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bony fish 

A short snorkel on a healthy tropical coral reefs gives you the opportunity to see more vertebrates in a shorter time than any other ecosystem...

Class Osteichthyes, 'Bony Fish'

This is the largest group of vertebrates in the world.

 Order Anguilliformes: Eels

Family Muraenidae: Moray Eels

Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo Reef

Gymnothorax thyrsoideus, 'Black-faced Moray Eel'. This eel is reported to be found in shallow more turbid waters around coral reefs, including wrecks. Widespread through tropical Indo-Pacific.

Order Clupeiformes

Family Clupeidae: Herrings, Sardines

(Panagsama, Philippines)

Herrings or 'sardines' often form huge schools.

Order Beloniformes

Family Hemiramphidae, Family Belonidae

Order Gasterosteiformes /  Syngnathiformes

Family Syngathidae

Family Fistulariidae: 'Cornetfish' or 'Flutemouths'

Four species, the one below is commonly seen around tropical reefs in Indo-Pacific.

(Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia)

Fistularia commersonii, ‘Bluespotted Cornetfish'. Very widespread throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, and has even snuck into the Mediterranean from the Red Sea through the opening of the Suez Canal (probably because it so skinny).

Family Centriscidae

(Panagsama, Philippines)

Aeoliscus strigatus, 'Razorfish'.

Order Scorpaeniformes

Family Scorpaenidae

This family includes several dangerous species, including the "handsome, but deadly" lionfish and ugly, but still dangerous, stonefish

Pterois spp. 'Lionfish', 'Butterfly-cod'

(Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands)

The striking colours and stripes are considered warning signs, and indeed when one approaches these fish they don't swim quickly away, but just turn at an angle and spread their fins out. They are covered in a total of 18 poisonous spines. These defences can cause many symptoms in humans, including pain and vomiting, and in extreme cases paralysis and heart failure. Deaths in healthy adults are rare, but fatalities can occur with small children and the elderly. All dozen species are native to the coral reefs of the tropical Indo-Pacific, although two species P. volitans and P. miles has been introduced to other waters such as the Caribbean and Mediterranean, where they are considered pests, and much research is being conducted on them in these areas.

Family Serranidae: Groupers, Rock-cods, Anthias 

(Farquar, Seychelles)

Cephalopholis argus, 'Peacock Grouper', 'Argus Grouper'.

Subfamily Anthiadinae

(Mangalonga, Solomon Islands)

Anthias. This genus incudes some of the most delicately beautiful of coral reef fish. They are usually only seen on the drop offs and edges of fairly pristine coral reefs.

Family Echeneidae: Remoras

Family Carangidae

Includes the fast and predatory 'Trevally', known as 'Jacks' in the Americas.

(Aitutaki Fiji)

Caranx ignobilis, 'Giant Trevally'.

(Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia)

Gnathanodon speciosus, 'Golden Trevally', 'Barred Trevally', being serviced by Cleaner Wrasse. Despite the first common name, they are only bright yellow when young, retaining the colour on the tips of fins and tail as they mature. And despite the second common name, the bars also fade as they age.

Family Haemulidae: 'Sweetlips', 'Grunts'

(Panagsama, Philippines)

Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides, 'Many Spotted Sweetlips', 'Harlequin Sweetlips'. This is a juvenile pictured, and the juvenile of this species impersonates a toxic flatworm.

Family Lutjanidae: Tropical Snappers

(Lakeside, Ningaloo, Western Australia)

Lutjanus fulviflamma, 'Black-spot Snapper'.

Lutjanus gibbus, ‘Red Humpback Snapper’, ‘Paddletail Snapper’.

 Family Lethrinidae 'Emperors',
Family Nemipteridae 'Monocle Breams'

Family Mullidae, 'Goatfish'

Goatfish have barbels that hang down from their 'chin'.

(Aitutaki Fiji)

Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, 'Yellowfin Goatfish'.

(Miyako, Japan)

Parupeneus cyclostomus, 'Blue Goatfish', 'Gold-saddle Goatfish'. May carry ciguatuera toxin. Very widespread around coral reefs across tropical Indo-Pacific, from Red Sea, south to South Africa, north to japan and Hawaii.

Family Pempheridae: 'Sweepers' 'Bullseye'

'Bullseye' or 'Bigeyes' are small and unusually shaped fish with huge eyes. They feed by night on zooplankton, then during the day they usually rest in schools underneath coral ledges.

(Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo, Australia)

Pempheris tominagai, 'African Silver Sweeper'?. Found in north-west Australia, western Indonesia, across Indian Ocean, Red Sea and to east African coast. (This is replaced by similar looking 'Silver Sweeper' Pempheris schwenkii along the rest of Australian coast, through Indonesia and to tropical Pacific).

(Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo, Australia)

Pempheris molucca?

For the page on:
Family Pomacentridae, 'Damselfish' including Anemonefish

Family Scaridae: Parrotfish

(Bali Barat, Indonesia)

Scarus scaber, 'Dusky-capped Parrotfish', 'Five-saddle Parrotfish'. Found between Indonesia across the Indian Ocean to the east coast of Africa.

(Fitzroy Island, Queensland)

Scarus spinus, 'Yellow/Gren-headed Parrotfish'. As suggested by the name, often has a bright yellow or lime green head that contrast with rest of body. Main body has blue-edged scales. Found around coral reefs in south-east Asia and northern Australia.

Family Labridae: Wrasse

(Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo, Western Australia)
(Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo, Western Australia)

Cheilinus trilobatus, ‘Tripletail Wrasse’. Very variable in colour and pattern, and can change colour quickly when disturbed.

Thalassoma spp.

(Bali Barat NP, Indonesia)

Thalassomma hardwicke, 'Six-Banded/Sixbar Wrasse'.

(Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo)

Thalassoma lutescens, 'Green Moon Wrasse', 'Blue-fin Wrasse', 'Yellow-brown Wrasse' and many other common names! Widespread and common on tropical coral reefs through Indo-Pacific. 

Halichoeres spp. 'Wrasse'

(Bali Barat, Indonesia)

Halichoeres melanurus, ‘Tail-spot Wrasse’, 'Hoevens Wrasse'. Found in tropical western Pacific, from Japan south to Great Barrier Reef.

Hemigymnus spp. 'Thicklip Wrasse'

Thick-lipped Wrasse (image by Damon Ramsey)(Lakeside, Ningaloo, Western Australia)

Hemigymnus fasciatus, 'Thick-lipped Wrasse'.

(Miyako, Japan)

Hemigymnus melapterus, 'Blackeye thicklip Wrasse', 'Half-half Wrasse'. Sifts though sand and then spits out, searching for invertebrates.

Coris spp. 'Clown Wrasse'

(Miyako, Japan)

Coris gaimard, 'Yellowtail Coris', 'African Coris', 'Clown Wrasse'. Usually has yellow tail, blue spots and green stripes on head. Terminal Phase/males have pinkish head and yellow bar on side. Females have reddish body. Juveniles have reddish body with white spots, almost like a clownfish. Widespread; found on coral reefs across much of tropical Indo-Pacific, north to Japan.

For the page on: Family Chaetodontidae, 'Butterflyfish'

Family Pomacanthidae, 'Angelfish'

Like Butterflyfish, Angelfish are also rather plate-shaped. However, they are more squarish in profile. 

(Fitzroy Island, Queensland)

Pomacanthus sexstriatus, 'Sixband/Sixbar Angelfish'. Found in the central Indo-Pacific, from Sri Lanka, throughout south-east Asia north to Japan, across tropical Australia and east to New Caledonia.

(Aitutaki Fiji)

Centropyge flavissima, 'Lemonpeel Angelfish'.

(Bali Barat NP, Indonesia)

Pygoplites diacanthus , 'Regal Angelfish'.

Family Zanclidae

There is only one species in this family.

(Kakaban, Indonesia)

Zanclus cornutus, 'Moorish idol'.

Family Acanthuridae, 'Surgeonfish'

(Aitutaki Fiji)

Zebrasoma veliferum, 'Sailfin Tang'.

(Miyaku, Japan)
(Aitutaki Fiji).

Acanthurus triostegus, 'Convict Tang'. Widespread throughout tropical Indo-Pacific.

Order Tetraodontiformes

Family Balistidae: Triggerfish

(Bali Barat NP, Indonesia)

Melichthys vidua, 'Pink-tailed Triggerfish'.

(Miyako, Japan)

Balistoides viridescens, 'Titan Triggerfish'. Large; largest triggerfish in Indo-Pacific (there is a larger species in far eastern Pacific). During nesting season the females get very aggressive and may charge and bite. One of these large football-shaped fish racing towards you is one of the scariest things on the coral reef!

(Miyako, Japan)

Rhinecanthus rectangulus, 'Wedge-tail Triggerfish', 'Black-banded Triggerfish', 'Humuhumu'. This is one of the two fish in Hawaii known as Humuhumunukunnukuapua'a (triggerfish with snout like a pig) . It is the state fish of Hawaii. Found widely on coral reefs across the tropical Indo-Pacific.

Family Tetraodontidae

(Miyako Island, Japan)

Canthigaster valentini, 'Valentin's Sharpnose/Black Saddled Puffer/Toby'.

(Lakeside, Ningaloo, Western Australia)

Arothron manilensis, ‘Narrowline Puffer’.

Family Ostraciidae: Boxfish, Cowfish &Trunkfish


Ostracion meleagris, '(White) Spotted Boxfish'.

For a lecture on the behaviour of coral reef fish

Back to the page on Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs

Throughout the virus I am working in Australia on and off as local borders close, mostly in the Kimberley with Coral Expeditions (May-September). If you can't go travelling until everything settles down, then until then, here I am doing online guided walks for Noble Caledonia and online lectures for Silversea.