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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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A Fishwatcher's Guide to the Marine  Fishes of Hawai'i

Part 3 of 5, To: Part 1, Part 2Part 4, Part 5 

Bob Fenner

Canthigaster coronata  

Goatfishes, Family Mullidae. There a handful of Hawaiian Goatfish species that would do well for aquarium use; being hardy, good looking, disease resistant, and accepting all types of foods. The reason few do come in has to do with two common human "problems", not the fish's. First off, having done a bit of collecting in Hawaii myself, I can tell you there are times (always) when a school of goatfishes tearing into and through your fence net are unappreciated. Secondly, Goats are not demanded much by hobbyists, dealers, wholesalers, all the way up the supply line so they are regularly let out of barrier fish nets, let alone not fished for. This situation would be changed by end-user awareness of the groups desirability, and the utilization of less large, smaller mesh, shallower nets, such as those employed for "wrasse collection".

Most places offer Mullids from here as "Misc.", "Hawaiian" or "Red" Goatfish. The commonest species is Parapeneus bifasciatus (1) (though other reddish species are involved). It's a shame the wide-ranging Yellowfin (Mulloidichthys vanicolensis)(2) and Blue (Parupeneus cyclostomus)(1) Goatfishes aren't utilized more from Hawaiian waters.

Mulloidichthys flavolineatus (Lacepede 1801), the Yellowstripe Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea over to the Hawaiian Islands. To a maximum of seventeen inches in length. Below: the first one a juvenile off Two-Step, Kona, the second in Maui, and a small pair in the Cooks.
Mulloidichthys vanicolensis (Valenciennes 1831), the Yellowfin Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to Hawai'i. To fifteen inches in length.

Parupeneus bifasciatus (Lacepede 1801), the Double-Bar Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i. To fourteen inches in length. Pulau Redang, Malaysia, N. Sulawesi photos.
Parupeneus cyclostomus (Lacepede 1801), the Goldsaddle Goatfish. Indo-Pacific out to Hawai'i, including the Red Sea. To twenty inches in length. Yellow form not found in Hawai'i. Pictured, a group in the Red Sea, and a yellow individual in captivity.

Parupeneus multifasciatus (Quoy & Gaimard 1824), the Manybar Goatfish. Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i. To a foot in length. A good looker. Here are specimens from Fiji and Hawai'i during the day and at night.
Parupeneus pleurostigma (Bennett 1830), the Sidespot Goatfish. Dark spot on body at rear of first dorsal fin; white one at base of second. Indo-Pacific. To thirteen inches in length. This one off of Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i. 

Parupeneus porphyreus (Jenkins 1902), another Whitesaddle Goatfish. This one confined to the central Pacific which is the Hawaiian Islands. to eighteen inches in length. Image made in Maui.

Ecotype: Goatfishes utilize their jaw barbels to root around in the bottom sand/gravel for food in rubble and shallow reef areas.

Sea Chubs, Family Kyphosidae. <To do: add for HI U/W>

Kyphosus cinerascens (Forsskal 1775), the Blue Sea Chub. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to the Hawaiian Islands. To 50 cm. overall length. Hawai'i images. 

Kyphosus vaigensis (Quoy & Gaimard 1825), the Brassy Chub. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to the Hawaiian Islands. To 76 cm. Red Sea image

The Stripey, Family Microcanthidae. Formerly classified with the Butterflyfishes, the Stripey, Microcanthus strigatus (1), is sometimes shipped out of the Islands. This is a hardy aquarium species that deserves more attention. Similar in habits and behavior to the brackish to marine Scats (Family Scatophagidae), this fish gets to know its owners so well it will take food by hand.

Microcanthus strigosus (Cuvier 1831), the Stripey. Sporadically distributed in western and eastern Australian waters, Japan, Taiwan, Hawai'i. To six inches in length. Often placed in its own family Microcanthidae. 

Hawaiian Butterflyfishes, family Chaetodontidae

Hawaiian Butterflyfishes, family Chaetodontidae. Hawai'i is Butterflyfish Heaven and Hell, supporting a large number (24!) of aquarium-suitable and terrible species. On the highest side of survivability... actually on the other hand, they're so many, please go to the separate piece on the Butterflyfishes of Hawai'i.


Pomacanthidae, Marine Angelfishes. Hawaii's angels are problematical for aquarists. The two best species are deeper water, scarce and difficult to catch (the dwarf Fisher's Angel, Centropyge fisheri (1) and Flame Angelfish, C. loricula)(1), and the most common angel, the Potter's, C. potteri (3) and Bandit, Apolemichthys (Desmoholacanthus) arcuatus (3) do poorly in captivity. I know I'm going to catch some heat for my opinions on the last two, but my collector friends don't realize just how few Potter's and "Holos" are alive more than a month after they've brought them up. Very few. These should only be tried in "reefs". Two other angelfish species are found in the upper Hawaiian Island chain but not in the trade.

Ecotype: Definite territories on patch and contiguous reefs, defended against others of their kind and similar-appearing fishes.

Centropyge fisheri (Snyder 1904), Fisher's Dwarf Angel (3), is one of the many Hawaiian endemics. This is a "dwarf" Dwarf Angel, usually no more than two inches in length. Closely related to Centropge flavicauda. Hawaii and Johnston Atoll distribution only. A juvenile off of Kona and a more typical adult in captivity.

Centropyge loricula (Gunter 1874), the Flame Angel (1), is a staple in the ornamental marine trade, with some 5,000 individuals collected and sold worldwide every week. Western to central Pacific Ocean. Shown: An aquarium specimen (likely Marshall Islands) and one in Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, Polynesia where they typically show just one body band. 

Centropyge potteri Jordan & Metz 1912, Potter's Dwarf Angel (3), is another fish found only in Hawai'i. When picking one of these out for use, make sure to acquire a well-adjusted individual; I'd wait till it was in captivity a good two weeks. And only try this species in a very well-established reef tank, with peaceful tankmates, AFTER you've become an "advanced" aquarist. Kailua-Kona photograph.

Apolemichthys arcuatus Gray 1831, The Bandit, Black-Banded Angelfish, Holo-holo... A beauty and heartbreaker... this angel is so "friendly" it can be caught literally by hand... without a net... but rarely lives for any period of time in captivity. Here's an image of one starting to break down (note brown spot on its flank). Imported from its limited range in Hawai'i. Dr. Randall lists in the genus Desmoholacanthus and fishbase.org in Apolemichthys...

Genicanthus personatus Randall 1975, the Masked Angelfish (1). Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Rare and cooler water animals, but can live in tropical systems. Shy, need plenty of rock cover. To eight inches total length. Male and female shown from Waikiki Aquarium.

The Damselfishes, Family Pomacentridae. Due to the vagaries of economics more than anything else, few of the damselfishes found in Hawai'i are collected for our use. The several species found there fit the general mix of some good looking and hardy enough

to be of use, the rest too large, gaudy and/or territorial. About all you find, and that only on occasion from the truly avant-garde LFS (Livestock Fish Stores) are the ill-tempered Hawaiian Dascyllus, D. albisella; soulmates with the all-too similar Domino or Three-Spot, D. trimaculatus. Secondarily, a few wholesalers will carry "misc." Hawaiian Chromis (when collectors sneak them into an order). Of the several Chromis spp. from Hawai'i these are mainly Blackfin (C. vanderbilti) and Agile (C. agilus) Chromis.

Unless the public becomes willing to pay a few bucks more than they do for the "usual suspects" damsel species from the Indo-Pacific they'll continue to miss out on the not two, but count 'em, three species of Sergeant Majors that come from here. The endemic Abudefduf abdominalis, the "dirty" Blackspot Sergeant, A. sordidus, or the very wide-ranging Oceania to Indo-Pacific to Indian Ocean and Red Sea, A. vaigensis.

Abudefduf abdominalis (Quoy & Gaimard 1825), the Green Damselfish, or Maomao if you're in Hawai'i. Central Pacific, Hawaii to Polynesia. To eight inches in length in the wild. Here's one in Hawai'i.

Abudefduf sordidus (Forsskal 1775), The Black-Spot Sergeant or Dirty Damsel. Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i. Lives in high surge areas. To almost seven inches in length. Only occasionally imported as a pet-fish. These images from the Maldives and Hawai'i.

Abudefduf vaigiensis (Quoy & Gaimard 1825), the Indo-Pacific Sergeant Major. Eastern coast of Africa and Red Sea (where this picture was taken), out to the Line and Tuamotu Islands. To six inches long. Fourth black body bar originates after hard dorsal fin.

Chromis acares Randall & Swerdloff 1973, the Midget Chromis. Pacific Plate; Mariana Is. to Hawaiian, Society Islands. To one and three quarter inches in length. This one in Roratonga, Cook Islands.

Chromis agilis Smith 1960, the Reef Chromis. Widespread in the Indo-west Pacific, including Hawaiian Islands where this species is most frequently gathered for the aquarium trade. To three inches in length. A good species for reef tanks. Hawai'i images of a juvenile and adult.

Chromis hanui Randall & Sverdluff 1973, the Chocolate-Dip Chromis. Abrupt white on caudal, dorsal and anal regions. Hawaiian island endemic, 6-165 feet. To 3.5 inches in length. Kona pix. 

Chromis ovalis (Steindachner 1900), the Oval Chromis. Hawaiian Island endemic. Lives in groups as adults. Zoo-plankton feeder. Adult greenish with dark fin edges. Sub-adults yellow-bodied with blue streak over eye. Juveniles (shown, photographed off of Honaunau on the Big Island) brilliant blue with yellow dorsal surface, and a more somber adult elsewhere off of Kona.  

Chromis vanderbilti (Fowler 1941), Vanderbilt's Chromis. A small beauty (to two inches) of the Central and West Pacific. This one in the Cook Islands. A rare import best kept in a small school in a peaceful setting.

Chromis verator Jordan & Mertz 1932, the Threespot Chromis. Hawaiian endemic, found in deep water, generally below 60 feet to 600 feet. To eight inches long. Can brighten/dim white spots. Kona pix. 

Dascyllus albisella Gill 1862, the Hawaiian Dascyllus. Central Pacific: Hawaiian and Johnston Islands. To five inches. A poor shipper, and as nasty a biter as the similar Three-Spot, Domino, Dascyllus trimaculatus. Hawai'i pix of very small (1/2"), younger (2"), older (3") individuals. 
Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus (Fowler & Ball 1924), the Johnston Island Damsel. Despite its common name this species is found in the Indo-Pacific, eastern Africa to Hawai'i (where this image is from). To two and a half inches long.

Stegastes fasciolatus (Ogilby 1889), the Pacific Gregory. Indo-west Pacific. Not a great beauty and at up to six inches in length, a handful. But an interesting, intelligent addition to a rougher aquarium setting. These images of  younger and older individuals in Hawai'i.

Wrasses, Labridae. Hawai'i is "Wrasse-Land". The most speciose family of fishes here by with 43 species. You'll have some wrasses in view almost always when diving. Aquarists use a dozen or so of the Hawaiian wrasse species. Counting them down alphabetically by genera, these are:

Anampses chrysocephalus, the Psyche Head or Psychedelic Wrasse (2) common names apply to the male of the species, with Redtail Wrasse often labeling the female. Like most of the family these fish are eventually both (if they live so long); first females, becoming males. Starting with small individuals (3-4") is best. Larger ones, especially males, adapt poorly, and they all are excellent jumpers.

Anampses chrysocephalus Randall 1958, whose females are typically sold as Red Tail and males as Psychedelic or Psych-Head Wrasses. Gorgeous, but a radical swimmer and jumper that frequently "just dies" overnight. Only found in the Hawaiian Island chain. Juvenile off of Puako, Big Island Female in captivity and male underwater.

A. cuvier, the Pearl Wrasse is seen occasionally. Named in honor of the famous French Paleozoologist (and superb ichthyologist), Georges Cuvier, this is a fish-only species that fits in much as the more common wrasses of the genus Coris. To 13 inches.

Anampses cuvier Quoy & Gaimard 1824, the Flag or Pearl Wrasse named in honor of Georges Cuvier is amongst the heartiest species of the genus, but still rates a dismal for survivability. This fish readily consumes fresh or prepared meaty foods, but must also regularly have natural greens. Male and female in Hawai'i shown.

Bodianus bilunulatus, the Hawaiian Hogfish (1), one of two species of hog-wrasses found in the Islands, is as hardy as it's other namesake species; but does grow to 20 inches.

Bodianus bilunulatus (Lacepede 1801), the Black Spot Hogfish or Tarry Hogfish to science, is often offered retail. Punctuated distribution in the Indo-west Pacific including Hawai'i, where these images were taken. Three inch juvenile and six inch sub-adults shown. Grows to twenty two inches in length in the wild.

Found only in Hawaii, the Neon Wrasse Bodianus sanguineus (Jordan and Evermann 1903) is a small Hog (5-6 inches), of deeper water (generally 200 feet plus) putting it way beyond the commercial collector's realm. But it is gorgeous.

No pic

Cirrhilabrus jordani, the Flame Wrasse (1), like other members of its genus, gorgeous, hardy and tremendous escape artists. Two words of caution re this endemic Hawaiian species; take care to pick out well-acclimated specimens (they come in beat up from collection), and keep your tank well covered.

Cirrhilabrus jordani Snyder 1904, the Flame Wrasse. Hawaiian endemic. To four inches in length. One of the hardiest and most beautiful of the genus. Aquarium photo of a male.

Coris gaimard (2), the Red or Yellowstriped Coris, a beauty as young and adults, but very active in swimming, digging, bothering tankmates and jumping out. A juvenile shown.

Coris ballieui Vaillant & Sauvage 1875, the Sand Wrasse. Known from Hawaii's islands in the central Pacific. To thirteen inches. Rarely imported and this is a great shame. A good-looking smaller member of the genus that would probably do well for aquarists. This one photographed at the Waikiki Aquarium.

Coris venusta Vaillant & Sauvage 1875, the Elegant Coris. Hawaiian endemic. To about seven inches in length. Yet another Hawaiian Coris that could/should be used in our interest. A hardy beauty that can be found in good numbers in shallow rocky settings. A terminal/male one in Shark's Bay in Oahu and a juvenile off of the Big Island.

Gomphosus varius, (1) the Bird, or by the sex, Black Bird (females) and Green Bird Wrasses, are neither common enough, and the cost of living relatively high such that they're mainly collected out of Micronesia and the Indian Ocean for the trade. A great fish-only system species. To one foot in length.

Gomphosus varius Lacepede 1801, is the much more common Bird Wrasse (1) in the west. Its males are lighter green over-all, and females transversely white to black front to back, with an orangish upper "beak". The common Bird Wrasse is found in Hawai'i to the tropical western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean. At right a juvenile. Below: Female in Hawai'i, male there and in captivity.

Halichoeres ornatissimus, the Ornate or Christmas (Xmas) Wrasse (2). In the right (i.e. peaceful) setting, this fish can live for years; most are bullied into starvation. Readily accept meaty foods; in the wild, crustaceans and mollusks.

Halichoeres ornatissimus (Garrett 1863) is (one of) the three " Christmas Wrasses" (2), aka the Ornate Wrasse to science. This can be a very hardy fish should you secure an initially healthy specimen. Unfortunately, way to many are doomed from the trauma of rough handling through the collection process. To six inches. Below: Juvenile and adult Hawai'i and Aquarium photos. Indo-Pacific to Hawai'i, where it is best imported from.

Labroides phthirophagus, the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (3). The hardiest member of the genus IMO, but still too delicate for captivity, and needed-useful in the wild for servicing tropicals and pelagics, removing parasites and necrotic tissue from other fishes.

The endemic, Labroides phthirophagus Randall 1958, Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (3). To nearly five inches in length. A beauty, but fares no better than other members of the genus and should be left in the islands to do its cleaning, and live. Aquarium and Hawai'i pix.

Part 3 of 5, To: Part 1, Part 2Part 4,

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