Featured Image Credit:Paul Humann/Reef.orf
By Eva Gruber
Tropical waters of our planet are home to some of the most beautiful organisms. While fish don’t often get a lot of attention for being beautiful in the same way that birds or butterflies do, beneath the surface lies a sort of beauty belonging to an alien world. With brilliant colors and patterns, shimmery iridescent scales, and graceful movements, fish should gain more recognition in the beauty pageants of the world. Here are some of the most stunning lookers in our planet’s watery realm.
WORK. IT. GILLS.
1.) Mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus)
Native to the tropical shallow waters of reefs in the Indo-Pacific, the mandarinfish might just be the most beautiful fish in the world. With its extremely vivid and brilliant coloration, the mandarinfish is a showstopper. Although, it is quite small coming in at only around 2.5 inches long. Since the mandarinfish has a uniquely bitter slime layer, the colors may be an example of aposematism – where striking coloration of an animal is meant to warn and discourage predators. Their exceptional beauty makes them popular in saltwater aquariums, and also threatening their population in the wild.
2.) Palette Surgeonfish (Paracanthus hepatus)
Introduced to the popular imagination through the films Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, the Palette Surgeonfish is another stunningly patterned beauty. With a broad range throughout the coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific, this fish is actually quite abundant in the wild. Its flattened body shape is common to its family – the surgeonfish – which are so called because of a razor-sharp protruding scale at the base of their tail. These fish are also commonly known as blue tangs.
3.) Regal Angelfish (Pygoplites diacanthus)
Another beautiful tropical Indo-Pacific reef fish, the Regal Angelfish is also highly sought after in the aquarium trade, although it rarely adapts well to aquarium life. Angelfish are in the Pomacanthid family of reef fish. There are two distinct populations of Regal Angelfish, which may eventually be separated as different species due to physical and genetic differences.
4.) Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)
Triggerfish are a distinct family of fish (Balistidae) with a stocky appearance. They are so named because of a modified dorsal fin comprised of sharp fin spines, where one fin spine is larger and stronger, and often used in signaling. The clown trigger is widely distributed, and can be found in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, as well as the subtropical waters of the western Pacific. They are predatory and feed on many different marine invertebrates. Their unique coloration of large white spots on a black background, with bright yellow splashes and yellow lips, gives them a clownish appearance, hence their common name.
5.) Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
There are several species of lionfish within the Pterois genus, however the Red Lionfish may be the most beautiful of them all. With ethereal sails stretched over venomous spines, this fish is a true femme fatale. Getting injured with one of the spines is an extremely elongated painful experience, although it does not prove to be fatal. Native to the Red Sea and Indo-Pacific, the Red Lionfish is the species that has been introduced into Atlantic waters and has invaded north, causing massive ecological problems. Beautiful, but dangerous and voracious – that is the nature of this gorgeous fish.
6.) Crevice kelpfish (Gibbonsia spp.)
Not to be outdone by all the supermodels of the tropical coral reef world, there exist a variety of beautiful fishes in all marine habitats. One of my personal favorites to see while diving off the coast of California would be the Crevice Kelpfish. Hard to find due to its impressive camouflage, once spotted its subtle beauty astounds. Covered in little red fringes and pompoms, the crevice kelpfish exudes a sort of subtle yet self-assured beauty. Finding one in the beautiful setting of a giant kelp forest only adds to the pleasure.