See If You Can Identify These Saltwater Fish From an Image!

By: Brittany Rowland

See If You Can Identify These Saltwater Fish From an Image!
Image: marrio31 / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Walk into a doctor's waiting room or a fancy restaurant, and the chances are good you'll see a saltwater aquarium filled with vibrantly colored fish. Indeed, there are about 2,000 saltwater fish species found in captivity. But of course, in the vast oceans, there are so many more ⁠— scientists estimate there are as many as 20,000 species of marine fish in the world.

If someone gave you some Magic Markers and told you to draw a fish, you probably couldn't come up with some of the amazing patterns found on saltwater fish. Some fish are known for the intricate designs of stripes, swirls and dots, in every color imaginable. Some have spines or long, flowing fins. Other fish have big, pouty lips or quizzical eyes. There's no question about it — the oceans hold some of the most incredible creatures that many people will never see unless they're fortunate enough to go scuba diving or visit an aquarium.

If you consider yourself a skilled ichthyologist, then you'll have no problem naming these different saltwater fish species! And if you find some of them tricky, it's OK to mullet over. You'd betta believe that you'll be hooked once you start!

 


Clownfish We doubt this striped fish knows any knock-knock jokes! Can you name it?
Blue dot grouper
Clownfish
The clownfish, popularized by the movie "Finding Nemo," is usually orange or yellow with white bands around its body. Also called anemonefish, they live in reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Marine beta
Royal gramma

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Royal gramma One look at these distinctive colors, and you can easily identify this fish, right?
Royal gramma
The royal gramma is a small fish usually around 3 inches long and found in the Atlantic Ocean. The coolest thing about it is its radical color change, from purple at the head to gold at the tail.
Dusky batfish
Spinyhead blenny
Hawaiian blue puffer

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Redlip blenny Don't ask to borrow this fish's lipstick — it's very territorial! Can you name this fish?
Blue tang
Helmet cowfish
Spotfin porcupinefish
Redlip blenny
Also called a horseface blenny, the redlip blenny is very territorial and will bite enemies with its canine teeth. Redlip blennies, as the name suggest, have red lips and a brown body.

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Regal blue tang Dory would feel at home with this fish! Can you identify it?
Regal blue tang
Its scientific name is Paracanthurus hepatus, but people commonly call it a blue tang, palette surgeonfish or hippo tang. The fish is flat, with a blue and black body and yellow tail.
Whitebelly puffer
Yellow boxfish
Copperband butterflyfish

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Raccoon butterflyfish Despite what its name suggests, this fish won't raid your garbage! What is it?
Fragile cardinalfish
Raccoon butterflyfish
You can identify these oval-shaped fish by their raccoon markings around the eyes. Raccoon butterflyfish are nocturnal, reach about 8 inches in length and live in tiny groups.
Flamefish
Barrier reef chromis

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Pajama cardinalfish No, you're not just seeing spots — this fish is covered in them! What is it called?
Pajama cardinalfish
This fish is also called the polkadot cardinalfish, which gives you a hint about its most distinctive trait. Pajama cardinalfish appear in a wide variety of colors but typically have orange eyes.
Saddleback butterflyfish
Stars and stripes puffer
Engineer goby

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Four stripe damsel Don't let the name fool you — this fish can be highly aggressive! Do you know its name?
True Percula
Sunshine chromis
Four stripe damsel
So named because of the four black stripes on its white body, the four stripe damsel is omnivorous and lives in the Pacific Ocean. Like most damsels, it is also aggressive in defending its territory.
Tinker's butterflyfish

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Four-eyed butterflyfish Look this fish in the eye — no, not that one! — and you'll be able to name it.
Four-eyed butterflyfish
The four-eyed butterflyfish gets its name because of the eyelike dots ringed with white appearing near the tail. This characteristic makes it easier for the fish to flee predators!
Frostfin cardinalfish
Scissortail dartfish
Spotted mandarin

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Mandarinfish Whoa, trippy! Can you identify this fish with its psychedelic colors and patterns?
Zebra barred dartfish
Fire fish
Mandarinfish
The mandarinfish hails from the Pacific Ocean and is known for its vibrant colors. The fish has red eyes with black pupils, giving it a watchful appearance. Mandarinfish thrive in coral reefs.
Yellowtail damsel

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Elegant firefish You're likely to find this fish in pairs, because it's monogamous! What is it?
Tuxedo damsel
Tomato clownfish
Paletail chromis
Elegant firefish
A type of dartfish, the elegant firefish thrives in tropical waters and dines on zooplankton. Also called a purple firefish, it has a light-colored body and a long tail with colorful stripes.

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Starry toadfish If this fish sees a potential predator, it swells up like a balloon. Can you name this spotted fish?
Striped blenny
Orbiculate batfish
Starry toadfish
This light-colored fish has prickly skin and is covered all over with small black dots. Reaching a length of 47 inches, it protects itself from predators by inflating itself and with its toxicity.
Blue assessor

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Red porgy Can you identify this silvery-pink fish that can change from female to male?
Boops boops
Annular seabream
Black musselcracker
Red porgy
Yes, that's right — the red porgy is a protogynous hermaphrodite, which means all the fish start out as female and some later become male. Red porgies hang around the seabed to find food.

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Queen angelfish No need to curtsy when you see this fish, common in the warm parts of the Atlantic. What is it?
Brazilian gramma
Lyretail grouper
Queen angelfish
You can find queen angelfish around the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. They are possibly monogamous because they're commonly seen in pairs. The fish can live up to 15 years.
Stocky anthias

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Humpback anglerfish Now that's a gnarly set of teeth! Can you name this intimidating-looking fish?
Humpback anglerfish
The humpback anglerfish lives up to 4,000 meters below the sea, where the only light comes from bioluminescent organisms. Females of this species are vastly bigger than the males.
Orangehead anthias
Pinnate spadefish
Orange-lined triggerfish

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Pacific hagfish Watch out! These eel-like fish can ooze slime to deter predators. Can you identify them?
Common dentex
Obtuse barracuda
Pacific hagfish
Hagfish are known for being slimy and jawless. Resembling eels, they can reach lengths of 25 inches. Their secret weapon lies in their ability to produce slime, which tastes quite icky.
Gilt-head bream

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Orangeback angelfish What's the name of this omnivorous fish?
Largehead hairtail
Sand steenbras
Sargo
Orangeback angelfish
Did the orange stripe from the head across the back give it away? This blue, omnivorous fish, also called the African pygmy angelfish, is typically no longer than 8 centimeters.

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Cortez rainbow wrasse There's no mistaking those vivid colors! What kind of fish is this?
Cortez rainbow wrasse
Appearing in the Pacific Ocean, the Cortez rainbow wrasse has blue, yellow and purple bands down its body. Reaching only 6 inches in length, the fish mostly eats fish eggs and plankton.
Scup
Sheepshead porgy
Yellow tang

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Christmas wrasse The festive colors on this fish may explain its name. Do you know what it is?
Sargassum trigger
Blue-headed tilefish
Unicorn tang
Christmas wrasse
This fish is common in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and reaches typically no more than 12 inches in length. Its most distinctive characteristic is its radiant colors, similar to Christmas tree lights!

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Red Sea sailfin tang We can't stop staring at this beautiful fish with its striking patterns of stripes and spots. Do you know what it's called?
Doctorfish
Yellowback fusilier
Red Sea sailfin tang
The colors on the Red Sea sailfin tang may vary from fish to fish, but it tends to have stripes on the body and fins and small spots on its face and tail. These tropical fish grow up to 16 inches.
Emperor snapper

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Red emperor snapper What's the name of this fish with thick stripes?
Red emperor snapper
This large fish makes its home in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and has thick white and red bands along its body. The red emperor snapper feels most comfortable in coral reefs, where it can hide.
Tasselled wobbegong
Bigeye soldierfish
Scarlet squirrelfish

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Bigeye soldierfish No, this fish isn't in shock — its eyes are always this big! What's the name of this tropical fish?
Lined seahorse
Weedy scorpionfish
Stone fish
Bigeye soldierfish
This orange and red fish has white stripes and big, black eyes. They enjoy eating worms and crustaceans and have an unusual habit of swimming upside down. They're common in the Atlantic.

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Sea goblin Camouflage works to this fish's advantage! Can you identify it?
Rogue scorpion
Sea goblin
Also called a devil stinger, the venomous sea goblin is covered in sharp spines to keep predators at bay. This nocturnal fish buries itself in the sand and waits patiently to attack prey.
Bat ray
Magnificent foxface

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Foxface rabbitfish Watch out for this fish and its venomous spines! Do you know its name?
Red dottyback
Dragonface pipefish
Foxface rabbitfish
Thanks to the foxface rabbitfish's venomous spines, other fish tend to leave it alone! The omnivorous fish normally has bright colors, but it can dull them to help it blend in.
Bicolor parrotfish

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Zebra lionfish This fish has beautiful fan-like fins, but beware its venomous spines! What's it called?
Princess parrotfish
Zebra lionfish
Oddly, the zebra lionfish also goes by the name zebra turkeyfish — perhaps because of the way the fish spreads out its pectoral fins. Most fish leave it alone due to its venom, but grouper will eat it.
Yellowhead jawfish
Golden trevally

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Golden trevally Which fish uses its strong jaws to suck prey out of the sand?
Pilot fish
Moorish idol
Threadfin lookdown
Golden trevally
The golden trevally (shown here with a dugong feeding on seagrass beds) thrives in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The striped fish with rubbery lips starts out a bold yellow but develops a silvery color as it gets older.

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Moorish idol Do you remember this fish that appeared in the dentist's aquarium in "Finding Nemo"?
Moorish idol
Like the character in the Pixar film, Moorish idols do not respond well to captivity, in part because they're hearty eaters. They are known for their yellow, white and black bands and long dorsal fin.
Indian threadfin
Twin spot hogfish
Redspotted hawkfish

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Longnose hawkfish The grid-like pattern on this fish sets it apart. What's it called?
Coral hogfish
Butter hamlet
Longnose hawkfish
Reaching about 5 inches in length, the longnose hawkfish resides in tropical reefs and has a long, pointy snout. Its horizontal and vertical red stripes on a white body give it a distinct look.
Spotted sweetlips

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Shy hamlet This yellow fish can be a bit reserved, it's true. Can you identify it?
Dogfish prientalis
Porkfish
Crescent banded grunt
Shy hamlet
The shy hamlet's head and fins are yellow, but the rest of its body is either blue or black. It can indeed be timid around other fish, especially in aquariums, but it adjusts due to its hardiness.

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Banded pipefish If this fish chooses to hide in the reeds, we doubt you'll be able to spot it! Can you name it, though?
Banded pipefish
This fish has a long, thin body with trails extending from its head that helps it blend in with reeds. The banded pipefish is common in the Indo-Pacific region and can reach lengths over 7 inches.
Bicolor parrotfish
Bicolor pseudochromis
Yellow blotch rabbitfish

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Fiddler ray Although this fish is friendly to humans, it probably won't play you a tune. What is it?
Shovelnose guitarfish
Fiddler ray
Also called a banjo ray, the fiddler ray makes its home on the sandy floor off the coast of Australia. The ray has an oval shape and gray bands appearing in irregular patterns over its brown body.
Chilean round ray
Decoy scorpionfish

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Pot-bellied seahorse The female of this fish transfers her eggs to the male, who carries them in a pouch. Can you name this fish?
Glass eye squirrelfish
Striped squirrelfish
Blackbar soldierfish
Pot-bellied seahorse
The pot-bellied seahorse, or big-belly seahorse, has a protruding stomach and grows up to 14 inches, making it one of the largest seahorses. This species is found around Australia and New Zealand.

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Hawaiian squirrelfish If you observed this fish's behavior, you'd better understand its name! What is it?
Hawaiian squirrelfish
A furtive fish found in Hawaii, the Hawaiian squirrelfish likes to hide in caves and reefs and peek out cautiously before emerging — much like their namesake. The fish is red with thin white stripes.
Horn shark
Yellowback fusilier
Achilles tang

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Clown tang Despite its fun-sounding name, this fish is actually quite aggressive. Can you identify it?
Purple tilefish
Assasi trigger
Bird wrasse
Clown tang
Also called a clown surgeonfish, the clown tang has blue horizontal stripes on a yellow body. The male fish is very territorial, keeping outsiders away from its feeding ground and its females.

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Banana wrasse The shape and color of this fish might give away its name ...
Starry trigger
Banana wrasse
The females of this species are yellow as adults, but the males are bluish. Banana wrasses, or sunset wrasses, tend to be active and aggressive and are common in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Tomini tang
Bonnethead shark

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Thorny seahorse You don't want to pet this prickly fish, but can you name it?
Papuan scorpionfish
Leopard torpedo ray
Thorny seahorse
The thorny seahorse, or spiny seahorse, as its name suggests, is covered with sharp spines. The seahorse has a particularly long, thin snout and it eats mostly plankton and crustaceans.
Princess parrotfish

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Dragonface pipefish Don't worry, this fish won't breathe fire. Do you know what it is?
Bicolor parrotfish
Dragonface pipefish
Watch this long pipefish slither across the ocean floor, and you might mistake it for a snake! The dragonface pipefish has varying patterns down its body and a small, tube-like mouth.
Volitan lionfish
Yellowhead jawfish

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Moustache jawfish Can you identify this big-mouthed fish?
Threadfin lookdown
Red diana hogfish
Moustache jawfish
The moustache jawfish gets its name for the brown markings on its face that give the impression of facial hair. Like other jawfish, the fish creates elaborate burrows under the rocks and sand.
Lyretail hawkfish

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Flame hawkfish This fish's name makes it sound like a cool superhero! Do you recognize it?
Indigo hamlet
Flame hawkfish
The flame hawkfish even looks like a superhero fish with its vibrant red body and black dorsal fin. However, the fish tends to hide out in coral when bigger fish swim by, so don't expect any heroics.
Porkfish
Yellow watchman goby

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Neon goby This electric-blue fish should be a cinch to identify, right?
Neon goby
Found in the Atlantic Ocean, the neon goby has a distinctive pattern of light and dark blue stripes. The tiny fish does bigger fish a favor by picking off (and eating) parasites on their scales.
Goldsaddle goatfish
Striated frogfish
Banded sole

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Warty frogfish No kiss will turn this fish into a handsome prince! Do you know its name?
Flowery flounder
Mimic filefish
Zebra moray
Warty frogfish
For what some might consider an ugly fish, the warty frogfish is an expert at camouflage. It can even change colors to blend in better! And its mouth stretches wide enough to swallow large prey.

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