-molariform (Ref. 3032). Orbit narrow, caudal peduncle deep (Ref. 43352). Dorsal fin commences before root of pectoral (Ref. 552). Operculum with large black spot (Ref. 552), another black oval spot on side of body (Ref. 552, 3032, 43352, 81260), latter sometimes absent (Ref. 81260). Black spot on caudal peduncle normally present, small and ovoid (Ref. 81260). Sides of head with round black spots (Ref. 552). Irregular distributed pattern of blue spangling on head, body and unpaired fins (Ref. 43352, 81260). Never with multiple series of distinct blotches or bars on flanks (Ref. 81260).
Description: relatively deep-bodied, robust (body depth 32.7-46.2% SL); head length 32.5-39.6% SL (Ref. 81260). Upper profile of head curved; upper profile of snout not concave as H. fasciatus (Ref. 552). Snout short (Ref. 552, 81260), scarcely longer than eye diameter (Ref. 552). Mouth small (Ref. 81260). Cleft of mouth oblique, of moderate width (Ref. 552). Lower jaw slightly prominent (Ref. 552, 43352, 81260). Lower lip fold just overlaps upper lip at corner of mouth (Ref. 81260). Maxillary extending below anterior margin of eye (Ref. 552). Teeth in both jaws small, conical, in a single series; occasionally a few inner row teeth at symphysis of upper jaw (Ref. 552, 81260). A pair of small but distinct canines in lower jaw, wide apart from each other; preorbital much narrower than orbit; interorbital space rather flat, wider than orbit; lower pharyngeal plate longer than broad, with very small conical teeth, those in the middle rather coarser (Ref. 552). Lower pharyngeal bone roughly triangular with posterior margin somewhat rounded and indented (Ref. 43352). Operculum scaly, terminating in a prominent, rounded, stiff, scaleless black lobe (Ref. 552). Microbranchiospines present on outer aspect of gill arches 2 to 4 (Ref. 57564). Scales cycloid; upper part of lateral line with 15-19 scales, lower part with 7-11 scales (Ref. 43352). Chest scales smaller than body scales (Ref. 81260). Origin of dorsal fin falls vertically before pectoral fin root, and its distance from caudal fin is less than the depth of the free portion of the tail (Ref. 552). Dorsal fin spines of moderate strength and length (Ref. 552), increasing progressively in length from the first to the last (Ref. 43352). Some of the middle dorsal and anal rays slightly produced (Ref. 552, 81260), so as to extend beyond the base of the caudal fin (Ref. 552). Caudal rounded (Ref. 552, 52307, 81260), shorter than head (Ref. 552). Caudal peduncle always deeper than long (Ref. 81260). Pectoral fins rounded (Ref. 552, 43352). Two outer ventral rays produced into filaments (Ref. 552), first pelvic ray longest in both sexes (Ref. 81260).
Coloration: (see also Ref. 81260). Sexually inactive males: dorsum olive-beige, flanks beige with rosy violet flush; snout, lips, cheeks, opercular region and venter rosy orange; conspicuous regular black spot present at upper angle of opercular margin; (deep yellow-bordered) black spot, 2/3 above midlateral line, present in middle of flanks; small ovoid black spot may be present on base of caudal peduncle; dark lachrymal stripe of variable intensity present; cheeks and opercula heavily spangled with discrete iridescent blue spots; stochastically distributed pattern of similar blue spangling present on flanks; dorsal, caudal and anal fins rosy violet, marked with same pattern of blue spangling present on flanks; dorsal fin lappets, margin of soft dorsal and upper distal margin of caudal fin bright red, with narrow iridescent blue submarginal band; anal fin marked with dusky border; ventral fins rosy violet, with iridescent blue leading edge and interradial streaking; pectorals hyaline; iris yellow, transversed with a behaviorally variable oblique bar (Ref. 43352). Sexually inactive females: somewhat redder in overall coloration; pattern of iridescent blue spangling less extensive; color of dorsal and anal fins tends towards clear yellow rather than rosy violet (Ref. 43352). Sexually active males: develop an intense rosy violet flush along dorsum and upper flanks, and an orange-red coloration on throat, cheeks and opercular region, along lower third of flanks and on venter; midlateral spot becomes more distinctly ocellated; intensity of blue spangling on head, flanks and vertical fins greatly enhanced (Ref. 43352). Sexually active females: develop and intense orange-red coloration over entire head and body that pales somewhat dorsally; midlateral spot more clearly ocellated, but blue spangling on head, flanks and vertical fins remains less abundant than in males (Ref. 43352). Juveniles lack both intense red coloration and extensive blue spangling, but color pattern is otherwise as in adults (Ref. 43352). Juveniles > 12 mm brownish with an intense black mid-lateral band (Ref. 81260). Preserved specimens: body greenish-olive (Ref. 552). Head and dorsum brown, paling to beige on flanks and venter; centers of midlateral scales lighter in some specimens (Ref. 43352). Conspicuous round opercular spot (Ref. 43352), an ovoid midlateral spot (Ref. 552, 3032, 43352) below 14th and 15th scales of lateral line (Ref. 552) and a small dark lenticular bar at base of caudal peduncle present (Ref. 43352). Opercular lobe black; lower lateral half of head with rounded black spots (Ref. 552). 5-7 broad, indistinct, somewhat irregular bars extend from dorsum to slightly below midlateral line in some specimens (Ref. 43352). Cheek, opercular region and, less frequently, humeral region and base of spiny dorsal fin, variably marked with dark dots; vertical fins clear grey; dorsal fin marked with narrow dark margin, narrow submarginal zone and variably developed reticulate pattern of clear interradial spots in its soft portion; upper distal angle of caudal fin marked with dark edging and clear submarginal zone, and a variably developed interradial reticulate pattern of lighter spots and streaking present along distal margin; anal fin with broad darker border and reduced, variably developed interradial reticulate pattern of clear spots posterodistally (Ref. 43352). Spots on vertical fins sometimes confluent into oblique streaks (Ref. 552). Pelvic fins sooty grey to black on anterior third, marked with variably developed interradial reticulate pattern of clear spots and streaks in posterior two-thirds (Ref. 43352). Pectoral fins hyaline (Ref. 43352) or blackish (Ref. 552), pelvic fins grey (Ref. 43352) or blackish (Ref. 552).