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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 4

To: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,


Bob Fenner


 Damselfishes, Family Pomacentridae:

            For economic reasons (similar and same species are much cheaper collected elsewhere), and practical (theyre mostly in the upper water column where collectors nets arent) damsels are by and large ignored in Hawaii. Of the seventeen known species there are a few that make it into the trade sporadically.


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 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 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.

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. 


Shallow Rocky Reef Wrasses:


Halichoeres ornatissimus (Garrett 1863) is (one of) the three " Christmas Wrasses", 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. Aquarium photo. Indo-Pacific to Hawai'i, where it is best imported from.

The endemic, Labroides phthirophagus Randall 1958, Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse. 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.


Wrasses of the Genus Pseudocheilinus:


Due to their cryptic nature, most folks, including sports divers are unaware of the common presence of lined wrasses in Hawai.


Pseudocheilinus evanidus Jordan & Evermann 1903, the Pin-Striped or Striated Wrasse. I like this fishs other common names, the Disappearing or Vanishing Wrasse for its bashfulness. To a grand size of three inches. Indo-Pacific, including Red Sea and Hawai'i. This one in the Red Sea.

Pseudocheilinus octotaenia Jenkins 1901, the Eight-Lined Wrasse comes in two color morphs, one more orange, the other more pinkish in body hue. Both can become agonistic toward other fishes. Under-crowding, over-decorating and keen observation are called for here, as always.  Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i.. To five and a half inches in length. Both color morphs shown in captivity.

Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia Schultz 1960, take a guess, yes; the Fourline Wrasse (2), is mainly collected out of Hawaii. It is also a three-incher that like all members of the genus is best kept one to a tank. Western central Pacific. To three inches total length.


A Bunk Blenny Import:


Exallias brevis (Kner 1868), Leopard Blenny. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Hawaiian, Marquesas Islands. To almost six inches in length in the wild. Obligate feeders on live coral polyps. Definitely NOT reef safe. Still offered on pet-fish markets on occasion. A male in Oahu, Hawai'i female at a marine wholesalers in L.A. starving...


Shallower Water Surgeonfishes:


Acanthurus. achilles Shaw 1803, Achilles tang. Widely distributed from Hawaii westward through Micronesia and Melanesia, an area called Oceania. Though the best specimens do hail from U.S.s 50th state success with this species can only be had by securing a healthy specimen, providing a large well-established living space, with high, consistent specific gravity and oxygen concentration. Shown, one in the Cooks.

Acanthurus dussumieri Valenciennes 1835, the Eyestripe or Dussumier's Surgeonfish. This is a highly variably colored fish. Some are drab gray, whereas some I've seen from Hawaii sported brilliant yellow around their body margin with beautiful royal purple highlights. This surgeon is more like the genus Ctenochaetus in its feeding habits, sifting sand and detritus in addition to algae scraping. A specimen off Maui. To eighteen inches long in the wild.

Acanthurus nigricans (Linnaeus 1758) Goldrim to science, Powder Brown Surgeonfish to aquarists. Formerly mis-identified as A. glaucopareius. Pan Pacific. To about eight inches maximum length. See article on this and the very similar, but more pet-fish-appropriate A. japonicus. Specimens below from Australia, the Cooks (Roratonga) and Baja, Mexico. 

Acanthurus olivaceus Forster & Schneider 1801, the Orange Spot/Shoulder Tang. A hardy fish out of Hawaii and elsewhere, but unfortunately, a behavioral terror in the ranks of A. lineatus. This is an active fish that grows to more than a foot in length. Place only with MEAN tankmates. A juvenile and adult pictured, Fiji and Hawai'i respectively.

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Acanthurus nigrofuscus (Forsskal 1775), the blackish Brown or Spot-Cheeked Surgeonfish. Manageable size (to eight inches), and moderate behavior toward other fishes qualify the Brown Tang as a desirable aquarium species especially as an algae controller. Unfortunately it is a rather plain fish. Red Sea image. 

Acanthurus triostegus (Linnaeus 1758), (manini) Convict Tang or Manini (Hawaiian). One of the best Acanthurus for use in reef tanks for its size, easy going temperament and habit of consuming fine, filamentous algae. Reserved for native Hawaiian use in Hawai'i, but available from elsewhere. Juvenile in Hawai'i .

Ctenochaetus strigosus Bennett 1828, the Yellow-eyed or Kole Tang; since this and the
Chevron Tangs range encompass the principal islands of Hawaii they are the principal species
utilized in the West (though the Kole is found from all the way over in the Indian Ocean).
The Kole ("coal-ay") is more shallow water, surface to sixty feet or so, and the chevron
is generally collected in fifty feet plus. Aquarium, Cook Islands and Bunaken, Sulawesi,
Indonesia images below to show diversity in color, markings.... almost always a discernible
yellow eye surround... body and tail color differing.



Naso lituratus, the Naso Tang to most aquarists; it is also known as the tricolor or lipstick tang. There are some who claim that "blonde" and "streamer" versions are different species; they're all Naso lituratus. To eighteen inches in the wild. Below, a Naso in an aquarium, he business end of a Naso in Hawai'i, and a beautiful "streamer" (male) there getting cleaned by a Cleaner Wrasse. Sometimes found right at the surface, feeding on intertidal algae, but also deepwater.


Naso unicornis (Forsskal 1775), the Bluespine, Large or Bignose Unicornfish, is a deep-bodied species that develops a prominent rostral horn starting at about five inches length. The body is light olive to gray with yellowish highlights on the abdomen; to more than two feet. Adult and juvenile shown.


Zebrasoma flavescens (Bennett 1828), (lau'ipala) the Yellow Sailfin Tang. This is a "standard" in the marine aquarium hobby if there ever was one. Only certain damselfish species grace the tanks of aquarists more than Z. flavescens. To plate size, eight inches, in the wild. Below: an exemplary specimen in an aquarium, a batch at a wholesalers in Los Angeles, and a roving school in Hawai'i off of Poako on the Big Island. 


Zebrasoma veliferum (Bloch 1795), the Pacific Sailfin Tang. Collected out of the Philippines and Indonesia, though better out of Hawaii, Ceylon and other places in the eastern Pacific. Some call this THE Sailfin tang for it's gorgeous flowing dorsal and anal finnage; these especially over-sized in appearance when young. Here are two and four inch juveniles in Fiji and a larger (10") individual in Hawai'i. As mentioned above D. desjardinii is considered a junior synonym of this species currently.



To: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,

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