Moorish Idol Fish

The Moorish Idol is frequently seen in small schools on Pacific and Indian Ocean coral reefs. This species is closely related to suregeonfish. Juveniles have spines at corner of mouth and protruberances in front of eyes in adults. In their natural habitat they feed on small invertebrates and algae. They use their small brushlike teeth and snout for browsing in crevices and small holes.

Moorish Idol Fish
Moorish Idol Fish (Zanclus cornitus)
Photo by Larysa Johnston

The broad vertical black and yellow bars on a white background and elongated dorsal fin filament that gracefully traces behind them make it a very attractive fish. It reaches the length of about 22 cm. The species is omnivorous, feeding on a variety of benthic invertebrates (sponges, tunicates, brittlestars, crustaceans, worms, bivalves, gastropods) and detritus. Adults may be difficult to keep in an aquarium, while juveniles adapt to captivity more easily. The Moorish Idol is often confused with butterfly fish, which do not have the triangualr black anal fish, and bannerfish


  1. Coastal Fishes of Southern Africa. Phillip C. Heemstra, Elaine Heemstra
  2. Havelock Island. Alay Mehta

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