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A school of yellow goat fish.


Goatfish are one of Hanauma Bay’s more prolific residents, but you may look them by. Compared with other colorful fish like parrotfish they are downright subtle. Goatfish have the ability to change their coloration depending on their activity. For example, the Yellowfin goatfish (which lives in Hawaii and the Red Sea) often schools with blue-striped snappers. In this mixed company, the yellofin goatfish actually change their coloration so they blend in more.

Goatfish have two separate dorsal fins and their mouths are slightly under slung. The largest goatfish are 21 inches but most are only half that size. They have sensory whiskers (similar to a cat fish) underneath their mouths. These are called barbels and are used to probe, excavate and taste the bottom of the ocean floor.

Goatfish Habits

All types of goatfish are diurnal, meaning they are awake during the day. Many species of goatfish will form large non-feeding schools during the day. At night, the schools disperse and individual fish head their separate ways to loot through the sand looking for food.

Goatfish are benthic feeders and use their long barbells to sift through the sand looking for a meal. Like goats, they eat anything edible. They dine on worms, crustaceans, mollusks and other small invertebrates.

Depending on the time you visit Hanauma Bay you’ll either see goatfish in large schools with other schooling fish, or combing the ocean floor individually.

Several varieties of goatfish

There are several varieties of goatfish that inhabit the waters of Hanauma Bay.

Bandtail Goatfish (weke pueo) are silver with two brown stripes and a barred tail. They are unique to Hawaii.

Yellowstripe Goatfish (weke ‘a’a) are silver with a yellow stripe near the dorsal fin. Their fins are very pale and there may be a dark spot present on their stripe.

Yellowfin Goatfish (weke ‘ula) have yellow fins with bodies that vary from silver to deep pink. They are more common in deeper waters than the shallow areas of Hanauma Bay.

Manybar Goatfish (moano) is a common reef fish. They have irregular black and white bars on a red to purple background. The larger the fish is, the darker the stripes are.

Whitesaddle Goatfish (kumu) are common near in the shallow waters. They are bright pink with a small white spot near the base of their ventral fin.