Tag Archives: Unicornfish

Big and small bluespine unicornfish

Adult bluespine unicornfish, such as the one above, are liberally trimmed with blue on their fins, spines, and tail streamers. They also have a horn jutting from their brows. Juveniles are also tinged with blue, but while they have blue spines, they don’t yet have tail streamers and they don’t have a horn. Once they grow a horn, their cuteness will disappear and they will acquire the grumpy look of most unicornfish.

Yellow chub and orangespine unicornfish

The yellow chub in this photo is actually a gray chub, but a few individuals, such as this one, can be yellow, white, or multicolored. This one is something of a regular at one spot on the North Kohala coast.

The orangespine unicornfish is seen in many places along the coast and always has a grumpy look. In this case, it looks like it’s upset that the chub has swum into its territory.

Orangespine unicornfish

Orangespine Unicornfish

Orangespine unicornfish, like most unicornfish, tend to look a little grumpy. If they actually get grumpy, they have sharp orange spines at the base of the tail fin that they can use to express their displeasure. This doesn’t mean they’re a dangerous fish, just one not to provoke, which is a good attitude to have to any creature.

Bluespine unicornfish being cleaned

Bluespine Unicornfish and cleaner wrasse

Bluespine Unicornfish being cleanedThe bluespine unicornfish must be a contender for any ‘Grumpiest Looking Fish’ awards. This one though was enjoying the attention of a small yellow and blue Hawaiian cleaner wrasse.

Cleaner wrasses establish territories where other fish come to be cleaned, removing mucus, dead tissue, and parasites from their customers. This service is obviously valued by other fish. They will line up to be cleaned, waiting their turn. Often times, their expressions are quite blissful during the process. But most significant, cleaner wrasse perform their services on bigger fish, including predators, without becoming prey.

Bluespine unicornfish

Bluespine Unicornfish

On any given day, I’d rather be snorkeling. There’s always something interesting to see in the water here.

This fish is a bluespine unicornfish, a name which is pretty self-explanatory. The blue spines by the base of the tail are very visible as is the prominent horn. Not all unicornfish have horns.

The horn helps make the bluespine unicornfish look permanently grumpy, which is perhaps why these fish tend to lead solitary lives. They also tend to be wary around snorkelers, maintaining their distance or easing away when approached. This one, however, appeared more curious and made a couple of closer passes before disappearing.

Posted in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, ‘I’d rather be…

Bluespine unicornfish

A bluespine unicornfish swims off the Big Island.
When I’m out snorkeling, some fish don’t seem at all bothered by my presence, continuing to go about their business. Others will dart away the moment I appear (nothing personal I hope). Bluespine unicornfish fall somewhere in between. Mostly when I see them they appear unconcerned, but the distance between us inexorably grows.

No prizes for deducing how they get their name.

In my attempts to identify what I see in the water, I use John P. Hoover’s book The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals. His website is hawaiisfishes.com.