A little lesson in Hawaiian fish names

Yesterday, we snorkeled Hanauma Bay. It's simply one of the most fantastic places to see Hawaiian fish. So, instead of trying to regurgitate the experience, I thought I'd give you all a little lesson in fish ID - Hawaiian style!

Meet Canthigaster jactator, the Hawaiian Spotted Puffer. This species is endemic to Hawaii, and is found no where else in the world. Ok, so this one is bad to start with because it has no Hawaiian name, but I thought the fact that it's endemic was too cool not to mention it.

Next is Umaumalei, or the Orange Spine Unicornfish (Naso lituratus). That's oo-mou-ma-lay, with the "ou" as in "out" or "house"

A fan favorite and the only species in its genus is the Kihikihi (kee-hee-kee-hee), known in English as the Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus)

Weighing in at full size and about 2' long, this Ponuhunuhu (po-noo-hoo-noo-hoo) is a whopper to meet up close like this. You might also call it a Stareye Parrotfish (Calotomus carolinus).

In the center of this shot is the Hawaiian state fish, the Humuhumu-nukunuku-apua'a (hoo-moo-hoo-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-ah-poo-ah-ah), otherwise known as the Reef or Picasso Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus rectangulus). Alongside it with the blue head is a Hinalea lauwili (hee-nah-lie lou-vee-lee), or Saddle Wrasse (Thalassoma duperrey). There are some other small wrasses in there, but I'm not sure which they are.

Further along we find a couple of Kikakapu (kee-kah-kah-poo), or Threadfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga).

Another whopper of a parrotfish, this Uhu Palukaluka (oo-hoo pah-loo-kah-loo-kah) shows off its size compared to the mini 'Awela (ah-vay-lah). That's a Redlip Parrotfish (Scarus rubroviolaceus) and a Christmas Wrasse (Thalassoma trilobatum) for you non-Hawaiians.

Sniffing through the bottom sand for food we find a Weke'a'a (weh-keh-ah-ah), or Yellow stripe goatfish (Mulloidichthys flavolineatus).

One of the more interesting looking fish is the Kala (kah-lah), aptly named in English the Bluespine Unicornfish for its odd headgear (Naso unicornis).

Here we see a school of Manini (mah-nee-nee) or Convict tangs (Acanthurus triostegus) eating their way across the reef, with a few other fish joining in for safety in numbers.

This guy is also known to the Hawaiians as Humuhumu-nukunuku-apua'a (hoo-moo-hoo-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-ah-poo-ah-ah), though it is a different species than the one we saw before (Rhinecanthus aculeatus) and is called the Lagoon Triggerfish in English. This one was feisty - I got this shot because he was letting us know very clearly we were on his turf by swimming at us and waggling while opening and closing his mouth.

While snorkeling, we almost got a little too close to this Puhi (poo-hee). This particular species, the Peppered Moray Eel (Gymnothorax pictus), is actually rare around Oahu, so it was a real find - except if we got too close! He let us know to back off, and we did.

So there you go - a little lesson in Hawaiian fish ID. I'll let you know what others we find on our travels... until then, Aloha!

More like this

Thanks for sharing fish ID, including Hawaiian names and the great photos. Well done and educational too!