The regions where the greatest coral reef formations are located, the so-called Indo-Pacific area and the Greater Caribbean zone, are populated by an impressive number of coral reef fish species. It is estimated that the Greater Caribbean area is the home of at least 600 different varieties, while the Indo-Pacific area shelters between 4,000 and 5,000 species.
For all those interested in learning more on the subject, here is some information you can find useful:
Physical Characteristics of the Fish Living in the Coral Reefs
• Patterns of colors – Unlike the fish species dwelling in oceans, seas and other open waters, that are known for their rather monotonous appearance, those living in the coral reefs are lively colored. The patterns on their body and the striking colors serve multiple purposes, like camouflage, mate attraction or warning. Find a list of coral reef fish.
• Body shape – Sea weeds and coral formations provide many hiding spots for the fish species in these areas. However, the space is often very tight, and the marine creatures need “special equipment” to sneak in without being noticed. As a result, almost all coral reef fish have thin or flattened bodies. The fins in the pelvic and pectoral area help them find the right course, but also move with high speed when catching the prey or escaping the predators’ teeth.
Regardless of the area they live in, the fish populating coral reefs are of four kinds: benthic carnivores, herbivores, piscivores and planktivores.
• Benthic carnivore fish – It refers to the fish varieties preying on the sea creatures that live near the sea’s floor. The triggerfish, closely related to the puffer-fish and trunkfish, is very representative for the category. The spine it is “equipped” with allows it to search for its prey far from its habitat. The butterfly fish is another benthic carnivore coral reef fish variety. Its mouth features rows of fine teeth resembling those of a comb, that help them prey on invertebrates.
• Herbivore fish – Surgeonfish, with the tail spines resembling a scalpel, and rabbitfish, with long snouts, are among the most known fish varieties feeding on sea grass in the coral reef area. They are mainly found in the Red Sea and the Hawaii area. The damselfish are nicknamed “farmer fish”, because they guard and take care of their source of food.
• Piscivore fish – They are of 3 categories: stalking predators, pursuing predators and ambush predators. Barracudas, trumpetfish and needlefish are representative for the stalking predators’ type. Mackerels, sharks and jacks are skilled pursuing predators, while the flatfish, lizardfish and scorpionfish are known for their abilities in ambushing their prey.
• Planktivore fish – Feeding on the microscopic marine organisms known as “plankton”, they are classified in 3 groups: benthic planktivores, open water planktivores and nocturnal planktivores. The jaw-fish is the most known benthic planktivore. Snappers, sea basses and wrasses are notorious open water planktivores. The nocturnal planktivore coral reef fish category is also well represented by soldier-fish and cardinal-fish.