You’ll find on this page species belonging to 3 closely related fish families: the Tetraodontidae (pufferfish), the Diodontidae (porcupinefish) and the Ostraciidae (boxfish, trunkfish). Puffers and porcupines are known for their capacity to puff up, while boxfish have kind of an exoskeleton, and sometimes small horns.
Pufferfish and porcupinefish are very easy to identify. They have the ability to “puff up” in a few seconds by swelling water if they are threatened or stressed. With this « balloon » shape, they appear much larger than they are, and are especially more difficult to bite for predators. Porcupinefish also have large external spines, making them looking like “spiny balloons” when inflated. Most of pufferfish species are also highly toxic: some parts of the fugu (species from the Takifugu genus), considered a delicacy in Japan, has enough poison to kill around thirty people. Most species grow to 20 to 50cm in length, but the stellar pufferfish can grow to up to 120cm.
Boxfish have a more limited capacity to inflate themselves (only 20 to 30% of their volume), but have a very compact body, and can also release toxins in the event of aggression. They are a small family of around thirty species found in warm seas.
Pufferfish, porcupinefish and boxfish are easy to spot when snorkeling the rocky beds and coral reefs of tropical and subtropical seas, often at very shallow depths. Whitespotted puffer is common from the Red Sea to the Eastern Pacific, where it abounds on the rocky shores of Costa Rica. Guineafowl puffer, which is sometimes completely yellow, is also widely distributed on the reefs of the Indo-Pacific, for example in the lagoons of Reunion Island. If you snorkel in Egypt or Jordan, you will certainly encounter the masked pufferfish, endemic to the Red Sea. Whilst pufferfish live mainly in salt water, some species are also found in brackish water, such as the checkered puffer, commonly spotted at the edge of the mangroves in the Caribbean.
The long-spine porcupinefish and the spotfin porcupinefish are circumtropical, which means that they are present in all tropical seas of the planet.
In the Caribbean, spotted and smooth trunkfish are both very common at shallow reefs. In the Indo-Pacific, you will often come across the yellow boxfish, whose juvenile exhibit an adorable bright yellow and black dots coloration. The whitespotted boxfish, whose male and female have different colorations, is also common on many spots.
Caribbean sharp-nose puffer
Valentinni’s sharpnose puffer
Bennett’s sharpnose puffer
Spotted sharpnosed puffer
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Want to learn more about the species you observed or photographed under water? The identification guides are true treasures for those curious to know about the undersea world! These books show, in the form of images or drawings, the species of certain environments (such as coral reefs) or certain regions of the world (such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or the Red Sea). If some guides are limited to fish, others describe all the local underwater fauna and flora. True scientific works, the identification guides are also a beautiful way to prepare for our future snorkeling explorations!
Sea lions, penguins, iguanas, turtles… In the Galapagos Islands more than elsewhere, underwater life is not limited to fish. For that particular reason, we recommend this guide describing all the animal species of this mythical archipelago. We bought it for our trip there and never regretted it!
This is “THE” guide for Mediterranean fish: 1450 pictures, more than 800 species described, and detailed information on each of them (distribution, behavior, etc.). The ideal companion for your summer snorkeling sessions on the Mediterranean coasts and islands. We used it A LOT! Strongly recommended.
A very comprehensive and practical guide to identifying sea fishes commonly seen in Australia, from the tropical Great Barrier Reef to the temperate Tasmania waters. Every species account is accompanied by one or more colour photographs, nearly all of which show the fishes in their natural habitat with a distribution map. Very complete guide!
A guide specifically dedicated to Hawaii’s reef fishes. It contains underwater photographs and informative descriptions of over 240 species, including classification, evolution, and best locations to spot them around the islands. Very good and useful guide if you are living in Hawaii or plan to visit!
No doubt about it, here is the best Caribbean fish identification guide, with detailed info and lots of photos. The different phases of certain species (juvenile, adult, terminal stage, etc.) are particularly well illustrated. Caribbean snorkeling lovers, you will love it! Strongly recommended.
This popular field guide contains the most current and comprehensive information available about marine fishes ranging from Thailand to Tahiti. This new edition includes 2,000 species with 2,500 photographs of fishes in their natural habitat. Multiple photographs for many species show variations in color and markings, life cycle phases and gender.
A reference field guide for identifying reef fishes from the Gulf of California to the Pacific coast of Panama, including offshore islands. It contains over 500 photographs of 400 species taken in their natural habitat.
From the beautiful cool waters of Catalina Island to the frigid straits teaming with life in British Columbia, this book covers it all. This is the most comprehensive pictorial fish ID guide ever published for these waters. More than 320 superb color photos are presented in this popular, quick-reference format.
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