Tag Archives: Surgeonfish

Yellow Tangs

Yellow tangs swim in the waters off Hawaii
Yellow tangs swim in the waters off Hawaii

Yellow Tangs are about the most easily identified reef fish. They’re easily spotted from shore, puttering about in the shallows in large schools. In the water, their bright yellow color stands out even in murky water.

These fish are almost entirely yellow except for the white scalpel at the base of the tail. One or the other of these sharp spines can be flicked out and can inflict a serious cut on the unwary. When they spar with each other, they go round in circles trying to keep the exposed scalpel of the other fish away from them while trying to maneuver their own into a dangerous position.

Yellow tangs are a prime target of the aquarium fish industry. They don’t breed in captivity so every yellow tang in an aquarium is one taken from the wild. While these fish can been found around the Pacific, Hawaii is where they are most numerous and where most of these yellow tangs are taken. There have been a few bans on the trade in some places, affording some respite from the steady decline in numbers. Alas, our elected representatives have yet to exhibit enough backbone to impose a ban that is permanent and significant enough to allow fish stocks to truly rebound.

Yellow tangs swim in the waters off Hawaii

Undulated Moray Eel

An undulated eel with other fish
An undulated eel in the waters off Hawaii

I saw this Undulated Moray Eel out in the open recently and, rather than dart for shelter, it remained where it was opening and closing its jaws. While this looks threatening, it’s typical of most eels, the purpose being to push water over its gills, the equivalent of breathing. However, that’s not to say it’s a good idea to dive down and interact with the eel.

My fish book describes the Undulated Moray Eel as “one of the nastiest.” Its narrow jaws hold three rows of teeth, one running down the middle of its mouth. It’s usual prey includes small fish, but this eel was accompanied by a changing group of fish, and neither seemed too bothered about the other.

In Hawaii, this eel is often called the chainlink eel, for obvious reasons.

An undulated eel in the waters off Hawaii

Convict Tangs and a Surge Wrasse

A surge wrasse swims in front of a school of convict tangs in the waters off Hawaii

I was photographing this school of Convict Tangs when I saw this initial phase Surge Wrasse swimming in the opposite direction. This is not a fish I see too often and it’s one which my fish book describes as ‘one of the most difficult Hawaiian fish to photograph.’ I think this is because of its scarcity and it’s tendency to spend a lot of its time close to shore in shallow, surging water.

Convict Tangs

A shoal of convict tangs in the waters off Hawaii

The aptly named Convict Tangs are distinguished by six vertical black bars against a yellow-green background. One of these bars crosses the eyes, a feature common in many fish, which is thought to help confuse possible predators.

Convict Tangs are usually seen in large schools, again a tactic to deter predators.

A shoal of convict tangs in the waters off Hawaii

Fish at Viper Rock

Fish swim in the waters off Hawaii

On the coast where I snorkel, there’s a spot known locally as Viper Rock. This is where a very large Viper Moray Eel used to reside in a recess in the rock. I haven’t seen him lately, but it’s also a good spot for a variety of fish so I go down there regularly.

On this day, I approached the rock from the shore side and noticed these Whitebar Surgeonfishes swimming by. Then I noticed the Great Barracuda that can be seen in the background against the edge of the farther rocky outcropping. A few moments later I saw another one, and then a third.

It appeared that the barracuda ohana that frequents that area was around in force. Rather than cross to the other side of the ridge by Viper Rock, where the barracudas were, I returned the way I came. A couple of barracudas looked like they might follow, but quickly lost interest. Their interest in people appears to be related solely to the possibility that those people will snag some fish which the barracudas will then hope to steal.


A greeting on the sea floor at Two Step, Hawaii

This week’s Sunday Stills color challenge theme is ‘Teal or Aqua.’ See more responses here. I’m going underwater for a selection of aquatic aquas.

The top photo shows what happens when divers have too much time on their hands.

Next, we have some Square-spot Goatfishes and a few Orangeband Surgeonfishes meandering over a patch of sand. Then a Bullethead Parrotfish displaying a variety of colors. And a shoal of Hawaiian Silversides going hither and yon over a rocky bottom.

Finally, a couple of Spinner Dolphin photos, where they swam below me over an aqua background.

Spinner Dolphins in the waters off HawaiiA Spinner Dolphin in the waters off Hawaii