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Shining a Light on 10 of Portsmouth Aquarium’s Creatures!

At Blue Reef Aquarium Portsmouth, we’re teeming with fascinating creatures – some you may already recognise, but some you may not know so much about. While some of our more well-known species are great for attracting both kids and adults, it’s important to shine the spotlight of some of our lesser-known creatures that deserve equal recognition.

So, from the cuckoo wrasse to the vampire tang, let’s learn a little more about some of the underwater animals that you might not have heard of!

Cuckoo wrasse

The cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus) is one of the most colourful fish you can find in our very own seas around the UK. It’s one of 4 native wrasse species, typically found around the UK coast, preferring rockier areas of water.

Cuckoo wrasse are large fish, usually measuring around 35cm in length. The females are orange-pink in colour with monochrome spots across their back, while males feature electric blue stripes with orange fins and body.

Fun fact: Cuckoo wrasse are protogynous hermaphrodites, starting their life as female but changing to male when there is a need.


There are 5 different species of shrimpfish (Centriscidae), also known as razorfish. They get their name from their compressed, razor-like body. Typically found in the Indo-Pacific region, they are nearly transparent and swim in a vertical position. Some species prefer living amongst sea grass beds, while others frequent coral reefs. Their diet consists mostly of tiny zooplankton.

Fun fact: Shrimpfish belong to the order Syngnathiformes, which means they are related to seahorses!

Banana eel

The banana eel (Gymnothorax miliaris), also known as the goldentail moray eel, gets its name from its bright yellow colour and brown spots, giving it an appearance of a ripe banana! It’s a species commonly found in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. They prefer rocky areas and coral reefs, sticking to the shallower waters.

Relatively small, the banana eel is typically around 40cm in length and can live for up to 15 years.

Fun fact: This species of moray eel normally has tiny brown spots all over their yellow body. However, the banana eel has a very rare mutation where they only have a few very large brown spots instead.


Squirrelfish belong to the family Holocentridae, and it’s thought there are around 70 different species. Most squirrelfish are red or orange in colour, and have large eyes to help them see during the night. They are tropical fish, living in the warm waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, near coral reefs.

Squirrelfish hide in crevices during the day and become active at night, feeding on small crustaceans and zooplankton.

Fun fact: They produce sounds by vibrating their swim bladder, used for communication and deterring predators.

Scribbled filefish

The scribbled filefish (Aluterus scriptus), also sometimes known as the scrawled filefish, gets its name from the unique pattern of lines and spots on its body, and its rough scales. They frequent tropical lagoons and reefs, living across the likes of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

They have been known to grow up to around 90cm in length, and are usually solitary animals except during breeding season. Scribbled filefish are omnivores, feeding on an array of algae, seagrass, anemones and worms.

Fun fact: These fish can change colour based on their environment and mood.

Bicolour goatfish

Bicolour goatfish (Parupeneus barberinoides) are distinctive for their two-tone colouration, typically with a red head and yellow posterior, and can grow up to 30 cm. This is why they are also sometimes called the half and half goatfish. Goatfish are usually found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, often seen on sandy bottoms near coral reefs.

Their diet consists of small invertebrates and crustaceans, feeding on the likes of worms and molluscs.

Fun fact: Goatfish use their whisker-like barbels to detect prey in the sand. These barbels look like a goatee, giving the species its name!

Vampire tang

The vampire tang (Acanthurus tennentii), also known as the lieutenant tang, are typically light tan in colour with a black border around the edge of their body. They are native to the Indian Ocean, particularly the islands of the Maldives,  found amongst lagoons, reefs and atolls. 

Vampire tang are typically herbivores, feasting mostly on sea algae.

Fun fact: The vampire tang gets its name from the teeth-like marking behind the fish’s eye.

California horn shark

California horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci) are a type of bullhead shark and are usually brown with black spots. They grow up to 120cm in length, and are typically found in the coastal waters off the west coast of North America, giving it its name.

They are slow swimmers and solitary, hunting at night and sheltering in the day. Their diet consists of molluscs, echinoderms and crustaceans, thanks to their molar-like teeth to crush their meals.

Fun fact: Horn sharks lay spiral egg cases, and wedge them into crevices to help them stay put!

Giant gourami

Giant gourami (Osphronemus goramy) are typically pale in colour with a pink hue, although they can also have a blue or grey colouring. They usually grow to around 45-50cm in length.

Giant gourami are native to freshwater areas in Southeast Asia, such as rivers and lakes. They are omnivores, eating a combination of plants, insects and smaller fish.

Fun fact: Gouramis have a labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe air at the surface like a lung. This means the species can survive in shallower, oxygen-poor water when necessary.

Blind cave fish

Blind cave fish (Astyanax mexicanus), also known as the Mexican tetra, have translucent skin with a pink hue. They originated in Mexico, the US and Guatemala, preferring tropical waters. However, they live much further down that most species, typically in dark caves.

They live on worms, snails, small fish and insects, and will eat plant matter if other animals aren’t available to snack on!

Fun fact: These fish evolved to have no eyes, as it didn’t need them living in such dark depths! Instead, it uses its saved energy to keep other organs going.

Exploring our vast range of species reveals a hidden world of fascinating creatures, each with a unique story. From the colourful cuckoo wrasse to the elusive blind cave fish, there’s always something new to learn and appreciate.

Don’t forget to book your tickets to Blue Reef Aquarium Portsmouth now, and visit our Tropical Treasures and Freshwater Fun exhibits to see these lesser-known species and marvel at the incredible diversity of life underwater.

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