The hawkfish is a member from the Cirrhitidae family. They have distinctive features, typified by their small size and thickened lower pectoral fin rays. One other characteristic element are their tiny filaments on their single dorsal fin. Filaments means ‘cirrhi’ in Latin. They can ‘stand’ among corals, using them as a watchtower.

It’s is a bottom-dweller and hunts like a hawk, perched on coral columns or rocky towers. it does so hawk-like, patiently waiting, blended in with the reef, awaiting crustaceans and unsuspecting small fish. Eventually they snatch them like lightning, taking their meal with maximum surprise. Although the territorial and diurnal hawkfish is not necessarily symbiotic, it appreciates harmony with specific corals and sponges. They are carnivorous, feeding on small fish and invertebrates.

Family Members

Forster’s Hawkfish

Size up to 22 cm (0,72 ft). Depth up to 40m (131ft)

The Forster’s hawkfish measures up to 22 cm and has been seen in depths up to 40 meters. Its enchanting coloration holds yellow and brown nuances. Its head is dotted with red blotches. It changes colour when maturing. It likes to poke around hard coral formations to snap up passing fish, but it also doesn’t shy away from crustaceans. It also goes by the name of freckled hawkfish. From a social point of view, the Forster’s hawkfish lives in harems with only one male playing the dominant part.

The Forster’s hawkfish starts life as a female and eventually turns male. During this transformation it changes colour to pinkish brown or ‘muted’ green. If you are lucky you will come across fascinating burgundy with a yellow tail.

Blotched Hawkfish

Size up to 12 cm (0,4ft). Depth up to 40m (131ft)

One-spotted, two-spotted, the patterns of the tapered and  blotched hawkfish may vary or even take on the shape of bars. It seeks ‘company’ from sponges and corals in habitats with coastal reefs or estuaries. It isn’t solitaire but socialises in pairs only or smaller aggregations. It’s recognisable by red-pinked tinges with white and tassels topped on the dorsal fin.

Longnose Hawkfish

Size up to 12 cm (0,4ft). Depth up to 40m (131ft)

The longnose hawkfish has a long and tapering body with a long mouth and a whitish background colour, decorated with red horizontal and vertical lines across the body forming an attractive ‘tea towel’, checkered  pattern of squares.

One can spot the longnose hawkfish, sitting motionless on corals watching for prey, perched on a gorgonian fan or black coral. It is a solitary predatory carnivore, nmainly active during the day and its main diet consists of benthic or free swimming crustaceans. They are usually associated with gorgonian and black corals and are most commonly seen on deep walls or drop-offs.

From a gender point of view, this hawkfish is what is called a ‘protogynous, synchronous hermaphrodite’. In plain lingo, it means starting life as a female and changing into a male later in life.