Marine Life

5 Unusual but Beautiful Fish Found in Hawaiian Waters

Hawaii is home to many beautiful and unusual fish species! The next time you go snorkeling or diving in Hawaii, keep your eyes peeled for these five fascinating fish: trumpetfish, raccoon butterflyfish, reef triggerfish, parrotfishes, and Hawaiian lionfish.


With its long, slender body and distinctive “horn,” the trumpetfish is a striking sight. It is usually pale yellow or greenish-brown in color, with dark vertical stripes running down its sides. Trumpetfish can grow up to three feet long, but most are only about a foot long. These fish get their name from their “horn,” which is actually an elongated dorsal fin. Trumpetfish use their horn to attract mates, as well as to intimidate other trumpetfish. You’ll often see trumpetfish swimming upside down near coral reefs, where they hunt for small prey such as shrimp and crab larvae.

Raccoon Butterflyfish

With its black “mask” and bright white body, the raccoon butterflyfish is one of the most recognizable fish in Hawaii. Raccoon butterflyfish are usually about four inches long, although some may grow up to six inches. These beautiful fish are found in reef environments throughout the Indo-Pacific region, from Japan to Australia. Raccoon butterflyfish live in pairs and feed on small invertebrates such as zooplankton and Copepods. While they are not considered endangered, raccoon butterflyfish populations have declined due to habitat loss and overfishing.

Reef Triggerfish

The reef triggerfish is a brightly colored fish that is native to reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Reef triggerfish are usually blue or green in color, with yellow spots on their sides. They can grow up to two feet long, but most are only about a foot long. Reef triggerfish get their name from the large dorsal fin that they can erect when threatened. These fins can lock into place, preventing predators from swallowing them whole. Reef triggerfish are important members of reef ecosystems, where they help control populations of algae-eating fishes such as parrotfishes. However, they can be quite aggressive towards humans, so it’s best to give them a wide berth!


Parrotfishes are a colorful and diverse group of fishes found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. There are over 80 different species of parrotfishes, ranging in size from 4 inches to 4 feet long! Parrotfishes get their name from their characteristic beak-like mouths, which they use to bite off pieces of coral reef for food. Parrotfishes are important members of reef ecosystems because they help control the growth of algae on coral reefs. However, they are increasingly being threatened by habitat loss and overfishing.

Hawaiian Lionfish

The Hawaiian lionfish is a beautiful but deadly fish that is native to reefs around Hawaii. Hawaiian lionfish are red or orange in color with white stripes running down their bodies. They can grow up to 18 inches long, but most only grow to be about 12 inches long. Hawaiian lionfish have 18 venomous spines along their backs that can deliver a painful sting if you’re not careful! These spines contain a neurotoxin that can cause severe swelling and pain at the site of the sting. If you’re stung by a Hawaiian lionfish, seek medical attention immediately!

Marine Life at Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay provides ideal conditions for snorkeling and swimming. The shallow areas are perfect for beginners and the bay also offers easy access to deep waters for those who are more experienced.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is home to over 300 colorful tropical fish, sea turtles and Hawaii marine life. Some of the more popular fish are listed below:

Raccoon Butterflyfish
Threadfin Butterflyfish
Milletseed Butterflyfish
Ornate Butterflyfish
Fourspot Butterflyfish
Achilles Tang
Convict Tang
Orangeband Surgeonfish
Goldring Surgeonfish
Yellowfin Surgeonfish
Brown Surgeonfish
Sailfin Tang
Whitespotted Surgeonfish
Orangespine Unicornfish
Bluespine Unicornfish
Reef Triggerfish
Stocky Hawkfish
Blueline Snapper
Christmas Wrasse
Bird Wrasse
Redlip Parrotfish
Stareye Parrotfish
Hawaiian Sergeant
Blackspot Sergeant
Spotted Boxfish
Moorish Idol
Yellowfin Goatfish
Bluefin Trevally
Hawaiian Flagtail
Hawaiian Tenpounder
Shortjaw Bonefish
Shortbodied Blenny