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Tautog

Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by Lisa Schall

(Tautoga onitis)

The Tautog is more commonly known as “tog or blackfish.”  They are brown and dark olive, with white blotches, and have plump elongated bodies. Their scales also give them a rubbery feel with a heavy slime coating that helps protect them from the rocks.  Tautog are so inactive at night that divers can easily catch them by hand as they lie motionless on the bottom.

Habitat

They are found along the Atlantic coast of North America from the outer coast of Nova Scotia to South Carolina.  They prefer steep, rocky shores; around breakwaters, off lying ledges and submerged wrecks; around the piers and docks; over boulder strewn bottoms; and on mussel beds. When Tautog are not feeding they are likely to gather in some hole or cleft among the rocks, where they lie inert, on their sides, often several crowded together, until the rising tide stirs them to activity again.

Diet

Juvenile and adults are exclusively daytime feeders, with feeding peaks at dawn and dusk. They have thick rubbery lips and powerful jaws. The backs of their throats contain a set of teeth resembling molars. Tautog feed upon shallow water invertebrates such as mussels, clams, crabs, sand dollars, amphipods, shrimp, small lobsters and barnacles. Juveniles and adults living around shoreline ledges feed heavily on blue mussels; their flat grinding teeth are well suited for crushing the hard shells.

 Behavior

Females and small males have a black chin while some larger males have a white chin.  They generally tend to spawn from late April-early August offshore. The female will lay about 200,000 eggs and after hatching, the bright green larvae drift for about three weeks before settling in shallow bay grass beds. Tautogs become sexually mature at about 3 years of age and lose their bright green coloring. They have a lifespan of around 34 years.

Predators

No species is known to preferentially feed on tautog alone. However, juveniles are preyed upon by fish eating birds such as cormorants and fish like toadfish, and small bluefish. Adults are hunted by smooth dogfish, sculpin, goosefish, barn door skates and hake.

Permit

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

Falcatus, a Latin adjective that translates to “armed with scythes,” appropriately describes the large sickle-shaped dorsal fin that breaches the surface when permit feed. They are usually found in schools of about ten but have been known to school in larger numbers.

Habitat

Permit are found in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico mainly on offshore wreckage and rock piles, inshore on turtle grass flats and sand flats from Massachusetts to Brazil.

Diet

Permit generally forage on flats and intertidal areas. They use their hard mouth to dig around for food hidden in the sand or mud and will generally eat mollusks or crustaceans, which the Permit crushes with their teeth and bony plates. However, Permit are also opportunistic feeders and will feed on a variety of animals.

Behavior

Permit spawning generally occurs from May through June in the Florida Keys mainly near natural or artificial reefs or in near shore waters.

Predators

Sharks and Barracuda are the main predators of Permit. Many anglers often report that while fighting a permit on their line, a shark would tear their prized sport fish on half and leave only the head.

Black Drum

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The black drum gets their common name from a large and elaborate swim bladder, that has special muscles that can vibrate to produce the croaking or drumming sounds. There have been reports of hearing the sounds from large schools passing by fishing boats. You can also hear them in our tank when the building is quiet and something excites or frightens them. On their chin they have 5 pores and around 10-13 barbels that they use to detect prey that is buried in the sand. They use electroreceptors on their chin to locate the prey. They are often black and/or gray in color with juvenile fish having distinctive dark stripes over a gray body.

 Habitat

Black drum are usually found on the Atlantic Coasts through the Gulf of Mexico. The young drums are typically found in brackish water, while the mature adults are found saltier water closer to the ocean. They prefer to be on sand and mud flats mainly in inshore waters and estuaries.

Diet

Young drums feed on maritime worms, small shrimp, and crabs and small fish. Larger drum eat small crabs, worms, algae, small fish and mollusks. Barbels (or whiskers) are used to find food by feel and smell. Drum often dig or root out buried mollusks and worms while feeding in a head-down position. This process is called “tailing” and creates small craters in the bottom which anglers call “drum noodles.” Experienced anglers can detect the recent passage of a school of drum by the presence of many “noodles.” The black drums have highly developed pharyngeal teeth which are used to crush mollusks and crabs before swallowing.

Behavior

Drum mating season occurs from April to early June. A mature drum can carry over 30 million eggs. After mating drum will spread and migrate south for the fall.

Predators

Juvenile black drum are preyed upon by a variety of large fishes while adults are preyed upon by sharks.

Gray Snapper

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The gray snappers species name griseu translates from Latin to the word gray.  They are also commonly known as Mangrove Snappers.

Habitat

The gray snapper is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Bermuda, southward to Brazil, including Bermuda, Bahamas, West Indies, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. It is especially abundant around the coastline of Florida. Gray snappers reside in coastal as well as offshore waters from very shallow areas to depths of 585 feet. Large aggregations of this snapper are frequently observed amongst coral reefs, rocky areas, estuaries, and mangrove habitats. Young gray snapper live inshore in areas such as sea grass beds as well as soft and sand-bottom areas but may be found in a variety of habitats and a number of inshore habitats are important nurseries for this species. Both adults and juveniles have been found in freshwater lakes and rivers in south Florida, a clear indication that the species is tolerant of a broad range of salinity levels. 

Diet

Both of the snappers jaws have a narrow band of villiform (fine, densely packed hair-like) teeth, while the upper jaw contains four strong canine teeth, two of which are enlarged and easy to see. Gray snapper are opportunistic predators. Larvae feed on copepods and amphipods. Juvenile gray snappers feed by day among sea grass beds, mainly on crustaceans and fish and to a lesser degree polychaete worms and mollusks. Foraging nocturnally, adult gray snapper prey upon small fishes, shrimps, crabs, gastropods, and cephalopods. 

Behavior

Spawning occurs from April to November with a peak during the summer months, and is influenced by the lunar cycle. Individual snappers may spawn multiple times during the course of the reproductive season. Gray snapper spawn in aggregations during the times surrounding the full moon.

Predators

Natural predators of all life stages of this snapper are numerous and include sharks, barracuda, grouper, moray eels and other snapper species.

Fu Manchu Lionfish

Posted on: February 5th, 2014 by wgoodman

The body of the Fu Manchu Lionfish is decorated with black, white and red vertical stripes. These fish are extremely venomous.  They have spines in their pelvic, pectoral and dorsal fins that can cause serve pain if stung. Their appearance consists of red, white and black vertical stripes along their body. They are different from other lionfish because they have two appendages off their chin. These appendages look like a long moustache, giving this fish its name…Fu Manchu! It is speculated their moustache is used as a lure to bring prey close enough to strike.

Habitat

They are commonly found in Pacific region, from the coast of Southeast Asia northward toward Japan and south to Australia. The Fu Manchu Lionfish habitats are clear tropical waters with prolific coral growth. The depths range for this species is 1-40 meters / 33-131 feet. During the day, the Fu Manchu Lionfish will typically stay hidden in caves or among sponges on the reef.

Diet

This lionfish exhibits an unusual behavior when it feeds. It will snap its dorsal spines and shake its head from side-to- side as it approaches its prey. This behavior may serve to distract, or possibly attract, the prey item. They are carnivorous and will prey on smaller fish species, shrimp and crabs.

Behavior

When it is time for mating the males will start to create a small group. He may allow up to 8 females to join it. There will be other males that come along, wishing to take over that harem of females. The males may fight very aggressively to determine who will retain those females.

The females can release from 2,000 to 15,000 eggs during mating. The young will emerge in only about 2 days time. They are able to swim within 4 days.

 Predators

Large eels, frogfish, other scorpion fish, grouper are known predators for the Fu Manchu Lionfish.

Moray Eels

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The dark green to brown color of the green moray eel comes from a yellowish mucous that covers its blue skin to provide protection from parasites and infectious bacteria. Additionally, they are often camouflaged to hide in the reef from unsuspecting prey. The eel has tube-like nostrils and uses its sense of smell to locate its prey. Part of their vicious reputation may come from the fact that they habitually open and close their mouths, which shows off their sharp teeth. Although this behavior may appear threatening, the eel is actually taking in water to breathe. The water passes over the gills and exits through vent-like openings at the back of the head. They have a secondary set or toothed jaws in their throat called pharyngeal jaws, which are thrust forward to grab and drag prey down through their digestive system. They are the only known creature to use pharyngeal jaws to grab and hold prey.

Habitat

Western Atlantic: New Jersey (USA), Bermuda and northern Gulf of Mexico to Brazil. Recorded once from Nova Scotia, Canada, Eastern Atlantic and eastern Pacific.

Diet

Moray Eels are carnivorous (eating only meat). Their diet consists of octopus, fish, mollusks and crustaceans. They hunt mainly at night and use their keen sense of smell which makes up for their poor eyesight. This means that weakened or dead animals are its favored food because they are easier to detect.

Behavior

Green Morays average about 6 feet and roughly 30 pounds. There is no set mating season for the Moray Eel. They tend to take part in it when they have enough food and habitat. Moray eels, like all true eels, are oviparous (egg laying). Warmer water temperatures also increase the chances of successful mating. The females will find a place to deposit eggs into the water where they will be well hidden. She will release an odor as she does this and that enables males to come along and deposit sperm as well. It can take from 30 to 45 days for the young to emerge. If the temperature of the water heats up they will come out of the eggs in fewer days. The young instinctively know how to care for themselves from the moment that they emerge from the eggs. A very high percentage of them will end up being prey for various forms of aquatic life so they won’t reach the age of maturity. The Moray Eel is ready to mate around 3 years of age.

Predators

The main predators of moray eels are other moray eels but also large groupers, barracudas and people. In truth this represents very few predators, which explains why they have the confidence to live in burrows or crevices in the reef from which swift flight maybe difficult.

Regal/Hippo Tang

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The Regal Tang is known by a long list of alternate names, including the Blue Tang, Pacific Blue Tang, Palette Tang, Blue Hippo Tang, Wedgetail Blue Tang, Hepatus Tang, Blue Surgeonfish and the Yellow Tailed Blue Tang. The Regal Tang was popularized by the movie Finding Nemo, in which the character Dory was a Regal Tang. The name “tang” is derived from German and refers to their predisposition toward seaweed. The regal tang is a member of the surgeonfish family. The surgeon name refers to two sharp spines that stick out at the caudal peduncle – the area where the tail joins the rest of the body. These spines are used to wedge themselves into coral.

Habitat

Regal tang’s occur naturally in the western Pacific. They are common throughout the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The Philippines and Indonesia are common areas to catch these fish.

Diet

Regal tangs have an omnivorous diet, with an emphasis on algae. On the reef, they browse for algae throughout the day. They also eat small invertebrates, such as tiny crustaceans and worms.

Behavior

Males aggressively court female members of the school, spawning occurs toward the surface of the water during which eggs and sperm are released. The eggs are small, approximately 0.8 mm in diameter. The eggs are Pelagic, each containing a single droplet of oil for flotation. The fertilized eggs hatch in twenty-four hours, revealing small, translucent larvae with silvery abdomens and rudimentary caudal spines.

Predators

Blue tang predators include: tunas, bar jacks, tiger groupers, and other larger carnivorous fishes.

Sailfin Tang

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

Sailfin tang are members of the surgeonfish family.

Habitat

They are indigenous to the Pacific Ocean and Western Indian Ocean. The Sailfin Tang fish are mainly found in lagoons and seaward reefs.

Diet

Primarily an herbivore and feeds on marine algae.

Behavior

Both paired and group spawning have been documented among this species. Color changes can be seen during this time. Just prior to spawning, individuals of this species form large groups. This usually occurs in winter or early spring, but it can occur throughout the year.

Predators

This species is prey for anything near the reef that is large enough to consume it. An example of such a predator is the white tip reef shark. To avoid predation, they typically feed during the day and hide among the reef at night. This species also has a sharp caudal spine that may act to deter predators. To advertise this protection, the tail fin is a bright yellow coloration most likely serves as warning to predators.

Mandarin Dragonet

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

Mandarin dragonets are distinctive due to their unusual shape and intense coloration. They have a broad, depressed head and are primarily blue with orange, red, and yellow wavy. Males are Mandarin fish lack scales and instead have a thick mucus coating that has an unpleasant smell.

 Habitat

They are found in the western Pacific including the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Guinea. Mandarins are found on coral reefs and shallow lagoons and like to remain hidden.

Diet

Mandarin fish feed on the bottom and constantly graze for food. They eat small crustaceans such as amphipods and isopods, small worms and protozoans. Much of its food intake is found living in the reefs.

Behavior

Spawning occurs in areas of the reef where small groups of males and females gather during the night. Mating occurs when the male and the female release sperm and eggs after they align themselves and rise about a meter above the reef. Each female spawns only once each night and may go without spawning for a few days. Since there are few active females, there is much competition among the males. The larger and stronger males tend to mate more frequently because there seems to be a sexual preference by the females for larger males.

Predators

Mandarins secrete a mucous that has an unpleasant smell and a bitter taste. They also have a layer of cells on the skin which produce and release substances with some toxins. It is suggested that this secretion is used as a repellent from predators and other competitive fish. The intense coloration also might play a role in avoiding predation by signaling to potential predators that they are toxic. Predatory fish such as the Scorpion fish have been known to feed on Mandarins.

Yellow Tang

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

Yellow tang are in the surgeonfish family. They are bright yellow in color. At night, the yellow coloring fades slightly and a prominent brownish patch develops in the middle with a horizontal white band. They rapidly resume their bright yellow color with daylight.

Habitat

Yellow tang are mainly found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The yellow tang prefers subtropical waters but is not commonly found in oceans. They are reef-associated fish and inhabit the sub-surge zone of coral reefs. This is because that is the area of the reef with the least wave action.

Diet

Tangs are primarily herbivores and graze alone or in groups. With their long, down-turned mouth and small teeth algae, is their food of choice. Most of their algae diet is found on the coral reefs in which they live.

Behavior

Yellow tang generally spawn in groups but have been known to spawn in pairs by territorial males that court passing females. Spawning activity occurs around the full moon indicating lunar productivity. Yellow tang spawn in batches throughout the year

Predators

Predators of yellow tang include larger fish and predatory invertebrates such as crabs and octopi. Yellow tangs rely on camouflage and their scalpel-like fins to protect themselves. To humans, these fish appear bright yellow, but, to other fish, yellow tangs blend in very well with coral reef backgrounds. In addition to camouflage, they use the spins on their tail fins for defense.

Red Fairy Anthias

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

They form complex social structures based on the number of males and females and also their position on the reef itself.

Habitat

Commonly found in the Red Sea, Maldives and along the Great Barrier Reef in coral reef communities.

Diet

Anthias are omnivores and feed primarily on zooplankton, tiny animals found in the water column. They benefit from several small feedings throughout the day rather than one large feeding.

Behavior

Anthias school in large groups, though they tend to be in more intimate subdivisions within the school, appropriately called “harems”. These consist of one dominant, colorful male, anywhere from 2-12 females — who have their own hierarchy among them — and up to 2 ‘subdominant’ males, often less brightly colored and non-territorial. Within the swarm of females, territorial males perform acrobatic U-swim displays and vigorously defend an area of the reef and its associated harem.

Anthias are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning they can change sex from female to male. They all begin life as females. The female is not as colorful as the male of the species. Due to environmental or social factors, such as the male dying, some of the females can become males. This sex-change ensures that there will always be a male and a female to reproduce. When the sex change occurs, the female that replaces the dominant male in a harem’s hierarchy is capable of changing her sex to male in a period of 2-3 weeks.

Predators

They are prey to large predatory reef fish and sharks.

Emperor Snapper

Posted on: February 5th, 2014 by wgoodman

This fish is also known as the Government Bream, because it is marked with an array of scarlet- red colored bands that resemble an arrow. These markings resemble the broad arrow that is placed on government materials by the British Board of Ordnance.

Habitat

Emperor Snappers are to Native to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. Although most Emperor snappers live near coral reefs, some species are found in areas of less salty water in the mouths of rivers. The young of some species school on sea grass beds and sandy areas, while larger fish may be more solitary and live on coral reefs

Diet

They feed on smaller fishes, crabs, stomatopods, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

Behavior

Broadcast spawners which means spawning takes place when animals release their eggs and sperm into the water, where fertilization occurs externally. They also do not guard their eggs once they have been hatched.

Predators

These fish are prey to larger predatory fish and sharks.

Porcupine Puffer

Posted on: February 5th, 2014 by wgoodman

The family name Diodontidae is derived from Greek and literary means “two teeth”. All Porcupine puffer fish species have jaws with two fused teeth, which make them somewhat similar to parrots. One of the unique qualities of puffer fish is that they are capable to maneuver their eyes and more importantly independently. The porcupine fish gets its name from the sharp spines that stick out when it inflates with water. When a predator attacks the porcupine fish, it inflates its body by inhaling air or water which makes it grow larger in size, and makes its spine protrude from its body. Other fish cannot grip or bite the inflated body of the pufferfish and hence, it is protected from its enemy.

Habitat

They live in circumtropical waters. Found in lagoons and reefs and are commonly seen in caves and holes in shallow reefs.

Diet

They will eat crustaceans, sea urchins and gastropods.

Behavior

Spawning takes place when males gradually push females to the surface of water or connect with already-present females.

Predators

Shark and other large fish would prey on porcupine pufferfish, but their defenses ensure they are rarely a meal.

Clown Triggerfish

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The top half of the fish is mostly black with a yellow patch containing black shapes. The bottom half is black with large white spots. Their lips are bright orange, hence the name “clown” triggerfish. There is a narrow white stripe around the mouth and another white stripe below the eyes. There is a vertical white stripe on the caudal fin. The clown triggerfish has two dorsal spines, one large and one small.

Habitat

These fish live near coral reefs in warm parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Diet

The strong jaws of the triggerfish enable it to crush and eat sea urchins and shelled prey like clams, snails, sea squirts, crabs and shrimp. They have teeth that never stop growing. There are eight sharp teeth at the front of the mouth, six teeth behind those and molar-like grinding teeth in the throat.

Behavior

Male triggerfish maintain large territories with several females maintaining smaller territories within the male’s larger territory. Each female will dig a pit in the sand within their territory which will serve as a place to deposit the eggs

Predators

These fish fall prey to larger fish and sharks. When hiding from predators, triggerfish lock themselves into small openings with their trigger fins and bite down on the coral or rock to ensure their safety.

Queen Triggerfish

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The body of the queen triggerfish is regally colored with purple, blue, green and yellow (hence the name queen) which can change depending on its mood. On some of the islands in the Caribbean, the locals will dry the triggerfish skin in the sun to use as sandpaper.

Habitat

These fish are found in the Atlantic Ocean, from Bermuda and the northern Gulf of Mexico, south to Brazil, and east to Ascension Island and the eastern Atlantic.

Diet

The strong jaws of the triggerfish enable it to crush and eat sea urchins and shelled prey like clams, snails, sea squirts, crabs and shrimp. They have teeth that never stop growing. There are eight sharp teeth at the front of the mouth, six teeth behind those and molar-like grinding teeth in the throat.

Behavior

Male triggerfish maintain large territories with several females maintaining smaller territories within the male’s larger territory. Each female will dig a pit in the sand within their territory which will serve as a place to deposit the eggs.

Predators

These fish fall prey to larger fish and sharks. When hiding from predators, triggerfish lock themselves into small openings with their trigger fins and bite down on the coral or rock to ensure their safety.

Black Triggerfish

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

When in the water, it appears to be completely black. However, if it is taken out and exposed to bright light, one can see that it is actually of a dark-blue/green coloration and they have bright white lines running along its dorsal and anal fins.  It also has thin light blue-turquoise colored lines on the face and around the eyes.

Habitat

They are found from Hawaii, up through Polynesia, westward to the East Indies and across the Indian Ocean. Unlike most other Triggers that live a solitary life on the reef, the Hawaiian Black Trigger Fish is different. Each one has its own place to live in amongst the coral and rock formations just outside the reef, but they will emerge and congregate above near the surface of the water in large schools to feed.

Diet

These fish are Omnivorous and they feed upon small fish and squid, shrimp, zooplankton, algae, and other marine plant life.

Behavior

Male triggerfish maintain large territories with several females maintaining smaller territories within the male’s larger territory. Each female will dig a pit in the sand within their territory which will serve as a place to deposit the eggs.

Predators

These fish fall prey to larger fish and sharks. When hiding from predators, triggerfish lock themselves into small openings with their trigger fins and bite down on the coral or rock to ensure their safety.

Miniatus Grouper

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The Miniatus grouper or Coral grouper has a bright red body with metallic blue spots. The word “grouper” comes from the word for the fish, most widely believed to be from the Portuguese name, “garoupa”.

Habitat

They inhabit coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific: Red Sea to Durban, South Africa and eastward to the Line Islands; including most islands in the Indian and west-central Pacific oceans.

Diet

They are predators equipped with large mouths and many small, sharp teeth, which are mainly used to prevent escape as they swallow their prey whole while crushing bones and exoskeletons with the powerful, pharyngeal teeth that line their throats. They feed mainly on other fishes and crustaceans.

Behavior

Form a harem which consists of a dominant male and 2 to 12 females. These groups occupy territories of up to 475 sq m subdivided into secondary territories and defended by a single female.

Predators

Larger predatory fish and sharks.

Clownfish

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

There are 30 different species of clownfish. The clownfish are very colorful with the body being a shade of orange with areas of white and black lines surrounding them. Other species have maroon and yellow coloring on them.

Habitat

Clownfish prefer warmer, tropical waters of the Indian & Pacific Oceans and the Red Sea. This family of fish is also known as an anemone fish, because of the symbiotic relationship that they have with Sea anemones.

Diet

Clownfish are omnivorous, which means they will eat both plants and meat. Their diet consists of mainly of algae, zooplankton, worms and small crustaceans.

Behavior

Clownfish are typically peaceful fish, but will sometimes fight with other clownfish species. They can also be very possessive of their anemones and will fight off other clownfish to maintain their “home.” All clownfish are born as males. As they mature they will pair off with another clownfish and the dominant one becomes female. The female will lay a clutch of eggs and the pair will protect and aerate until they hatch.

Predators

Larger fish, such as lionfish, snapper, grouper, triggers, and eels, will prey on clownfish.

Red-bellied Piranha

Posted on: February 27th, 2014 by wgoodman

The name piranha comes from the South American native language Tupi-guarani and means “cuts the skin.” It is illegal to keep piranhas in 21 states of the United States. Three or more species of piranhas are usually found in the same area.

Habitat

Red-bellied piranhas live in the warm fresh water regions of South America.

Diet

The Red-bellied piranha has perhaps the worst reputation of any freshwater fish.  Though they are omnivorous (eating both animals and plants), their razor-sharp teeth are capable of easily stripping flesh from prey, living or dead. Piranha feed mostly on fish, birds, reptiles, rodents and small mammals.

Behavior

Female piranhas lay several thousand eggs near water plants. The eggs stick to the plants and the male swims by to fertilize them. In two to three days, the eggs hatch and the young piranhas stay on the bottom where they can hide among the plants until they are large enough to defend themselves.

Predators

Large, predatory Amazon fish prey on piranha as does  the pink dolphin of the Amazon. Predatory, fish-eating birds such as egrets and storks are also fond of eating piranhas.