Tag Archives: Trumpetfish


Blue Goatfishes and other fish hunt fro prey in the waters off Hawaii

It’s not unusual to see this kind of gang activity while snorkeling, and what they’re doing is hunting. Their prey is small fish that take sanctuary in coral heads and among the rocks.

This bunch of hunters is dominated by Blue Goatfishes, easily identified by their blue bodies and yellow saddle at the base of the tail. There’s also a Bluefin Trevally and Pacific Trumpetfish toward the bottom of the photo and, near the top of the photo, a Peacock Grouper with a Whitemouth Moray Eel curling below it.

Eels are popular members of these hunting parties because they can wriggle into the smallest spaces, flushing out prey. The goatfishes perform similar work using long, white barbels below the chin to probe small spaces in the hopes of disturbing a meal. Other fish tag along hoping to be beneficiaries of this work by being the first to snag any victims that get flushed out.

Pacific Trumpetfish

A pacific trumpetfish and two yellow tangs in the waters off Hawaii

A Pacific Trumpetfish drifts in the water as a couple of Yellow Tangs pass by. Trumpetfishes often hang vertically, head down waiting to snag a meal. They also change color and markings to blend in with other fish, hoping to sneak up on prey.

Trumpetfishes looks easy to spot, but they propel themselves with dorsal and anal fins set far back on the body where they’re not seen by potential prey and, from the front, which is where its prey is, they’re very hard to see.

Yesterday’s swim

A small shoal of convict tang feeding.
I think this is a spotted coral blenny on a head of purple cauliflower coral, and possibly a small trumpetfish.

This is a second response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme of ‘Waterworld.’ (See more responses here.) Yesterday, I posted about the movie Waterworld. Today, it’s a probably more expected response.

These are photos I took during my swim yesterday. Visibility in the water was patchy with some good areas and some not so good. I didn’t see anything startling, though the mackerel shads aren’t a common sight. Last time I saw such a shoal there was a great barracuda lurking on the other side. I looked around and, sure enough, there was another one looking interested as it cruised low down, too low for a decent photo.

The other oddity was in the photo at left. I saw what I think is a spotted coral blenny on this patch of cauliflower coral, and snapped a quick photo before it took off. But it was only when I processed the photos that I saw something else, to the left and slightly below the blenny. I think it’s a small trumpetfish, but it could be something else. A lot of small fish and other creatures hide in coral heads so I must pay more attention from here on.

In short, it was a fairly typical swim.

A shoal of mackerel scad on the left with yellow tang on the right.
Little fish enjoy the comparative safety of the shallow water in the surge zone.
On the left, a fourspot butterflyfish and a cushion star. On the right, black triggerfish are cleaned by a Hawaiian cleaner wrasse.
Just before getting out I saw this small Pacific trumpetfish with goldring surgeonfishes.

Trumpetfish and yellow tangs

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Sea Creatures.’ See more responses here.

I go snorkeling two or three times a week and feel fortunate to see a great variety of sea creatures while I’m out. Some of these can be quite unusual or exotic. I recently saw my first titan scorpionfish, and threadfin jack juveniles are weird and wonderful. And then there was my one and only encounter with a pyrosoma.

But for this challenge, I’ve opted to go with some fish I see most times I get in the water. Yellow tangs are probably the most noticeable reef fish around. Bright yellow, they putter around in the shallows, and are easily visible in the water and from shore. Trumpetfish look nothing like yellow tang, but often take on a yellow color and blend in with shoals of yellow tang in the hopes of surprising small fish, which are their main prey.

In these photos, a trumpetfish is doing just that. While it might seem like it would be pretty obvious that the long trumpetfish is quite different from the rest of the shoal, when seen from the front, which is the business end of the trumpetfish, the distinction isn’t so great. And if the trumpetfish can get close enough, it will suck its prey in and devour it.

Better Days: Half a trumpetfish

I was swimming one day when I came across this. At first I thought it was a bit of wood, but then I saw the distinctive mouth of the trumpetfish, then the eye. It looked like it was once a good-sized trumpetfish until it encountered something that reduced it to its current state.

I swam around it taking a few photos, until I noticed a large barracuda swimming along with me. I thought, perhaps, it wasn’t a good idea to be near part of a dead fish with an apex predator in the vicinity, so I swam off, leaving the barracuda to make what it wanted of the remains.

Pacific trumpetfish and yellow tang

trumpetfish and yellow tang

Pacific trumpetfish have the ability to change their coloration according to their surroundings. In this case, the trumpetfish has turned yellow to blend in with a shoal of yellow tang, one of the most common fish on the reef.

So why bother with this subterfuge? Trumpetfish are predators, feeding mostly on small fish and some crustaceans. Appearing to be one of the crowd allows it to sneak up on unsuspecting prey. And while the very different shape of the trumpetfish might make it seem like it’s prey would be sure to spot it, from the front, which is where the prey is going to be, trumpetfish are very hard to spot.

Pacific trumpetfish

A Pacific trumpetfish changes color to blend in with its surroundings
Pacific trumpetfish are one of those fish that like to blend in with the crowd. Their color can vary from yellow to black depending on which fish they’re trying to mimic. The can also display vertical bars or horizontal stripes. Oftentimes, they’re seen hanging upside down in the water. The purpose of all this subterfuge is to sneak up on their prey which is mostly other fish.

This one was in horizontal bar mode and on a horizontal trajectory, but not with any quarry in sight, unless I was its intended victim. I think I’d be a bit hard to swallow.