Fish behavior & other tricks

The water temperatures are cooler in the new year so I am thankful for my new, full length 2.5mm wetsuit.  This buys me more time in the water to observe fish at leisure without shivering overmuch.  Besides the fish ID books, I also use a reef fish behavior book by the same authors (Humann & Deloach), which help me understand patterns of behavior.

The meaning behind some behaviors are obvious and relate to fighting, mating and perhaps hunting.  When you see these grunts facing off it’s pretty clear that they are saying “I’m bigger than you ~ this is my hole!”.

While other behaviors I have yet to figure out…  Fairy basslets swim upside down, always belly to the reef, but I’m still not quite sure why??  What a brilliant color palette they have!

Grooming is a huge part of fishes daily routine to keep away pesky parasites and promote wound healing.  Cleaning stations can be spotted almost everywhere and may be as big as a whole reef or tucked away in small rocks.  Fish often get in a trance and change colors when they are “asking” for a cleaning.  

I noticed a parrotfish hovering sideways over a small rock and then saw the Pederson cleaner shrimp at its head (look for antennae) doing its thing.


Hogfish can turn red or white depending on swimming over sand or grazing.  

I noticed one turn red and go into its trance with mouth wide-open, signaling to the spanish hogfish (smaller purple & yellow cousin) that he wanted some work done.

Nassau groupers are present on every dive so far in the Bahamas and often sit on their pectoral fins and watch me snorkel around.  I spotted a minuscule, juvenile french angelfish swimming in and out of one grouper’s gills going about its cleaning duties.

On another day, a grouper hovered in a larger coral head to be swarmed by yellownose gobies for a spa-day ~ haha.  

Regarding your typical predator-prey situations, fish frequently rely on camouflage.  

I’ve seen slender filefish a few times before, rarely outside of a gorgonian, where they hide and sway in the currents in perfect timing with its host.


Every time I spot them, they instantly vanish before my vision.  

They are so good at hiding I have to stare and stare to locate them again!  

It’s even hard to see them in the photos when we know they are there… just look for the eyes.

One fish tried to play a trick on me.  A trunkfish, usually quite shy, came bee-lining right for me until I couldn’t even fit him in the photo frame.  He had two remoras sticking with him and apparently scratching him up, something I’d seen once before.  

I had to admit they looked very annoying until I realized that this trunkfish was trying to transfer his followers to me!!  

He was using me as bait and then sped off like a rocket and did manage to leave one of his two remoras in the dust.

The new orphan then started speeding towards me and I had to kick away hard to avoid imminent attachment ~ in fact, we know a snorkeler who once had a remora attached to his chest.

© M&M 2016