Get a closer look at some of our more unique reef inhabitants like the clownfish, scissortail chromis, banded butterflyfish and more. Learn do-it-yourself techniques from the giant jawfish, who will demonstrate that you don't need a heavy duty shovel to dig an impressive hole and that a first-rate nursery already exists right inside of its own mouth!

Great Barrier Reef
New Caledonia, as seen from space by a U.S. Geological Survey satellite. (Photo: NASA/USGS)

Did You Know?

The largest coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef. It is the only living thing on earth that is visible from outer space. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Barrier Reef Tunnel

Bustling, healthy, and bright, our Great Barrier Reef Tunnel offers an immersive tour through what daily life looks like inside of Earth’s largest living structure, Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef.

Notable species

Moorish Idol

Moorish Idol

(Zanclus cornutus)

The Moorish idol got its name from the Moors of Africa, who purportedly believed the fish to bring happiness.

Diet

Sponges, coral polyps, tunicates, and other benthic invertebrates

Size

Up to 9 inches

Habitat

Generally shallow waters, prefer flat reefs. May be found at depths from 9.8 to 590.6 ft., in both murky and clear conditions

Range

East Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Ducie Islands; Hawaii, southern Japan, and all of Micronesia. Also found from the southern Gulf of California south to Peru

Halequin Tuskfish

Harlequin Tuskfish

(Choerodon fasciatus)

The Harlequin Tuskfish is characterized by its four protruding teeth that are used to grasp and tear into hard prey, such as crustaceans. The unique coloration of the Harlequin Tuskfish make it unmistakable for any other fish.

Diet

Carnivorous, eating mostly invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, and worms

Size

Up to 12 inches

Habitat

Seaward reefs

Range

Western Pacific

Maori Wrasse

Maori Wrasse

(Cheilinus undulatus)

Wrasses are usually the first to go to bed and the last to rise. They like to dive below the sand to sleep, and larger wrasses will even wedge themselves into crevasses.

Diet

Crustaceans, sea urchins, hard-shelled invertebrates, and mollusks

Size

Up to 6 feet in length

Habitat

Lagoons and seaward reefs

Range

Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean

Foxface Rabbitfish

Foxface Rabbitfish

(Siganus vulpinus)

Foxface have venomous spines that they use to defend themselves from larger, more aggressive fish.

Diet

Algae and zooplankton

Size

6-15 inches long

Habitat

Reefs and lagoons

Range

Tropical Western Pacific waters

Clownfish

Ocellaris Clownfish

(Amphiprion ocellaris)

Clownfish have a symbiotic relationship with sea anemones. This means that each relies on the other to survive. The clownfish lives within the protection of the anemone tentacles, and the fanning of the clownfish tail removes parasites from the anemone and can help lure in prey close enough for the anemone to eat.

Diet

Omnivores feeding on plankton and algae

Size

Up to 4 inches

Habitat

Outer reef slopes or sheltered lagoons at a maximal depth of 49 ft. Inhabits three different species of sea anemones

Range

Eastern Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, as well as Northern Australia, Southeast Asia and Japan

Magnificent Sea Anemone

Magnificent Sea Anemone

(Heteractis magnifica)

Sea Anemones are named after the Anemone Flower, which is why they’re known as the Flowers of the Sea.

Diet

Small invertebrates and juvenile fish, mussels, and shrimp

Size

Up to 3 feet in diameter

Habitat

Hard substrates well exposed to light and current from the surface to 65 ft deep

Range

Tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific area from the eastern coasts of Africa and the Red Sea to Polynesia, and from south Japan to Australia

Hepatus Tang

Hepatus Tang

(Paracanthurus hepatus)

This fish is important for coral health as it eats algae that may otherwise choke the coral by overgrowth.

Diet

Omnivorous. Feed on plankton, but will also graze on algae

Size

Up to 12 inches

Habitat

Clear water on exposed outer reef areas or in channels where there is consistent moderate to strong current

Range

Indo-Pacific. Seen in reefs of East Africa, Japan, Samoa, New Caledonia, and the Great Barrier Reef, Samoa, Florida, East Africa, and Sri Lanka

Lyretail Anthias

Lyretail Anthias

(Pseudanthias squamipinnis)

This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, meaning the appearance between sexes is different. This is common in many animal species. Can you think of other species of animals that are sexually dimorphic?

Diet

Zooplankton, invertebrates, and algae

Size

Males up to 5 inches, females slightly smaller

Habitat

Coral outcrops in clear lagoons, patch reefs, and steep slopes to a depth of 115 ft deep. Often found in very large schools above the reef

Range

Indian Ocean, Australia, Japan, and the Red Sea