We have chosen to present here two very close families, the Balistidae (triggerfish) and the Monacanthidae (filefish). Species of these two families have in common a compressed body, an erectile spine above their head, and a very characteristic diamond shape.
Triggerfish and filefish are hard to confuse with other reef fish. Their massive diamond-shaped body is easy to identify, and their colorful geometric patterns make some of them emblematic in the tropical seas. There are 40 triggerfish and more than 100 filefish species in the world. Some of them appreciate the shallow waters of the lagoons and are easy to see while snorkeling. Triggerfish are named after the erectile dorsal fin that they draw when threatened, but they are generally inquisitive and don’t hesitate to come close to swimmers. During mating season, triggerfish can get aggressive while keeping their nests and sometimes bite intruders, some of them being snorkelers. The titan triggerfish, sometimes 70 cm long, is famous for its dreadful bites. Filefish are more peaceful.
The most famous triggerfish undoubtedly is the lagoon triggerfish (or Picasso triggerfish). It is widespread in tropical seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It can notably be seen in lagoons, even in shallow areas. It looks like its white and yellow stripes have been hand-painted onto its faded black body. One of its cousins, the reef triggerfish, has been chosen as an emblem to the Hawaii State, where it is locally known as Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. But it’s not endemic to the archipelago: the reef triggerfish occurs from the Eastern African Coasts to French Polynesia. If we had to give an award to the most fanciful scales pattern, it would be to the clown triggerfish with its white circles in contrast to a black body and its bright yellow lips. The Arabian picassofish, with its fluorescent-blue rimmed eyes, can exclusively be seen in the Red Sea and only 6 triggerfish species live in the Caribbean Sea.
The most common filefish is the scrawled filefish, with a circumtropical distribution. In the Caribbean, two species are particularly easy to see: the white-spotted filefish and the Caribbean orange-spotted filefish. The prettiest filefish may be the orange-spotted filefish, adorned with a superb turquoise and golden robe, which occurs from East Africa to Melanesia.
Arabian Picasso triggerfish
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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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