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The eye-catching Angel and Butterfly fish are frequently sighted during our trips out of Port Douglas

Amazing Angel Fish
Angel fish are brightly coloured with deep, laterally compressed bodies. Generally, they are larger than butterfly fish with the largest species, the grey angel fish, reaching up to 60 centimetres in length. The main difference between this common reef fish and the butterfly fish is the presence of a preopercle spine, a spike-like extension from the gill. It is this feature that the angel fish is scientifically named; Pomacanthidae is Greek and means thorn cover.  Some angel fish species are particularly interesting in their colouration and are fascinating to watch.

Beautiful Butterfly Fish
Butterfly fish look like a smaller version of the angel fish, with the largest species (the lined and saddle) reaching only half the size of the largest angel fish, at 30 centimetres. Divers and snorkelers on ABC Scuba Dive tours can spot many lined butterfly fish of the Great Barrier Reef.

The common name of “Butterfly fish” refers to their brightly coloured and patterned bodies. Many have eye-spots near their tail, which confuse predators as to which end to strike and in which direction they are likely to flee. You will generally see two of the same species together as butterfly fish mate for life. Butterfly fish release their eggs into the water, thus forming part of the plankton that many other marine species feed upon. When the eggs hatch, the young have armoured plates on their bodies to protect them while they are vulnerable. These disappear as the fish matures.
Butterfly fish are diurnal, meaning they feed during the day and rest at night. You will spot them pecking constantly at coral and rock formations with their long, thin snouts as they feed upon coral polyps and worms.

The Moorish Idol
This common and beautiful reef fish is frequently misidentified as a butterfly fish  but sadly for the moorish idols, Zanclus cornutus, they have no relatives as they are in a family on their own. They have distinct disk-like bodies, with strong bands of black, white and yellow. The crispness in  colouration is due to the size of their  scales, which are super small compared with the butterfly fish species. The sickle-shaped crest trailing behind their head, is formed from six or seven spines that are  dramatically elongated.
The Moorish Idol was named after the Moors of Africa, a muslim group in North Africa who believe the fish to be a bringer of happiness. It definitely makes everyone happy when we see them on our ABC Scuba Diving Port Douglas day trips.


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