Hawaiian Reef Fish And Other Creatures:18 Magical Of Them

The Magical Hawaiian Reef Fish and other underwater creatures

Many people contend that Hawaii is the most beautiful place on earth.

Divers from all over the world are drawn to the Hawaiian coastline’s topographical arrangement because it offers a diverse underwater environment.

And a lot of what draws so many millions of tourists each year is located below sea level. The eight major islands of Hawaii are home to a variety of amazing sea life, including humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, stingrays, sea lions, coral fish, enormous sea turtles, and a lot of other interesting underwater residents.

Hawaiian reef fish

With the aid of the active Kilauea volcano on the large island, the volcanic activity that created the islands continues to spread the region, constantly supplying lava to create coral gardens on the ocean floor. Divers have access to these underwater settlements where they can observe local and rare aquatic animals.

You can experience and appreciate the underwater environment through snorkeling, scuba diving, or snuba diving (a hybrid of the two).

We have the opportunity to see the amazing undersea life, so we should respect the environment and be aware of our temporary status. “Look, but don’t touch!” is the general maxim.

I want to invite you to this fantastic place and represent a few of the numerous fish and sea creatures that are living in Hawaii:

Humpback whale

A really fascinating creature is the humpback whale. The onlookers’ reactions to their surface moves and their tails are terror and admiration.

The common name “humpback” comes from the dark backs and light bellies, neck pleats and slight hump in front of the dorsal fins of humpback whales.

These baleen whales live close to coastlines and eat plankton, small fish and tiny creatures resembling shrimp called krill.

Mothers and their young frequently swim close to one another while making apparent friendly motions with their flippers.

Although it takes a humpback whale much longer to reach full age than that, females nurse their babies for approximately a year. Calves continue to grow until the age of ten.

Humpback whales are adept swimmers who propulsion themselves through the water and occasionally out of it using their enormous tail fins, called flukes. Like other whales, these ones often jump out of the water and land with a huge splash.

whitetip reef shark

The Hawaiian coasts that these cetaceans frequent, especially Makapuu (Oahu) and Lahaina (Maui), are visited by thousands of tourists during the whale season, which lasts from December to May.

The 60% of humpback whales from the North Pacific migrate there in order to spend the winter in Hawaii’s warm waters and start their mating and calving rituals.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

The beautiful sea turtles periodically emerge to catch their breath before diving down beneath the water to continue their exploration. The green sea turtle can live for 80 years and weigh 136 kg (300 pounds), so if you are fortunate enough to witness one, you will feel wise in their presence.

Hawaiian waters are home to four different kinds of sea turtles, including green sea turtles, hawksbills, leatherbacks, and olive ridleys. The most prevalent is the green turtle (honu). Though it is now much less numerous than it once was due to uncontrolled hunting before 1973.

After that, the endangered species started to be protected from free-floating nets, pollution, and poaching. Sea turtle harassment or hunting is punishable by up to $100,000 in fines. A recovery team is currently striving to encourage the sea turtle population in Hawaii to increase.

whitetip reef shark 1


These amazing marine mammals are very funny, entertaining, and fascinating to observe. Whistles, body language, and echoes are just a few of the ways they communicate. Dolphins also employ a variety of methods to locate food.

The Hawaiian sea is home to fifteen different kinds of dolphins, including bottlenose and spinner dolphins. If you do come across a dolphin when ocean swimming, it’s important to keep in mind ” Respect!”

It’s meaning:

  • It is forbidden to try to touch wild dolphins. You can interact with domesticated dolphins through a number of organizations that operate on the islands.
  • Avoid jerky movements or those that appear angry.
  • Keeping space with the dolphins as you swim

Keep in mind that you are in their home, and give them the opportunity to initiate contact.

fish eggs

Monk Seals

Monk seals, also known as monachus schauinslandi, are found on the planet in three different species: Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Hawaiian monk seals. Hawaii is the only place in the world where the latter species is found.

The Endangered Species and Protected Mammals Act provides protection for the Hawaiian monk seal. There are currently about 1,500 monk seals living in Hawaii. It is forbidden to bother, catch, or kill these seals on the islands since they are an endangered species.

common reef fish

The area around Kaua’i, the northernmost of all the islands, is where Hawaiian monk seals breed most of the time. They can occasionally be spotted lying on the beaches of Oahu and Kauai, but due to their sensitivity to disturbance, they are rarely visible for very long.

Adult specimens weigh 180 kg to 225 kg and reach a length of 2.13 m (7 ft) (400-500 lbs). Typically, females are larger than males. They eat coral reef fish, eels, octopus, etc. Hawaiian monk seals may submerge for up to 20 minutes and dive to a depth of 180 meters (600 feet).

The Humuhumunukunukunukuaa (Reef Triggerfish)

The state fish of Hawaii has a name that is brief, distinctive and simple to pronounce—”Humu”. It is not surprising that Hawaii’s chain of islands, which is rich in coastal culture and customs, has a designated state fish as it is the only U.S. state without a connection to North America.

The seas surrounding the islands are home to the colorful and local “humu” fish.

What is the humu? The official fish of Hawaii must be spoken as follows: humu humu humu nuku nuku nuku apua a. This reef fish is known as a picasso triggerfish in Hawaiian.

hawaiian islands 1

Although the phrase “humuhumunukunukupua’a” (Reef Triggerfish) may seem frightening in and of itself, it is actually pretty straightforward. In any case, locals frequently reduce it to just “humuhumu” to conserve breath.

The nickname for the state fish has a rich meaning and a long history in Hawaii, much like all of the other names. The Hawaiian word for all species of reef triggerfish is “humuhumu,” which is the first component.

The name’s second component, “nukunukupua’a,” means “snout like a pig.” There is a connection between the distinctive grunt that live fish produce when threatened and the identifiable sounds that emanate from pigs, despite the fact that it may seem like an odd comparison.

A humuhumu will float along the ocean floor during the day, consuming algae and ingesting invertebrates that are buried in the sand. It returns to its reef-side cave at night and opens the three spines that keep it securely in place.

The fish can slumber soundly in the knowledge that no threatening creature can get to it. The Triggerfish Wedge-tail, another common name for the humuhumu, originated from this habit.

Hawaii has some of the best snorkeling in the world thanks to its vibrant reef fish, warm water all year round, and stunning coral formations. For beginning divers, shallow outer reef conditions are ideal to meet a humuhumus. The unusual color and pattern of humuhumus make them easy to identify.

One of the greatest places to see a humuhumu in its natural environment is Hanauma Bay on the south side of O’ahu. The serene bay is a Marine Life Conservation District and a natural reserve.

Other than humuhumu, dozens of other fish species, including kikkapu (Threadfin Butterflyfish), manini (Convict Tang), and kihikihi, can be encountered when you swim there.

hawaiian islands

Threadfin Butterfly (Lau Hau)

A common coral reef fish is the vividly colored butterfly fish, which is frequently spotted darting through the ocean’s gardens.

Their bodies are formed like disks, which helps them move through tight areas.

The Threadfin Butterfly fish is distinguished by its white body, which turns gold at the rear. A series of tiny right-angled diagonal lines are also used to mark it. One of the supple dorsal spines is extended into a filament that gives the fish its name.

Juveniles have a bigger black spot and lack the filament. Threadfin butterfly fish live in pairs and have open-ended home ranges.

interesting fish

They are able to quickly get out of the way of predators. A dark bar through the eye successfully conceals them. Certain butterfly fish species have a fake eyespot near their tail. They are lifelong partners and travel in pairs.

These Hawaiian reef fish do not provide parental care for their offspring despite being long-term mates. They scatter their eggs into the sea, and after the eggs hatch, the larvae drift for a few weeks or months with the plankton.

Butterfly fish can be identified by their tiny brush-like teeth. Chaeto (“hair”) and dentis combine to form the family name Chaetodontidae (“tooth”). There are 24 different species of butterfly fish in the Hawaiian Islands.

One common word for butterfly fish in prehistoric Hawai’i was kkkapu, which means “highly restricted” and is used to characterize them in various prayers or chants as being sacred.

Other names are lau-wiliwili, which means “leaf of the wiliwili tree”; and lau-hau, which means “leaf of the hau tree.”

The maximum height is 8 inches.

coral reef

Raccoon butterflyfish

One of the butterflyfish species most frequently seen in Hawaiian waters is the raccoon butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula).

It consumes a wide range of soft-bodied invertebrates, including coral polyps, algae, worms, sea anemones, and nudibranchs. The raccoon butterflyfish appear in pairs or groups on shallow coral flats and at least 75 feet below the surface near snorkelers and divers.

They are active at night. The raccoon butterflyfish can grow up to 8 inches long.

coral reef 1

The Hawaiian turkey fish (also known as the Hawaiian lionfish)

The scorpionfish family includes the Hawaiian turkeyfish, often called Hawaiian lionfish, which may reach a maximum length of 8 inches. Hawaiian waters are home to over 25 species of scorpionfish, and the sole endemic species of the scorpionfish genus is the Hawaiian turkeyfish.

A striking reddish-brown specimen, the Hawaiian turkeyfish has extended spines on its pectoral fins and a single long dorsal spine. It also has vertical white stripes. It can sting you painfully with its deadly spines.

The Hawaiian turkeyfish is occasionally sighted by a lucky diver swimming in open waters in the late afternoons or early mornings. It may be found at depths of 9 to 400 feet. These fish are nocturnal hunters who eat small reef fish and crustaceans.

coral reef 2

Similar to the frogfish, they are adept ambush predators that corner food with their huge fins and have a lightning-quick gulp reflex. This fish spends the day in caverns beneath ledges, frequently upside down.

It is never advised to reach into underwater caverns or cracks since one of these animals may be hiding there due to its poisonous spines.

Yellow Tangs-the bright yellow fish

The yellow tang’s vivid color gives Hawaii’s coral reefs rainbow of hues a depth of beauty. These Hawaiian reef fish group together in order to achieve a variety of goals, including mating, searching for food, and defending themselves from predators.

Many tourists visit Hawaii’s living reefs to snorkel and scuba dive because of their beauty. But it’s also the reason they are among the most badly overfished coral reef fish.

other reef fish

Before forming their distinctive slender, oval-shaped, bright yellow bodies, yellow tang begin life as clear larvae. They have seven fins, including spiny dorsal and anal fins, and long snouts. They can fight or defend themselves using the white spines that are sharp and protrude from both sides of their tails.

Unexpectedly, yellow tang actually undergoes a color shift during the day. Yellow tangs are completely bright yellow during the day with the exception of their spines. They become a dark, grayish-yellow tint with a white lateral line at night.

The mucus that the yellow tang secretes from its skin coats it. The mucus creates a barrier that keeps bacteria and parasites out. The yellow tang can swim more quickly since its body is less water resistive due to the mucus.

This bright yellow fish is also one of the most well-liked fish in a saltwater aquarium.

From Hawaii’s delicate reefs, countless yellow tangs have been taken over the years. Many yellow tangs don’t survive the trauma of capture and custody and wind up in trash dumpsters despite the fact that nets are employed instead of cyanide, which is frequently utilized elsewhere in fish capture.

other reef fish 1

Peacock grouper

This reef fish is a member of the Serranidae family. It is additionally known as Hawaiian peacock grouper (Cephalopholis argus).

The exposed margins of tropical and sub-tropical reefs are part of the peacock grouper ecosystem, or habitat. It frequently appears on exposed reefs.

There isn’t a lot of information about this grouper’s reproductive system, but it has been noted that there are harems of females and that only one male is permitted inside each harem.

This one is a protogynous hermaphrodite fish. The fish’s body is dark brown with moving blue spots on it. It is covered by vertical bars. The breast has a white patch. Benthic or marine crustaceans, including shrimp, lobsters, and other types of crustaceans, make up this fish’s diet.

These reef fish are reported to hover still in the water column before striking or hunting. Additionally, they follow other predatory animals in search of prey.

Due to the ciguatera toxin present in it, the peacock hind is notorious for causing ciguatera poisoning and is uncommon in both commercial and local fisheries.

shoaling fish

Moorish idol

One of the most recognizable coral reef fish for a very long time is also the moorish idol (Zanclus cornutus), also known as the monish idol or the morishidol. The Moors were given their name because people believed that they were bringing happiness.

Although they are in great demand for aquariums they do not do well in captivity. The extinct Eozanclus brevirhostris is closely related to and maybe a direct ancestor of Moorish idols.

tall dorsal fin 1

With a maximum length of up to 23 cm, Moorish idols are a small species of reef fish. They have incredibly compressed disk-like bodies that are brightly colored with vertical white, yellow, and black bars. Their eyes are high on their bodies, and they have long tubular snouts that end in little lips.

Bumpy areas are noticeable above adults’ eyes. Except for the 7-8 dorsal spines, which extend and sweep back along the body like whips, the fins of Moorish idols are rather modest.

With aging these dorsal extensions get shorter. Moorish idols can be spotted alone, in pairs or occasionally forming big schools. They are diurnal (active during the day).

Saddle wrasse

This endemic fish, known in Hawaiian as hinalea lau-wili, shares the distinctive swimming style that distinguishes members of the wrasse family. The saddle wrasse appears to be flying through the water as it swims by waving its pectoral fins up and down like a bird.

Saddle wrasses are carnivores that mostly eat benthic organisms that live on the ocean floor. Along with mollusks, urchins, brittle stars, and other invertebrates, crustaceans are a preferred food for this colorful tropical fish.

As they look for prey, they are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever is offered to them. The canine teeth and pharyngeal bones that saddle wrasses have close to their gills help them smash the shells of their prey.

shallow reefs

Saddle wrasses can grow up to 11 inches long as adults.

These wrasses like locations with rocks, debris, and lots of pukas (holes) to hide in. They live in shallow coastal areas and outer reefs that are 5 to 30 meters deep.

Saddle wrasses frequently rest on sandy substrate at night because they can burrow into the sand if they need to hide.

Eagle Ray

There may not be a better name for the Hawaiian spotted eagle ray than hihimanu. But it is also known as the bonnet ray, duck bill ray, or spotted duck billed ray.

This cartilaginous reef fish can be spotted gliding with the elegance of an eagle in shallow coastal Hawaiian waters from the Hawaiian island chain to at least the Midway Atoll . Their pectoral fins or “wings” have a six-foot maximum span from tip to tip and they have magnificent colour.

dark body

A stunning topside pattern is created by white specks that decorate a solid black background. Their undersides of each wing are covered in a black geometric maze pattern, and their bellies are a bright white color.

Their wing tips may be seen breaking the water’s surface before launching breathtakingly into the air and doing an end-over-end cartwheel show in mid-flight.

The spotted eagle ray is not considered a real stingray despite having a long whip-like tail with one or more barbed spines at the base. The three stingray species that can be found in Hawaii have venomous spines far down the length of their tails.

Hawaiian eagle rays are thought to be very calm creatures.They frequently swim away from divers. However, if handled, their barbed spines can cause excruciating agony.

Snails, shrimp, crabs, and sea urchins are the main foods for spotted eagle rays. Their prey’s shells can be easily crushed by their flat, hard tooth plates. The remaining flesh is then consumed once the shells have been spit out.

Each pup in Hihimanu’s live birthed litter has a wing span of 10 to 20 inches. The birthing process, in which the mother leaps out of the water and expels the pups in mid-air, has been linked to thrilling aerial displays.

red sea

The babies emerge from the womb with their wings bat-like folded around their bodies. They swiftly unfold these wings and utilize them to swim to get away from their primary predators- sharks.

Bluefin trevally

The bluefin trevally is a member of the Carangidae jack family, which also includes other Hawaiian reef fish species, including the jack mackerel, jack, scad, and pompanos.

The bluefin trevally is an oblong fish with a silvery-brass, grayish, or white underside as well as an oval body.

red sea 1

It is distinguished by the vivid electric blue color of its second dorsal, anal, and caudal fins.

The midsection and back of the body are covered in patches that are blue-black and have bluish undertones. Both the pelvic and pectoral fins are white, with a golden tint on the pectoral fins.

Baby fish don’t have brilliant blue fins. Instead, all but one of its fins—a dark dorsal fin—are dark, with the exception of a yellow pectoral fin.

The body’s dorsal (top) half is gray or iridescent brassy, blue-tinged, and covered with tiny, dispersed bluish-black dots.

The bluefin trevally (Caranx melampygus) is not only distinguished by its stunning coloration. It also has an aggressive feeding style and a swift swimming speed. They prey mainly on small fish, crab, shrimp, crabs and cephalopods.

Most of the time, bluefin trevallies hunt throughout the day, particularly at dawn and dusk.

The bluefin trevally fish is referred to as Omilu in Hawaii.

They hide among corals near the areas where prey fish congregate for spawning and assume a dark coloration for ambush predatory purposes.

Be cautious! Some marine life can be deadly. Watch out for these next creatures:


Your body can itch when touched by jellyfish tentacles. The boxes of jellyfish are simple to find near the shore. Infested areas with jellyfish are typically marked with warning signs.

healthy reef

Portuguese Carabels

These larger jellyfish-like animals can hurt you painfully. They can have pinkish, blue or purplish colors on their transparent bodies.

healthy reef 1


Swimming on overcast or dimly lit days can be intimidating because this is when sharks prefer to feed. Better swim in groups, avoid wearing vibrant colors and avoid locations where fish jump.

sea stars 1

Moray eels

They are able to attack people thanks to their keen fangs and thick, smooth skin. They enjoy congregating in rocky crevices and holes.

Sea urchins: These oblong, spiny animals, known as “wana” in Hawaiian, are found on coral surfaces and can puncture the flesh with sharp spines that hurt and may leave a purple or blue mark.

hawaiian reef


Some of the planet’s most unusual habitats can be found in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that up to 50% of fish species between 100 and 200 feet deep and an average of 21% of fish species above 100 feet deep are only found in Hawaii.

Many other hawaiian reef fish that are also found elsewhere may have different color variants. They do, however, suffer some particular difficulties as tourism develops and ecosystems are lost.

Some populations are threatened by overfishing and habitat degradation, and recreational activities like fishing, snorkeling, boating and others can harm reefs and the creatures that live there. Protecting such a significant aspect of Hawaii’s natural history and economy is just nesseserly.

hawaiian reef 1

The reefs of Hawaii also benefit coastal communities in terms of conservation, culture, and economy, bringing in more than $1 million a day through fishing, tourism, and other ocean-related businesses.

Some of the biggest and healthiest coral reefs in the state are found on the islands of Maui Nui, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Molokini, and Kaho’olawe. However, these natural wonders are under threat from sediment and land-based pollutants, overfishing, climate change, and invasive species.

As a result, some of Hawai’i’s most valuable nearshore fisheries have experienced a 90% decline, and the amount of live coral cover on some reefs has even decreased by up to 40%. 2015 saw the first major coral bleaching event in Hawai’i’s history as well as extremely high ocean temperatures, with some reefs suffering up to 90% coral death.

As the climate continues to change, it is expected that the effects of increasing sea surface temperature, sea level, and acidification will worsen. To achieve Hawaii’s goal of successfully managing 30% of nearshore seas by 2030, the pace and scope of our conservation initiatives must accelerate.

With the assistance of all travelers to these Pacific towns, Hawaii’s aquatic ecology will continue to flourish for many years to come. It is truly unique and priceless. 

yellow tang

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