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

Bob Fenner

A Kole Tang

Squirrelfishes and Soldierfishes, family Holocentridae

More often than not this family's Hawaiian members are simply offered as (Hawaiian) Soldiers or Squirrelfishes, sometimes with a concessional reference to genus (i.e. Myripristis sp., Holocentrus sp.). The most common aquarium Squirrel species from here is aptly enough, the Hawaiian Squirrelfish, Sargocentron xantherythrum (1), a great captive that stays reasonably small (6"). Just as easygoing, but getting three times bigger, the Giant or Longjawed Squirrelfish, S. spiniferum (2) is also occasionally caught out of Hawaii for our interest. Watch out for this Squirrel's venomous gill plate spines.

What are often labeled as Hawaiian Bigeye Squirrels, are actually Soldierfish, subfamily Myripristinae. Out of Hawaii two species make up the bulk of shipments; the Brick or Black Soldierfish, Myripristis amaena, and the Bigscale Soldierfish, M. berndti (both 2).

A note re the common name "Hawaiian Squirrelfish". There are a few non-Hawaiian holocentrids sold under this moniker. All require about the same care and rank the same in aquarium suitability.

Myripristis amaena (Castelnau 1873), the Brick Soldierfish. West-Central Pacific; Indonesia, Philippines to Hawaii. To about ten inches in length. Monterey Bay Aquarium photo.

Myripristis berndti Jordan & Evermann 1903, the Blotcheye Soldierfish. Indo-Pacific, including eastern Pacific in distribution. To one foot maximum length. Best from Hawai'i.

Myripristis kuntee Valenciennes 1831, Shoulder-bar Soldierfish. Indo-Pacific; East Africa to Hawai'i. Two to 55 meters. To eight inches total length. Reef-associated. Leading part of spiny dorsal fin yellowish. One off of Queensland, Australia, another off Hawa'i's Big Island.

Myripristis vittata Valenciennes 1831, the Whitetip Soldierfish. Indo-Pacific. To ten inches long. Another under-utilized species available in good numbers. Like most Soldierfishes, feeds on plankton at night. Maldives and QLD, Australia specimens.

Neoniphon sammara (Forsskal 1775), the Sammara Soldierfish. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to the Hawaiian Islands. To about a foot long. An occasional import. This one in Hawai'i, off Kona.

Sargocentron diadema Lacepede 1802, the Crown Squirrelfish. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to Hawai'i. To nine inches in length. The most common Pacific offering in the family. Very similar to Sargocentron xantheryhthrum, but diadema has a very dark dorsal fine with a white stripe in its lower area, xantherythrum with a red dorsal with white spine tips. Shown in the Red Sea during the day, Kona at night.

Sargocentron spiniferum (Forsskal 1775), the Sabre Squirrelfish. A beauty, but often lost to trauma in capture and shipping and too large for most systems (to eighteen inches in length). The first image made in the Maldives, the second in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea.

Ecotype: Shallow to deep reefs, hiding under overhangs and in caves by day, foraging outside by night.

Trumpetfishes, Family Aulostomidae:

The Pacific Trumpetfish, Aulostomus chinensis (2) is becoming more of an item and staying alive more as time goes by. Caveats for it's care are cautious selection of tankmates, (not too inhaleable, not too pesky), the employment of a covered (they jump) large system (ultimately hundreds of gallons), and plenty of live foods at least at first.

Aulostomus chinensis (Linnaeus 1766), the Chinese Trumpetfish. Indo-pan-Pacific; eastern Africa to Panama. To thirty two inches in length. Brown, green, mottled... to yellow. At right: Big Island of Hawai'i. 

Ecotype: All areas of the reef, often still in a vertical orientation, sometimes co-hunting with another predaceous fish, or stalking within a school of another species.

Cornetfishes, Family Fistulariidae

Fistularia commersonii Ruppell 1838, the Smooth Flutemouth. To 160 cm. From the entire tropical Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, Africa to Mexico. Shown: small (one foot long) individual in shallow water at night in Fiji.

Pipefishes and Seahorses, Family Syngnathidae:

Doryrhamphus baldwini (Herald & Randall 1972), Redstripe Pipefish. Hawaiian endemic. Often found in dark caves in small aggregations of a few adults. A facultative cleaner.. To 5" in length. Hawai'i image. 

Hippocampus kuda Bleeker 1852, the Common or Spotted Seahorse. Indo-Pacific; Pakistan, India, to Hawai'i, Society Islands. To a foot in length (stretched out). Found in calm waters amongst algae, seagrass. N. Sulawesi images at right. 

Family Scorpaenidae: Scorpionfishes.

The Hawaiians, being of Polynesian derivation have some scorpionfishes that they call Stonefish though the virulently venomous Synancea verrucosa does not occur there. Luckily the dangerous Stingfishes (subfamily Choridactylinae) and Waspfishes (subfamily Tetroginae) are also absent. The two Scorpionfish that are regularly offered out of Hawaii are superb aquarium species. The endemic Hawaiian or Sphex Lionfish, Pterois sphex (1), and Leaf Scorpionfish (1), Taenionotus triacanthus stay small and beautiful, and alive.

Dendrochirus barberi (Steindachner 1900), the Green (to the dive interest) or Hawaiian Lionfish. Eastern Central Pacific; Hawai'i and Johnston Atoll. Found in 1-50 meters of water, generally on coral or resting in rocky recesses. To about six inches total length. Very venomous to the touch. Here off of Kona.

Iracundus signifer Jordan & Evermann 1903, the Decoy Scorpionfish. Has a marking above the largely transparent base of the anterior dorsal fin that resembles a small fish... that this species undulates as a lure. Indo-Pacific near the ends of reef slopes on sand and ledges. To five inches long. Hawai'i image. 

Pterois sphex Jordan & Evermann 1903, the endemic Hawaiian ("Dwarf") Lion; often mistakenly sold as Antennata lions which they closely resemble in terms of pectoral finnage. Sphex lion fins are shorter, less colorful and more clubbed in appearance. Though more costly than the majority of lions which are imported from the Philippines and Indonesia, Hawaiian lions are my favorite for hardiness. To eight inches.

Scorpaenodes parvipinnis (Garrett 1864), Lowfin Scorpionfish. To 14 cm. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Tuamotus, Hawai'i. Found in areas of rich coral growth. Cryptic, reclusive by day. N. Sulawesi pic. 

Scorpaenopsis cacopsis Jenkins 1901, Titan Scorpionfish. Long third dorsal spine. Hawaiian island endemic. To twenty inches long. Big Island pic. 

Scorpaenopsis diabolus (Cuvier 1829), the False Scorpionfish. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Hawai'i, Micronesia, Australia. To 30cm. Right, in Hawai'i. 

Taenianotus triacanthus Lacepede 1802, the Leaf Scorpionfish. Indo-pan-Pacific. To four inches overall length. Usually found amongst reef rocks on a open setting, rocking like a falling leaf. Molts twice a month. Feeds on small fishes, fry and crustaceans. Comes in browns, blacks, yellows, reds and At right, in Hawai'i. 

Some of the other 23 Hawaiian scorpaenid family members are suitably small and good-looking, but they rarely make it into pet-fish markets

Ecotype: Like their second common name, Rockfishes are found on the bottom, generally motionless amongst the rocks and sand. Virtually undetectable to prey and divers.

Helmet Gurnards, Family Dactylopteridae:

Dactyloptena orientalis (Cuvier 1829), the Oriental Flying Gurnard. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, East Africa to Hawai'i, Tuamotus, Marquesas. To 40 cm. Demersal; lives on shallow sandy bottoms. Only member of genus found on oceanic islands. N. Sulawesi images.

Orbicular Velvetfishes, Family Caracanthidae:

Caracanthus typicus Kroyer 1845, Hawaiian Orbicular Velvetfish. To 1.7 inches total length. Lives in the protection of live coral, particularly Pocillopora eydouxi. Big Island pic.

Groupers & Basses- Family Serranidae. As far as serranids go, Hawaii is rather depauperate. There are three Basslets, Liopropoma species that are good looking, but too deepwater to be commercially viable. Likewise some Anthias hail from here, but most are also too far down. A few specimens do make their way in, though they're rightfully high-priced. The Hawaiian Fancy Bass or Bicolor Anthias, Pseudanthias bicolor (2) is often listed by wholesalers in the genus Mirolabrichthys. Formerly called a subspecies of P. ventralis (2), the Hawaiian Longfin Anthias, P. hawaiiensis is now recognized by Randall as a separate species. Occasionally, much as for the Flame Angelfish, this fish is caught (in more than 100') and shipped elsewhere for the aquarium trade.

The only bass regularly caught for our use is a non-endemic. The Blue Dot, Argus or Peacock Grouper, Cephalopholis argus (1) was imported to the Islands back in 1956 from Moorea, French Polynesia as a food and game addition. It grows to two feet in length.

Cephalopholis argus Bloch & Schneider 1801, the Peacock or Argus Hind or Blue-Spotted Grouper. Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to French Polynesia. Introduced into Hawai'i and the tropical eastern Pacific coast as a food and game fish. To a foot and a half in length. Make excellent aquarium specimens for large fish-only systems. At right, a large one in an aggressive display in Hawai'i.

Pseudanthias bicolor (Randall 1979), the Bicolor Anthias. Indo-Pacific, Mauritius to the Hawaiian Islands. To five inches in length. Also a hardy large reef aquarium species. One male by itself or with several females. Aquarium and Hawai'i pix.
Pseudanthias hawaiiensis, Randall 1979, the Hawaiian Longfin Anthias. Looks very similar to Pseudanthias ventralis but found only in Hawaii. Up to four inches in length. A male pictured on the left, and the female on the right. Images from the Kona side of the Big Island of Hawai'i.

Ecotype: Near rocky areas to deep reefs where they can skulk and dive into crevices.

Bigeyes, Family Priacanthidae: Have... very large eyes and deep, compressed bodies. Mostly red in color but can quickly change to silver and red barred to all silver. Feed on large zooplankton by night. Four Hawaiian species, two deepwater. 

The circumtropical Glasseye, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus (Lacepede 1801), can be found most anywhere seawater is warm on the planet. It grows to a maximum of one foot in length. This one in St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

Hawkfishes, Cirrhitidae. Most Hawkfish species that come out of Hawaii are available for less money from further into the Indo-Pacific. Nonetheless, a few Arc-Eye (Paracirrhites arcatus)(1) and Forster's or Blackside (P. forsteri) (1) Hawkfishes make it into the trade from Hawai'i. Far fewer Longnose Hawks, Oxycirrhites typus (1) come from here due to greater depths and incidental relative high costs, though they make great aquarium specimens.

The Blood Red or Redbarred Hawkfish, Cirrhitops fasciatus (1) is a real beauty, stays small (4.5") and very hardy. It has an unusual broken distribution, found only in Hawai'i in the Pacific and Mauritius and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

Lastly, and the least attractive and largest (at a foot long), the Stocky Hawkfish, Cirrhitus pinnulatus (2) is occasionally caught out of here.

Amblycirrhitus bimacula (Jenkins 1903), the Two Spot Hawkfish. Indo-Pacific: East Africa to Hawai'i. To three or so inches in length. Found in shallow turbulent water.


Cirrhitops fasciatus (Bennett 1828), the Redbarred Hawkfish. Punctuated distribution in the Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i (where most often shipped from), Reunion, Mauritius, Japan, Madagascar. To five inches overall length. Kailua-Kona, HI images. One of two species in the genus.

Cirrhitus pinnulatus (Forster 1801), the Stocky Hawkfish. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea. To a foot in length. An occasional import that does well in captivity, including reefs that don't house small motile invertebrates or fishes. Eight and four inch specimens in Hawai'i. 

The Long-Nose Hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus (Bleeker 1857), The Hawkfish most hobbyists have seen and want. Found in the Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i, This superlatively suitable aquarium species reaches approximately five inches in total length. Red Sea image. 

The Arc-Eye hawkfish, Paracirrhites arcatus (Cuvier 1829). With an interesting U-shaped three color patch behind the eye. They grow to about 5 inches in length and come in two basic color varieties; one flesh-toned, the other a darker brown based. Both of these in Hawai'i.

Forster's or Freckled Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri (Schneider 1801). With a body marked by dark spots on the front half and horizontal bands on the rear. This species can be testy and eat goldfish near their full length of almost nine inches, so be careful when purchasing a larger one. Indo-Pacific. Below: tiny, juvenile and adult dark form in Hawai'i.

Ecotype: Coral reefs, resting on top of coral or rock, or hiding under it.

Cardinalfishes, Family Apogonidae: Small (under five inches) reclusive fishes (nocturnal feeders) with large eyes, big mouths (one of the few families of mouthbrooding marines). Two dorsal fins, stocky appearing bodies. Ten species occur in Hawai'i. 

Apogon kallopterus Bleeker 1856, the Iridescent Cardinalfish. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea (where this one was photographed at night while foraging). To six inches in length. A larger specimen out during the day in the Maldives also shown.

Apogon menesemus Jenkins 1903, Bandfin Cardinalfish. May be same species (A. taeniopterus) as found elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific (according to fishbase.org). Distinguished by bar on caudal according to Randall. Big Island pic at night.

Sand Tilefishes, Family Malacanthidae: One Hawaiian species, often encountered in pairs on sandy bottoms... rapidly dives into sandy holes on approach. 

Malacanthus brevirostris Guichenot 1848, the Quakerfish. Found widely in the Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to Panama, including Hawai'i. To almost thirteen inches in length. Aquarium image. 

Remoras, Family Echeneidae: Aka sharksuckers for their habit of attaching to sharks with their modified dorsal fin. Sometimes Remora remora is encountered attached to large sharks, and Remorina albescens on manta rays, but most often seen is Echeneis naucrates. 

Echeneis naucrates Linnaeus 1758, the Remora or Sharksucker. Circumtropical. To 110 cm. in length. Most noted for their modified dorsal fin attachment organ, by which they join temporarily with a variety of hosts (whales, dolphins, ships, divers...). Even used by humans for a fishing tool! A free-swimming small individual in Fiji and a larger pair swimming about in the Bahamas. 

Jacks, Family Carangidae: Mainly large, silvery predaceous fishes that are constantly on the go and wary of divers. Have two dorsal fins and a lunate caudal. 

Carangoides orthogrammus (Jordan & Gilbert 1882), the Island Trevally. Western Indian Ocean to Mexico. To twenty eight inches in length. A young one off of N. Sulawesi and a larger one off of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands.

Caranx ignobilis (Forsskal 1775), the Giant Trevally. Indo-West Pacific; East Africa to Hawai'i, Marquesas. To more than five feet in length, 53 kg. This one of a group hanging around our dive boat in Queensland, Australia, and a school off Richelieu Rocks in the Andaman Sea off Thailand. 

Caranx lugubris Poey 1860, the Black Jack.  Circumtropical. To a meter in length. This one in the Bahamas.

Gnathodon speciosus (Forsskal 1775), the Golden Trevally, what a beautiful fish! As a juvenile to adulthood this bold, golden splendor is a sight to behold… all shiny gold to silver bodied and finned, with an assortment of vertical black barring. My first memory of this fish is as a boy, snorkeling off of Southern Japan. A tiny yellow, almost-just-a-dot fish "leading" just before my mask… like a miniature pilot! (THE Pilotfish, Naucrates ductor is part of this family btw). Small juveniles do associate with jellyfish, sharks and divers, likely for protection. 

Scomberoides lysan (Forsskal 1775) the Doublespotted Queenfish. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea and east Africa to Hawai'i. To three and a half feet total length. A minor game fish... perhaps a candidate for large public aquariums? Image made in Kona, HI.

Snappers, Family Lutjanidae: Rounded, longish bodied fishes with big mouths to match. It seems like Hawai'i has a good representation of these important game fishes, but of the five species found here, only two that are relatively uncommon are naturally occurring (Aphareus furca, Aprion viresens in shallow water, Aphareus rutilans, two Etelis and four Pristopmoides sp. in deepwater). 

Aphareus furca (Lacepede 1802), the Small-Toothed Jobfish. East Africa to Polynesia in distribution. To sixteen inches in length. This one off of Queensland, Australia. 

Lutjanus fulvus (Forster 1801), the Blacktail Snapper. Indo-Pacific; East Africa to Marquesas, Line Islands, Japan, Australia. Occasionally used as an aquarium fish. Young found in sheltered bays, around mangroves. Adults on surrounding reefs near boulders. Feed at night on fishes, crustaceans, sea cucumbers, squid and octopus. Pix from Hawai'i (aquarium at Waikiki), Bunaken, Indonesia and Nuka Hiva, Marquesas, Polynesia.   http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=262&genusname=Lutjanus&speciesname=fulvus

Lutjanus kasmira (Forsskal 1775), the Common Bluestripe Snapper. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, eastern Africa to the Marquesas, south to Australia, over to the Southeast Atlantic; South Africa. Here in the Maldives and Australia. Note the lower third of the body is white and the presence of only four blue stripes.

Emperors, Family Lethrinidae: One species in Hawai'i, the mu!

Monotaxis grandoculis (Forsskal 1775), the Humpnose Big-Eye Bream, Mu. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea and Hawai'i. To two feet, but a slow grower, and attractive when young to midsize. Below a two inch juvenile in the Cook Islands, a six inch sub-adult off Queensland, Australia, a ten inch specimen off of Kona, Hawai'i, and a one foot adult in the upper Red Sea.

Mullets, Family Mugilidae:  

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

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