Angelfish - are among the many beautiful fishes in the ocean. Why is this fish called an angelfish? I am not sure. The word angel suggests they are delicate, but they are not. They are strong and can handle almost any situation and change on the coral reef. There are many types of angelfish. Most eat algae, plankton, and sponges, but some are known to nibble on jellyfish every once in a while.

Clownfish - this is maybe the most popular and known fish there is. The clownfish belongs to a large group of fish called anemonefish, because they can live among the anemone’s stinging tentacles. They are the only species that can do this. The Anemone is their home, and there are often many family members living in each Anemone. Everyone in the family helps protect the Anemone from other fish nibbling on it - well, maybe not the babies, but everyone else! The anemonefish are yellow, orange, or red and black, and they all have stripes. They live in the warm waters of the world’s oceans.

Goby - this goby is special. It is a twin spot goby. Rather than swim away or hide, it turns its side to any potential danger. The two markings (twin spots) on its two dorsal fins, look like a set of huge eyes staring right at you. This trick is clever and smart, and it is often used in nature. Some butterflies, cats, and many different kinds of fishes use similar tricks. Some think the goby mimics a crab with big strong claws. It has a very particular way of moving. It moves forward and back. It can be difficult to keep an eye on and even harder to catch. The twin spot gobies are often found in pairs. They live in the shallow and waters.

Blenny - come in many colors and sizes, and they often blend in with their surroundings. They are busy and are known for their happy faces. They are quick swimmers, and some of them are very good at gardening, keeping gardens around their burrows on the reef. The long fin on their back, aka the dorsal fin, runs the entire length of their backs. The goby, a close cousin, has two dorsal fins. The long, continuous fin makes the blenny uniquely a blenny. Blennies can be skittish, and it can take a while to get close enough to photograph, but they are friendly and it is always fun to see them swimming. 

Dartfish - this beautiful fish lives in the sand in the warm waters. They are most often seen in a pair or in groups of 3 and 4. They can be shy, but if you are calm and patient, they will sometimes let you get close to photograph or just watch them. If they do get scared, just like a dart, they will shoot into the sand bottom and disappear in a blink of an eye. Open your hand really wide, and the dartfish is as big as the distance from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your baby finger.  They like to eat plankton, and a lot of it.

Eagle ray - like an eagle that glides through the air, the Eagle ray does the same - just through the water. Its wings are actually its fins. The distance from tip to tip can be several feet wide, up to 6 feet. They are strong swimmers and sometimes they swim alone, sometimes they hang out in groups. They can be found in the shallow waters, but mostly they swim in the open ocean. Their pointed noses look like the beak of a bird. Rays have a strong bite. They use their jaws to crack the hard shells of shrimps, crabs, and shells they dig up in the sandy bottom. They use the power of their wings to drive their beak deep into the sand when they want to dig deep.

Frogfish - this is the fastest fish in the ocean, or so they say. Frogfish sit on the bottom or they perch on algae or hide in a sponge. They have a built-in fishing lure on their forehead, and some frogfish has a trick bait at the end of their lure to trick fish to come close for a bite. When they do, the frogfish leaps forward with lightning speed and swallows the fish whole. Some frogfish can eat shrimp and fish twice their size. Frogfish are stocky and they are not good swimmers. They actually walk rather than swim when they are fishing. Frogfish come in many colors and they choose to live in places that look like them. There is even a hairy frogfish! During the season when the algae grow long where they live, the frogfish’s hairy looking skin filaments grow long. When the season changes and the algae get short, the frogfish’s filaments get shorter too. It is nature’s way to give the frogfish a haircut without using scissors. 


Hawkfish - by the name you would think this fish can navigate the world easily. And it does, but only with the help of the sea fan’s branches. It has no swim bladder and it jumps from branch to branch when it needs to move. The good news is, the seasons are usually are very big so the hawkfish has lots of branches to sit on. Even better, its long and thin nose pokes through the branches and it catches all kinds of good food, like shrimps and small fish. It is really good at hiding because the checkers on its body looks just like the branches of the sea fan. Amazing!

Iguana - what do lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodiles, and iguanas have in common? They are all reptiles. Most iguanas live on land, but there are one species that live on land and feed in the ocean. It is the marine iguana, and it lives in the Galapagos Islands. It is the only place it is found. They will let you get close, but they are not a friendly type. If you get too close you might be “spat” at. They are not being rude. They are just trying to get rid of the build-up salt in their nose from the saltwater by sneezing hard. Its long strong tail makes it a fast swimmer, but they don’t need to go far or be fast because all they eat is algae. 

Jellyfish - it has a soft body, and just like jelly you eat, a jellyfish is mainly made of water. Jellyfish have three layers to their body, and they have no brain, blood, or heart. They have a nose but can still smell, and they don't have eyes, but they can still find the light to follow. If a jellyfish splits into two, yet they don’t have to figure out who gets the heart, brain, nose, or eyes. They simply split and become two jellyfish instead of one. They live in both cold and warm water oceans. They ride on the ocean currents. That is how they get around. Most of them use their stinging tentacles to catch their food, such as fish eggs, shrimp, and crabs. Jellyfish can be beautiful, but it is best to be careful if you see a jellyfish. Be sure you avoid getting stung.

Knobby Stonefish - they are one of the most amazing fish. They are so good at looking like part of the reef, they are convinced you can’t see them, even if you are really close. They will sit like a stone and not move for very long periods of time. Their knobby skin matches the reef perfectly. Some stonefish sit still for so long algae starts growing on them. They like it because it helps them match the reef and their surroundings. They often choose to sit next to rocks, and a sandy bottom is their favorite. Though they spend most of their time by the reef, they sometimes wiggle their bodies into the sand for a rest with just their mouth and eyes out of the sand, which makes sense. Who wants sand in your mouth or eyes, right!

Leaf fish - this fish looks like a leaf and acts like a leaf. It flips and flops from side to side like a leaf tumbling around. It comes in many colors, like white, yellow, pink, green and sometimes in many different colors all at once. The leaf fish’s choice of color all depends on what it tries to look like. Leaf fish molt, which means it gets rid of its outer skin, every two weeks or less, so it can change colors to match where it lives. Imagine if you could change your skin color to match your room, and do it again and again. Like a straw the leaf fish uses its snout to suck its favorite food, shrimp! Now that is cool!

Manatee - did you know you are a cousin of the manatee? You both have lungs and breath air. When babies are born they come from their mother and not an egg. The babies drink milk from their moms and they have hair just like you do. It is hard to find the manatee’s hair, but they do have a couple here and there. We are warm-blooded, and we don’t need the sun to warm our bodies, like the reptiles. This is what makes us mammals. Manatees are also known as the cows of the ocean, and their closest relative on land is the elephant. They are gentle and friendly animals. You can visit these manatees in the state of Florida where they live in families and like to peacefully graze on algae. They even like lettuce.

Nudibranch - these are the snails of the ocean and they are also called sea slugs. Like the snails on land, the nudibranch have soft bodies. When the nudibranchs are babies, aka larvae, they carry a shell. As they grow up the shell disappears and the nudibranch’s bright colors protect them instead by warning other fish that they are poisonous.  When the nudibranch eat hydroids, sponges, corals etc. they use the poison from the food and put it in their skin. This makes the nudibranch yucky to eat. How smart is that? They stay safe and so do the fish that don’t eat them. The nudibranchs are known for their big “ears”. The ears, called rhinophores, really work more like a nose, because the nudibranch senses where its friends and food are with the rhinophores. There are over 3,000 species of nudibranchs and new species are found all the time. It is so exciting. 

Xenia - this is a soft coral. It lives in colonies on the reef and for a coral, they’ve grown quite fast. With the help of the sun, they make most of their food inside their  bodies, like a built-in kitchen. It is called photosynthesis. But they do also grab food from the water with their eight arms. They are often seen busy feeding when the current is strong, but if they are hungry and there is no current, they make their own mini currents by opening and closing their eight arms. Each arm waits its turn so each arm has the same chance of grabbing the plankton. With eight arms feeding just one coral, the coral never goes hungry.


Zebra Bamboo Shark - this is a small shark reef shark and is common but not often seen. When we think of sharks we often think of sharks in the open ocean. But there are a bunch of sharks that live on the reef. The zebra banded bamboo shark is one of them, and so is the wobbegong shark, the nurse shark, the sand shark and the white tip reef shark. They are often found resting on the bottom, which makes them the couch potatoes of the shark family. Since they prefer to rest they don’t swim much or very far, and their tails are not shaped for speed but to wiggle into caves and out of tight spaces. They like to eat shells and often find the shells in caves. When they find a shell they suck the animal out and eat it. Yuck! The zebra bamboo shark grows to be just 3 feet long, which is very small compared to sharks that live in the ocean. The zebra stripes are part of its camouflage, so it is the luckiest fish ever because it gets to be in it’s pajamas all day

Octopus - octo means eight. Can you guess how many arms an octopus has? You are right - eight. They have a large brain and their brain is also in their arms. They can actually see, think and do things with each of their eight arms. Imagine if you could draw with one arm, learn to read with another, brush your teeth with a third, do the dishes with a fourth and fifth arm, put your toys away with a sixth arm, tie your shoes with a seventh arm and comb your hair with an eighth arm - all at the same time! And what is more amazing is, if the octopus loses one arm, it will just grow another. The octopus lives in warm and cold water. They come in small and also very large sizes. They live in the deep and in the shallow water. The only hard part of their bodies are their strong beak.  It is a cousin to the cuttlefish and squid.


Pufferfish - the pufferfish lives in the warm waters, and this one swam in the shallow

waters. Pufferfish is a close cousin to the balloon fish and porcupine fish. They have four teeth, two on top and two on the bottom of their mouth. The teeth are similar to a beak on a bird, and they can eat algae, shrimp, and other delicious food. If the pufferfish needs to, it can quickly inflate itself with water and blow up like a ball. And when it does, the spike in its skin then stands straight out. It keeps the pufferfish super safe, but the truth is, if a fish ate it, that fish would get sick because the pufferfish has poison inside its body as a backup plan. When it gets round as a ball and shows its spikes, it saves itself and the other hungry fish too. Now that is nice!

Queen Parrotfish -like the parrot on land, the parrotfish is often very colorful. They also have a strong beak like a parrot. The parrotfish graze on algae and also on the hard corals. When the parrotfish graze on the coral, it can be loud. When the parrotfish eat coral, it comes out as sand. I bet you didn’t know that. Parrotfish make much of the white sand on the bottoms of the ocean and sandy beaches. At night they make a cocoon from mucus. The mucus comes out of its mouth, and it goes around the entire parrot fish, like a sleeping bag. Imagine you could blow a bubble with your gum big enough to sleep in! They are snug as a bug in their underwater sleeping bags.


Ribbon Eel -  this eel is common and shy. It is rare to see a free-swimming eel, but if you do, it is a beautiful sight. The eel is like a gymnast's ribbon. When the ribbon eel hatches from its egg, it is  all black. As it gets older, it gets a yellow band that runs down the length of its back. When it is all grown up it turns bright blue and keep the yellow band. The blue and yellow eels are the boys, or male. Now here is the weird part, all ribbon eels are boys when they hatch. No eel hatch as a girl, or female. So where are all the girls? Well, the eels grow from boy babies into boy teenagers, then to a male grown-up, or adult, and then the eels can change into a grown female. When that happen the ribbon eels all turn yellow and stay that way. There are no girl babies or girl teenagers, which is a bit strange, but they are one of the only creatures that can do that. Now that is amazing!

Shark - sharks have lived in the ocean for a very long time. Sharks for the most part are shy and quiet, and like to be left alone. Some swim by themselves, and some are found in groups, or schools. This is true for the hammerhead sharks. Sharks are strong swimmers, and because their bones are soft they are super fast. The shape of their head is built for speed and helps the sharks glide through the water with ease. Now, most species of sharks have many, many teeth. They grow in rows and rows of teeth. A single shark can have thousands of teeth during their life, like 30,000 teeth in some cases. We only have 24 milk teethes and 32 adult teeth in our lifetime. When a shark breaks a tooth, which happens often, it just grows a new one, so they don’t have to brush, and there are too many to brush anyway. Interestingly enough the largest species of the shark family do not have large teeth. They are the whale shark, basking shark and the megamouth. They don’t need teeth because they eat plankton, which is very small. They filter all the small food through the water, and they are called filter feeders. Some sharks lay their eggs in an egg sack. It is called a mermaid purse. How fancy!

Turtle - like snails, turtles have shells too, but unlike the snails, turtles can’t leave their shell. Their shells are built from the turtle ribs, so they are stuck together, just like your ribs are to your body. The turtles on land have webbed feet, which means they have skin between their toes, and their feet work like a paddle. The sea turtles have two flippers in the front that they use for speed and the two feet in the back are used to steer, like the rudder on a boat. The sea turtles live and feed in the ocean. They are strong swimmers, which is good, because they like to eat in one part of the world, and then they swim to their favorite beaches in another part of the world, where they dig holes in the sand and lay hundreds of eggs. Those long swims are called migration. Just like you, the turtles have lungs, so they come to the surface to get some fresh air, however, they sleep in the water and they can sleep for hours. No wonder they grow big and strong!

Urchin - urchins are known as the porcupines of the sea. They both use their spikes to avoid being a snack for anyone else. The urchins are close cousins to the starfish and sand dollar. They don’t have fins, flippers or strong tails to help them swim, but they are super fast nevertheless. Why? Because they use their mouth, their hundreds of feet and spines all at the same time to move. Surprisingly, they run across the reef. They can cover a lot of ground and with their mouth on the underside and close to the reef, they can eat a lot while on the move. They are an underwater lawn mower sort of. They can snack on the run, or simply eat in peace and quiet knowing their spines have their back.

Venomous fish. This is a scorpionfish and it is very common, yet hard to find. It can raise its fin on its back, the dorsal fin, which has many pears with poison in them. The scorpionfish’s cousin, the free-swimming lionfish will turn it’s back and point all spears directly at fish it doesn't like. It sounds really scary but most fish on the reef know all the venomous fish and leave them alone. Most venomous fish use the poison as a warning. The scorpionfish are very hard to see and they lay on the bottom for hours. So having the spines on their back helps them scare off other fish that might lay on top of them. It is a good thing.

Whale - these whales are called orcas. They live in families with the mom being the boss. Some whales have baleen in their mouth. It is like a fishing net when the whale takes a big mouthful of water, and blows it out through the baleen. All the food gets stuck in the baleen and the whale has dinner. Some whales, like the orcas, have big teeth and they are very good hunters. Some of the whales have a great way to find their way around the world and also to find their food. It is called echolocation.  The blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived. It can be 90 feet long. Some whales travel the farthest of any animal, in some cases over 10,000 miles. Some whales sing, click, chirp and even whistle, the beluga whale is the best singer.  Some can live to be over 200 years old. Some whales can pee so much they can fill a 10’ x 6’ kids pool - now that is a big whale. Like the manatees and dolphins, the orcas are also warm-blooded and are mammals, like you. Their tails move up and down, not side to side like a fish, so they can easily get to the surface when they need a good lungful of air before diving back down into the deep.

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