Classifying Fish

With over 28,000 individual species of fish (and the number keeps growing), it would take about 540 years for the fish identification series to cover them all.

Fortunately, we don't have to do that. Using some common sense, we can get that number down to something reasonable. First, we can limit based on fish we may actually encounter while scuba diving. With this filter, the number drops to around 4,000. This is still too many, but much closer to being manageable.

Second, we can combine fish that are nearly the same. For instance, it is not critical to always know the difference between a white-mouthed moray eel and a spotted moray eel (although in this case it should be obvious). Simply knowing that they are both moray eels should suffice. Applying this idea we can reduce the list down to 30-50 fish families. Not bad! Now things are getting reasonable.

Some people like to combine these families even further into about 12-15 large groupings based on common characteristics. This is fine for subdividing a large task, but these groups generally don't have a convenient name to use, so at the end of the day it doesn't buy you all that much.

I'll list the fish families and loosely group them based on similarities. Many of these families will look familiar, since we have covered them (or specific species in that family) in previous articles.

Ok, here we go:

Butterflyfish\ Jacks\ Snappers
Angelfish\ Barracuda\ Grunts Surgeonfish Porgy\

Damselfish\ Groupers\ Parrotfish
Chromis\ Seabass\ Wrasse Hamlets Basslets

Squirrelfish\ Blennies\ Flounders
Bigeyes\ Gobies\ Scorpionfish
Cardinalfish Jawfish Lizardfish

Filefish\ Eels Sharks
Triggerfish\ Rays Puffers\

Don't be overwhelmed. Many of these families you can probably identify already. The rest should take no time at all. I'll update links on this page as we cover each family. I may also add a family or two as I see fit.