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Coral Reef Fishes

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By far one of the most colorful and diverse groups of animals in the sea is that of the coral reef fishes. Their extensive range of bright colors and bold patterns is virtually unmatched in the entire undersea kingdom. And although they may be beautiful to behold, there is a real function behind each of these designs. Red colors appear black under water, helping a fish to go unseen. Stripes allow a fish to camouflage itself against the coral. Spotted patterns serve to confuse a would-be predator. Each species of fish deals with survival in its own way, and we are left to wonder at their accomplishments. Below is a listing of some of the more common coral reef fishes. Most of these species are suitable for the home aquarium. By the way, contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly acceptable to use the term "fishes" when referring to many different species at once. But you must still use the word "fish" when talking about members of the same species or members of a single group.

Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)
Clown Triggerfish
(Balistoides conspicillum)

The clown triggerfish is without a doubt the most beautiful member of the trigger family. The bright yellow mouth is believed to deter potential predators. As with most other triggers, the clown is an aggressive feeder, feeding mainly on crustaceans and mollusks. They use their strong jaws to crack open the shells of mollusks and crabs.

Orange-green Triggerfish (Balistapus undulatus)
Orange-green Triggerfish
(Balistapus undulatus)

The orange-green triggerfish is actually the most aggressive of all the trigger species. Their strong jaws can reduce the hard shells of stony corals to piles of sand. Their striking colors can vary quite considerably. Indian ocean variants have orange tails while Pacific Ocean versions can have orange-rayed fins. They grow to a length of about 12 inches.

Black Triggerfish (Odonus niger)
Black Triggerfish
(Odonus niger)

The black triggerfish is one of the less aggressive trigger species. Because of this they usually make good additions to the home aquarium. They have red teeth, and their color can actually vary from blue to green from day to day. As with most triggers, they eat mollusks and crustaceans and it is not recommended to mix them with invertebrates in the aquarium.

Banded Hawkfish (Cirrhitichtys falco)
Falco Hawkfish
(Cirrhitichtys falco)

Hawkfishes are a group of coral reef fishes that have a peculiar habit of resting or perching on corals and rocks as they wait for their prey. They feed on shrimps and small fish. They are not very good swimmers, and their comic antics make them an enjoyable addition to the home aquarium. This species is characterized by the vertical red stripes, which help with camouflage.

Longnosed Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)
Longnosed Hawkfish
(Oxycirrhites typus)

The longnosed hawkfish is characterized by an elongated body and square pattern of red markings. It uses its long snout to probe into coral crevices for food. The color pattern of this fish helps to conceal it while it rests amongst the corals. It will sit still and wait for a convenient meal to wander by.

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