A very common fish, endemic to Hawaiian reefs, the pretty cleaner wrasse easily catches your attention with a brilliant neon color scheme. You see these fish nearly every time you get in the water. They are usually found in some cleft in the reef or above a prominent coral head working over another reef fish. They feed on parasites, mucous and dead skin of the other fish. The cleaning services offered by these small wrasse are so popular that there will often be several fish waiting their turn.
While cleaner wrasse are quite pretty they are also infuriatingly difficult to photograph. You can usually get close, they are not overly shy. The problem is that they never stop moving, swimming with an odd, jerky motion in the water. I have long since lost count of the number of blurred photos I have of this fish.
A cleaner wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus) in an overhang filled with red sponges and coralline algae
Another very common species on Hawaiian reefs, one commonly seen by snorkelers and divers alike. The trumpetfish can be either bright yellow or silver with dark markings around the tail. Either way an interesting and handsome fish…
A bright yellow trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis) at Eel Cove
Six years I have been diving the reefs of the Big Island. Despite this I have never seen a frogfish. They are rare, but not that rare!
A flashing light catches my attention from across the open coral. Pete is signaling, he does not do that often, when he does it is usually worthwhile. Pete had been working one wall while I worked the other side of a small channel in the reef. So far I had found nothing unusual.
There it was, a bright yellow frogfish just at the edge of a small plate of coral. Not only a nice find, but a nicely posed one as well, conveniently placed for photography. By the time Pete and I had finished photographing this fish it probably had sunburn.
I owe Pete a beer.
Commerson’s Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) at 25′ depth
A very pale whitespotted toby found in the recesses of a cave. This particular fish was so pale I was re-checking the books to see if it was a different species. Nope, as far as I can tell this is the same whitespotted toby that is commonly seen on our reefs.
A very pale Hawaiian whitespotted toby (Canthigaster jactator) in a cave at 25ft depth at The Pentagon
Horned trumpet snails feed on sea urchins. The snails are easy to spot once you know what to look for, a shape in the sand. The snail may appear like an abandoned shell on first examination, the top covered with algae. It is the size that is surprising, these snails are huge, the shell well over a foot long and almost as much in diameter.
If an urchin wanders by this snail comes to life, heaving itself out of the sand and moving towards its prey. The large foot appears, lifting the ponderous mass off the ground. A pair of tentacles with small black eyes on the sides appear, sweeping about to search for prey. Once the urchin is located the reaction is surprisingly swift, the snail heaves forward to engulf the hapless urchin.
Horned helmet snail (Cassis cornuta) pouncing on a collector urchin (Tripneustes gratilla)
The moorish idol (Zanclus cornutus) is one of the most memorable fish on a Hawaiian reef. They are commonly seen grazing along the open reef in shallow water. I often find these fish in caves as well, which seems quite odd as few daytime fish venture into the dark. The sponge and algae covered walls apparently provide good grazing.
Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus) in a cave