The colorful fish of Hawaii

Maui, located in the Hawaiian Islands, is home to vibrant coral reefs that are teeming with life. The reef systems surrounding the island provide a habitat for an array of colorful reef fish and eels, making it a popular destination for snorkeling and diving. Our pictures of Hawaiian fish were taken over several trips to Hawaii.

We have been to Hawaii a number of times for scuba diving. We love shore diving in Maui and we have been on some boat dives in Maui as well as the Big Island. This is a gallery of some of the fish we have seen. All of these photos were taken at Ulua Beach on the inner and outer reefs. For a report about the diving at Ulua go to Shore Diving in Maui

Trumpetfish are incredibly graceful and elegant swimmers. Their slim, elongated bodies and slow, sweeping movements through the water make them a joy to watch. The fish are also well-camouflaged, blending in with the surrounding reef and making them a challenge to spot. They come in many colors and are big for a reef fish, they can get up to 3 feet long.

Sometimes they drift with the current and sway back and forth to get close to prey.


Leaf Scorpionfish

The leaf scorpionfish or paperfish, ”Taenianotus triacanthus”, is a species of marine fish, the sole member of its genus. In these pictures of Hawaiian fish, their color varies from green, red, pink, brown, ocher, and yellowish to white. They are flat like a leaf and will lay still and rock back and forth with the current. They are not usually a uniform color so they are more camouflaged.


Butterflyfish are found in a wide range of habitats, from shallow coral reefs to deeper waters. In Maui, they can be seen swimming in large schools, displaying their brilliant colors and fluttering fins. There are 25 species of Butterflyfish in Hawaii. Their slender bodies help them slip into cracks in the reef for protection. We have been fortunate enough to have seen a few. The longnose butterflyfish is seen more commonly around the Big Island or Maui. They probe coral branches and reef crevices with their long mouths for small invertebrate prey.


In these pictures of Hawaiian fish one of the most popular reef fish on Maui is the vibrant parrotfish, known for its bright green, blue, and yellow coloration. These fish feed on algae and help keep the coral reefs healthy by removing excess growth and maintaining a balance in the ecosystem.

The black-sided hawkfish lays in coral heads to ambush prey. They can get up to 9 inches in length.


There are estimated to be about ten frogfish species in Hawai’i. They are very well camouflaged and they are lay in wait predators. They have a lure on their face which they wave around to attract other fish. Their pectoral fins have evolved into feet-like appendages that allow them to grab onto coral and even walk slowly. The most common is the Commerson’s Frogfish.

Green Lionfish

The green lionfish is a beautiful and fascinating creature, and observing them in Maui is a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you are a seasoned diver or just starting out, seeing these alluring fish in their natural habitat is a must-do for anyone visiting the island. Green lionfish are easily recognizable with their distinctive markings, long, flowing fins, and venomous spines. They are solitary hunters and feed mainly on small fish and invertebrates. They are known to be slow-moving and often stationary, making them an easy target for underwater photographers and divers. We have seen these Hawaiian/green lionfish many times on the deeper coral heads around the outer reef at Ulna Beach in Maui.


There are so many colorful fish on the Ulua reef. A commonly seen fish on the Maui reefs is the yellow tang, which adds a pop of color to the underwater landscape. These are a few more of the colorful ones that we have seen

Eels of Maui

Diving with eels on the reefs in Maui is a unique and exciting experience. Maui is home to a variety of eel species, but by far the most common is the moray eel. Moray eels come in many varieties including the Snowflake, Stout, Yellow-margin, Zebra, Dwraf, White-mouth, Yellow head and Undulated. They are often found hiding in crevices in the reef, and while they may look intimidating, they are actually quite shy and will only defend themselves if they feel threatened.


Maui is home to a variety of triggerfish species. These colorful and vibrant fish are a common sight for divers, and they are known for their unique features and behaviors. There are many species of triggerfish in Maui and these are the ones that we have seen on our Ulua Beach dives. The Picasso triggerfish is named for its unique and abstract pattern of black and white stripes, which resemble the artwork of the famous artist Pablo Picasso. This species is generally peaceful and can be approached relatively easily by divers. The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, also known as the reef triggerfish, is the state fish of Hawaii


Wrasses are colorful members of the reef family. They are all born female and can transform into males. Of 45 species recorded from Hawai’i, 15 are found nowhere else. They live on the coral reef and down on the sandy flats. These are some of the ones that we have seen on our Maui beach dives.

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