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Hawaiian Reef Fish

Hawaii's beautiful and rich ecosystem includes some of the most colorful and beautiful marine life the world has to offer. The miles of untouched reef produces life that can be found nowhere else in the world including a large list of fish indigenous to Hawaiian waters.

This article provides a list of the reef life that can only be found in Hawaii as well as in-depth descriptions of Hawaii's most common marine life.

Hawaiian Reef Close to Shore

Yellow Tang

Because Hawaii is not extremely developed on land, the ocean remains untouched in some areas. Due to the islands' shapes after years of uplift and erosion, it is common to see reef that survives very close to shore.

In the photo above, you can see the coral as it sits right up against the shoreline. Shallow reef fish and over 200 species of coral can be found in Hawaiian waters.

Below is a table of the most common species found in Hawaiian reef.

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Hawaiian Reef Fish

This table shows the fish commonly found in the shallow, Hawaiian reef.

NameHawaiian NameColor

Achilles Tang

Paku Ikui

Blue and Red

Bird Wrasse

Hinalea I'iwi

Blue and Red

Blue Boxfish

Moa

Blue

Blue Cravalle

Ulua

Blue and Green

Blue Parrotfish

Uhu

Blue

Bluespotted Grouper

 

Blue and Green

Bluestripped Snapper

Taape

Yellow

Convict Tang

Manini

White and Black

Fantail Fliefish

O'ili Uwi'uwi

White and Black

Fourspot Butterfly

Lau Hau

Yellow

Freckled Hawkfish

Pili Koa

Yellow

Hogfish

A'awa

Yellow

Juvenile Yellow-Tail

Lolo

Red

Lemon Butterfly

Lau Wiliwili

Yellow

Lionfish

Nohu

White and Brown

Longnose Butterfly

Lau Wiliwili Nukunuku'oi'oi

Yellow

Moorish Idol

Kihi Kihi

Yellow and Black

Needlefish

Aha

Blue and White

Orange-spined Tang

 

Black

Ornate Butterfly

Kikakapu

Orange and Yellow

Ornate Wrasse

Pa'awela

Pink

Pebble Collector Orchin

Wana

Black

Pennant Fish

Kihi Kihi

Black, White and Yellow

Picasso Triggerfish

 

Blue, Red, Yellow and White

Pinktail Triggerfish

 

Blue and Pink

Raccoon Butterfly

Kikakapu Kapuhili

Yellow and Black

Rainbow Butterfly

Lau Hau

Yellow, Pink and Blue

Rainbow Cleaner Wrasse

Hinalea

Yellow, Pink and Blue

Rectangular Triggerfish

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a

Black, Orange and Blue

Red Parrot Fish

Uhu

Red

Saddle Wrasse

Hinalea Lauwili

Blue and Yellow

Sargent Major

Mamo

White and Black

Spiny Puffer

Oapu Kawa

Brown

Squirrelfish

Menpachi

Red

Striped Sqirrelfish

Ala Ihi

Red

Teardrop Butterfly

Kika Kapulauhau

Yellow

Unicornfish

Kala

Green

White Spotted Puffer

 

Orange and Brown

White-Spotted Damsel

Alo'ilo'i

Purple

Whitespot Goatfish

Kumu

Red

Yellow Tang

Lau'ipala

Yellow

Yellow-eyed Surgeonfish

Kole

Blue

Yellow-striped Goatfish

Weke

White and Yellow

Zebra Moray Eel

 

Black and White

Snowflake Moray Eel

 

Black and White

Slate Pencil Urchin

Wana

Red

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The Hawaiian Triggerfish

how-to-dance-hula-basic-hula-dancing-techniques

Uhu (Parrot Fish)

Uhu

The uhu (Hawaiian parrotfish) is known for the vibrant colors of its scales. The female uhu is mostly a red/fuchsia color, while the male uhu is mostly blue.

The Hawaiian legend of Puniakaia and Uhumaka`ika`i is a story about a boy who catches a small, female uhu and raises it until it is very large, old and wise. When he releases it with his mother, the boy claims it to be the mother of the sea.

Uhu swim in pairs or alone. When they see another parrotfish, they swim alongside it. Hawaiians use a unique fishing method to catch this delicious fish. They put a fake uhu in their net and drag it through the water. Another uhu usually joins the made-made uhu and that is how they catch this colorful fish.

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Zebra Moray Eel

Moray Eels in Hawaii

Hawaiian eels are mostly made up of morays. The zebra moray eel is probably the most well-known in Hawaii as it is a common species found only in Hawaiian reef. Hawaiian waters are also home to snowflake eels and green moray eels.

Some species of Hawaiian eels have a symbiotic relationship with other fish including remoras that are known for cleaning sharks. The eel and the remora have a different type of relationship; the remora will chase the prey into the reef and the eels will chase it inside of the rocks to guide it out and right into the remora. This is the only case of a symbiotic relationship where two species hunt together.

  • Facts About Moray Eels
    This article is about moray eels, the different types of moray eels, moray eel facts, and moray eel photos, plus tips on putting a moray in your home aquarium.
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Slate Pencil Urchin (Wana)

Sea urchins are very common in Hawaii. The locals call them "wana" (pronounced "vah-nah") and try to avoid stepping on them. Sea urchins rest on coral and in the crevasses of rocks. While it is more common to see black wana, the slate pencil wana is indigenous to Hawaii and are much more beautiful.

When the wana dies, it leaves behind its spines, which turn a beautiful lavender color. When the spines touch each other, they make a pleasant chime. Handy locals collect them to make wind chimes.

Comments

Natasha from Hawaii on August 14, 2012:

I'm so glad I came across this. I've been writing hubs on great snorkeling spots on Oahu, but I'm not that great at remembering fish names. I'm about to link this from my hubs instead of the outside Hawaiian fish page I'd been linking!

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on June 17, 2012:

DzyMsLizzy, mahalo (thank you) for your comments! What an interesting connection to Hawaii. My family has been there for six generations and I am moving back there next month. How nice it is to hear that you liked my hub. Thank you so much! I admire your work.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 17, 2012:

What great photos! Very interesting, indeed. I have a very tenuous connection to Hawaii--I've never been there, but that's where my parents met, during WWII (they were both from New England)!

My mom studied the Hawaiian culture, learned the hula, and some of the language. From childhood, I always loved the way "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" rolled off the tongue! I was pleased to see it included, and finally learn its English name translation. ;-)

Thanks for sharing this delightful selection of fishes.

Voted up, interesting, beautiful and shared.

Brittany Kennedy (author) from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on June 16, 2012:

Thank you so much, James!!! I can't wait to check out your writing. Have a wonderful day!

James Timothy Peters from Hammond, Indiana on June 16, 2012:

This is soooo very cool. You're writing is fantastic and so are the photos.

Right on.

I envy you...

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