By Megan Moore and Lily Sikes
on May 17
Curaçao has a huge diversity of Caribbean reef fish, from parrotfish to trunkfish to angelfish. On most dives, regardless of the dive site, we have seen various species of parrotfish, surgeonfish, eels, and damselfish.
Parrotfish are a group of marine fish found in tropical waters, usually around coral reefs. Their parrot-like beak is a defining characteristic and they reach up to 50cm. Parrotfish have a variety of colors and patterns, even changing based on gender of the species. The most common parrotfish we have seen has been the female stoplight parrotfish, which has a red, black, and white scales with red fins. The male parrotfish is slightly larger and is turquoise with a yellow and blue tail and blue face. It has pink and green scales.
Surgeonfish encompass the commonly found ocean surgeonfish, doctorfish, and blue tang. Blue tangs, aka Dori from Finding Nemo, were the most common surgeonfish found on the reef and are found from pairs to large schools. They are characterized by their thin oval dark blue bodies and bright blue fins with a yellow or white spine. The ocean surgeonfish an ovular light blue fish with dark blue fins and crescent. The doctorfish looks very similar to the ocean surgeonfish but has dark stripes on its side.
Eels are a non-scaly, elongated, narrow fish that come in a variety of colors and sizes. The most common eel we have seen in curacao is the spotted moray eel, usually seen hiding in coral or rocks. The ones we have seen have been relatively small in size. Eels have a long anal fin used to propel them in water.
In Curacao, it’s easy to get lost in a school of Chromis. Brown Chromis are found everywhere and in large schools in the hundreds (good luck counting them in fish surveys). They are a small fish with large presence in curacao. Brown Chromis are a type of small damselfish. Other types of damselfish commonly seen are the blue chromis (same as the brown chromis but blue with a black spine and not found in large schools), longfin damselfish (a dark brown, small fish characterized by its fins being longer than a typical damselfish), sergeant major damselfish (yellow and white small fish with black stripes), and yellowtail damselfish (a fish with black body, yellow tail, and blue spots on the spine).
Although these are the most common fish, there are a wide variety of other fish and other marine life you will see on your dives such as lizardfish, Caribbean reef squid, flounder, sea turtles, and scorpionfish. These species may be less common but are equally important to the reef’s overall health and sustainability. Coral reefs are one of the most productive ecosystems and have a variety of life. Through research and conservation efforts, we will hopefully be able to prevent further damage to reefs and be able to preserve these beautiful environments.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. In 2019, the course went to the Carmabi research station in Curaçao and dived around the island over a 10-day period, for training and to carry out research projects. In 2018, the group went to Soufriere, Saint Lucia, and took part in various projects in partnership with the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.