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Related FAQs: Fishes of Hawai'i, Articles on: The Best Butterflyfishes of Hawai'i, Triggerfishes of Hawai'i

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Hawaiian Marine Biotopes, Part 2

To: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,

Bob Fenner



Porites lobata Dana 1846, Lobe Coral. The most common coral species in Hawai'i. Found as encrusting colonies in high wave action areas to fifteen foot high mounds in protected areas. Yellow to greenish in color. Often with grooves caused by the Snapping Shrimp Alpheus deuteropus. Below: close up of an encrusting colony, one showing shrimp space parasite marking (both Hawai'i) and a huge colony (grow about an inch tall per year) in the Maldives. At right, Hawaiian specimen with pink worm parasites (Trematode, flatworm) that Butterflyfishes pick at, consume, continuing the life cycle.




Porites rus Forsskal 1775, Plate and Pillar Coral. Variable in shape as its common name points to. Upright columns more shallow to gorgeous plates deeper, more calm waters. Gray to brown in color, often with yellow polyps that have wider spaced calyces, raised areas between polyps. Both morphs visible here at Honaunau, City of refuge, Kailua, Kona, Hawai'i.



Family Agariciidae:


            Most agariciids here are small (colonies of a few inches across) and hidden under rock, ledges or out in the open only in deepwater.


Pavona varians Verrill 1864. Colonies encrusting to laminar, showing short, irregular valleys.  Hawai'i images.



Family Faviidae:


Fungia scutaria Lamarck 1801. Oval, heavy polyps with high, regularly placed tentacular lobes. To seven inches. Occur in many colors. Below: Specimens in the Red Seas upper Gulf of Aqaba, and one in the Maldives to show the degree of arching possible.



Tubastrea coccinea Lesson 1831, Orange Cup Coral. Caribbean and Indo-Pacific. Right: Closed, open colony pix in the Bahamas. Close up of a colony under an arch off of Kailua Kona and exhibit images shot at the Waikiki Aquarium.




Spirobranchus giganteus, the Christmas Tree Worm, family Serpulidae. 1-1 1/2". Two spiral crowned groups of radioles with a double horned operculum between them that bears a sharp spine. Tropical West Atlantic, Indo-Pacific. Di pix in Cozumel. 





            All but a few limpets are restricted from collection in HawaiI, but once again, there is a chance of buying conspecifics that occur elsewhere. For instance, there are several cowry species only found here, but some are wider spread.


Cypraea tigris Linnaeus 1758, the Tiger Cowry. Too common as a "curio", this is no doubt the best know Cowry (or at least most recognized as a sea animal in the group). South Africa, Red Sea, Hawai'i, Society Islands. To four inches shell length. This one off the Gilis, Lombok, Indonesia. 


Crustaceans: Shrimps


            If youre looking for Mantis Shrimp, HawaiI has them, as well as several Indo-Pacific (and wider!) favorites.


Thor amboinensis (de Man 1888), the Squat Anemone or Sexy Shrimp (in reference to its usually-raised tail). 1/4-3/4" long. Common in all tropical seas. Found in association with Giant, Sun, Elegant Anemones. Here is one in a Condylactis gigantea in Cozumel, Mexico. 

Saron marmoratus (Olivier 1811), Marble or Saron Shrimp. Found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. Usually collected out of Hawai'i for the U.S., the Red Sea for European markets. Usually found in pairs in the wild. Will fight to the death if same sex individuals are placed together. Males with much longer first pair of walking/fighting legs.  Get along fine with fishes, other crustaceans. Female shown. Eat all types of food, reclusive, nocturnal. 

Stenopus hispidus Olivier 1811, the Coral Banded Boxing Shrimp. Worldwide tropical distribution. Males smaller, more slender than females. Keep in reef settings with a cave of their own. May consume small fishes, other crustaceans. Eat most all meaty foods.  

Stenopus pyrsonotus Goy & Devaney 1980, the Ghost Boxing Shrimp. Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i. Not as hardy as Stenopus hispidus, coming from deeper water. 

Hymenocera picta Dana 1852, the Eastern Harlequin Shrimp. Anterior first pair of legs look like tweezers, second pair covering them. First antennae flap-like... waved around side to side. Live in pairs only.  Noted for their feeding exclusively on echinoderms; starfish and urchins. Central Pacific. To about an inch and a half in length. 

Lysmata amboinensis (De Man 1888), the Indo-Pacific White-Striped Cleaner Shrimp or Ambon Shrimp. Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific and Red Sea. Telson white, uropods with two white dots. Can be kept singly or in groups. A hardy Cleaner. Need hiding places to avoid predators during molting periods. Conds: temp. 20-27 C.


Reef Lobsters:


            There are seven species of these small, though still destructive astacid lobsters found in Hawaii. Enoplometopus debelius, E. holthuisi are collected for the trade out of here as well as E. occidentalis.


Enoplometopus occidentalis (Randall 1840), the Hairy or Red Reef Lobster. Found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. White emarginated spots all over the body. Nocturnal. 


Echinoderms: Sea Urchins


Chondrocidaris gigantea A. Agassiz 1863, the Rough-Spined Urchin. Roughness of spines are generally overgrown with bryozoans and sponges. Large animals with tests up to 4 inches in diameter, spines to eight. Range restricted to Hawaii (here) and New Caledonia. 


Echinometra mathaei (Blainville 1825), the Common Urchin. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Hawai'i. To about four inches overall diameter. Hides by day in rocky crannies it helps gouge. Mostly eats algae it rasps from rocks by night. Here a small one in N. Sulawesi, adults in Oahu, Hawai'i by day and Fiji at night.




Heterocentrotus mammillatus (Linnaeus 1758), the (Red) Pencil Urchin. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Hawai'i. Nocturnal, hiding in crevices by day in depths to thirty feet, emerging at night to rasp rocks. To one foot overall diameter. Hawai'i picture. 




Moray Eels:

            Hawaii is the land of the puhi (Hawaiian for eel). Nowhere else in the world is their so many species (38) or biomass (Morays predominate the reefs weight-wise) of morays. A couple of these are standards in the pet-fish interest, not being overly aggressive including not eating their fish tankmates and a small number of others imported occasionally that are entirely piscivorous. Unless you have a very large system to dedicate to keeping the latter, Id look into a Zebra or Snowflake Moray.


Gymnomuraena zebra, the aptly named Zebra Moray is a slow-moving chocolate black with vertical white striped beauty. (photo). The suitability for aquaria of the species is reflected in longevity records. Our old service company had some in rentals for fifteen years. There are twenty-something year citations. 

The Snowflake, Starry, or Diamond-Backed Moray, Echidna nebulosa (Ahl 1789) is a fabulous aquarium species; small, compatible with other fish species and adaptable to captivity. It is certainly the most peaceful, outgoing and desirable moray species. To about thirty inches total length. Base color of silver gray with black and yellow "snowflakes" randomly sprinkled over the lower body.




Dragon morays, Enchelychore pardalis from Hawaii are striking with white bodies and variegated black, yellow and red markings. Their name derives from the presence of elongate, pointed jaws and long posterior nostril tubes. They command a high price for their beauty and adaptability, and are worth it.     Attractive to a lesser degree, but frequently seen in the trade, the Mediterranean Muraena helena reaches the about half the Dragon Moray's length, about two feet.



Gymnothorax pictus (Ahl 1789), the Peppered Moray. Indo-Pacific; East Africa to the eastern Pacific, Hawai'i. To five feet in length. This one off Kona. 


Gymnothorax undulatus (Lacepede 1803), the Undulated Moray. Indo-Pacific; East Africa to the French Polynesia, Hawai'i. To five and a half feet in length. This one in Hawai'i. 

Gymnothorax meleagris (Shaw & Nodder 1795), the White Mouth Moray. Brown to black with numerous white spots. Dark spot around gill opening. Indo-Pacific. Most common Hawaiian puhi/moray. To about forty inches in length. Hawai'i image. 



Frogfishes, Anglerfishes, Family Antennariidae:


            There are a half-dozen species of anglers found in the Hawaiian Islands. Though none abundant, one does make its way into the hobby sporadically, Commersons, the most common species here.


Antennarius commerson (Latreille 1804), the Giant or Commerson's Anglerfish. Aquarium images. First (black) one one inch, caught in Hawai'i. Another at the Waikiki Aquarium in O'ahu, Hawai'i, the last at Elmer's in Pittsburgh, PA. To 13 inches in length. Widespread in the Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Hawai'i. Occurs in nearly all colors, patterns (w/ the exception of blue!), modifying its appearance within weeks to match its surroundings.


 To: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,

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