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12 Common Fish in Maui’s Reef Systems:

Yellow Tang (lau’ipala): Its Hawaiian name, lau’ipala, means “yellow ti leaf”. This beautiful bright yellow surgeonfish like all surgeonfish it has a scalpel like spine at the base of its tail. These “blades” on either side of the tail are used for defense against predators as a slicing weapon. With bright yellow coloring they can be spotted from shore swimming over reefs. Sometimes they hang in large schools but mostly seen in pairs.

Unicorn Tang (Kala): The Hawaiian name, kala, means “thorn, rough” and thought to refer to their skin. Named for the horn-like projection that extends from the forehead of the adults. They have two sets of razor sharp blades at the base of their tails. The blades, located on either side are modified scales. They are used in defense and to keep other fishes from their feeding areas. These blades are brightly colored compared to the rest of their coloring. Ancient Hawaiians caught them as food and their skin used for drumheads. Ancient Hawaiians were said to call someone that is great in self defense, “a kala fish with a sharp tail.” Unicorn Tang’s are not known to be aggressive towards humans, but with all species don’t corner or chase them.

Raccoon Butterflyfish (kīkākapu): The Hawaiian name, kīkākapu, means “very prohibited” because Ancient Hawaiians knew how important these fish were to the reefs and not to kill them. They eat live, and sick coral and is very important to the reef’s life. These are spotted on many of Maui’s reef system very common. The black patches over the eyes resemble a raccoon.

Ornate Butterfly (kīkākapu): The Hawaiian name, kīkākapu, means “very prohibited” because Ancient Hawaiians knew how important these fish were to the reefs and not to kill them. They eat live, and sick coral and is very important to the reef’s life. You can easily recognize the Ornate Butterfly by the six orange diagonal stripes on either side of its body. This fish’s distinctive markings include magnificent black and yellow bars on its face and a shiny gray patch on its forehead. Their tail has a black vertical stripe and the outer fins are marked yellow.

Longnose Butterflyfish (lau-wiliwili-nukunuku’oi’oi): The Hawaiian name, lau-wiliwili-nukunuku’oi’oi, means “wililiwili leaf with a sharp snout”. Distinctive long nose ad yellow coloring. The long snout helps them dig deep into crevices in coral heads. It has large spines on the dorsal area and horizontal break in coloring at head with upper area being black and lower area white.

Threadfin Butterfly Fish (Lau Hau): These have a very distinctive black spot on their upper dorsal fin, but can be hard to spot (pun fully intended) since they like to hide in the coral and rocks.

Parrotfish (uhu) - There mouth and teeth look like a parrot’s beak which is used to grinding lava rock and coral, to eat the algae. They have a second set of teeth in the throat that grind the rock/coral into a sand as its swallowed. It is said that the ground up coral and rock are spit and pooped out as sand and is the sand that makes up Hawaii’s beaches. So, maybe little Timmy shouldn’t eat the sand. Uhu start out as female, radish in color, and eventually turn into a male with the brilliant neon blue-greenish color. Ancient Hawaiians ate these and there legends about the Uhu.

Trumpetfish (nünü): Named for long “stick-shaped” like body. Their long snout and flared out mouth looks like a trumpet. Trumpetfish are solitary and very fast, they like to feed near surgeonfish feeding on the algae of the coral reefs. Here they can feed on the fleeing smaller organisms that are running from the feeding surgeonfish. There are three different colored nünü brown to green, mottled brown to green, and yellow.

Black Triggerfish a.k.a. Black Durgon (‘Āhihi-Kīna’u): At first glance their body looks to be black but look closer and you’ll see their bodies are blue to blue-green. They have beautiful light blue lines around their eyes and face.They white stripes on the dorsal and back fins. They like to swim just below the surface and usually in a school. Like most Trigger fish it makes a grunting or growling sound.

Moorish Idol (kihikihi): The Hawaiian name, kihikihi, means “curves”, “zigzag” may refer to its markings and body shape. They have very distinct yellow, black and white markings make it easy to spot. These markings and colors are said to help in it’s defense from predators

Reef (Rectangular)Triggerfish (humuhumunukunukuāpua’a): The Hawaiian name , humuhumunukunukuāpua’a, means “to fit pieces together” (humuhumu) and “pig like snout”(nukunukuāpua’a). The state fish of Hawaii. When threatened the Rectangular Triggerfish makes a grunting sound much like a pig. It’s warning sound for other fish as well. Also, it will hide itself inside the reef and trigger it’s dorsal fins to “lock” itself in a crevice once wedged in only the triggerfish can unlock itself.

Clown Wrasse (Lolo): A.K.A. Red Coris Wrasse and Yellow Tail Wrasse. By using its two sharp front teeth on both upper and lower jaw, it eats mollusks, sea urchins, hermit crabs, snails and shrimps. They are born red with black spots and as adults they change color. Their bodies darken, blue spots appear and the fins get yellow, blue, red coloring while their face turn green and orange with a yellow tail fin. During the night they bury themselves in the sand sea floor.

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