Fish Files 17

Fish Files in your Backyard

Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus)

Where do I live?

I can be found in subtropical reefs and lagoons, mostly throughout the Indo-Pacific from the East coast of Africa, to the tip of southern Japan to the northern end of Australia and also around the reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. I like to swim alone or in small schools and generally stay in shallow waters on coral reef flats, up to 180 m below the surface.

What do I look like?

My body is very flat and disc shaped, with a long snout, while my dorsal fin is long and tapered, trailing out behind me. I have a white body with vertical stripes that are black and yellow-orange. I can grow up to 23 cm in length.

What do I eat?

In the wild I eat marine algae sea sponges, zooplankton and small benthic invertebrates. In an aquarium I can be fed freeze-dried algae, vegetable pieces and mysis shrimp.

What is unique about me?

The Moors of Africa believed I brought happiness and good luck. These days you can see pictures of me on items such as towels and shower curtains that have been decorated with an ocean theme. I’m also notorious in the aquarium trade for being very difficult to keep in captivity.

How Common am I?

Scientists are not sure how common I am but are currently working to determine my populations in the wild.