Fish Identification: Goatfish

Most of the time in this article series we cover a specific species of fish. Today, we are going to broadly cover the entire family of goatfish. There are specific, named species, but in this case it's probably not terribly useful to learn them all.

Physical description

Goatfish tend to be smaller, growing up to about 10 inches (30 cm) in length. There are some species, however, that can reach twice this size. Their bodies tend to be elongated, with a deeply forked caudal fin and two separated dorsal fins.

All goatfish have the ability to change their color depending on their activity. The exact colors and activities that spur those changes varies from species to species. Usually the changes occur whilst feeding (at night) and schooling during the day.

The most distinctive feature of goatfish is the long pair of "whiskers" that protrude from their chins. They use these to dig through sediment on the ocean floor in search of food.

Geography and habitat

Goatfish can be found all throughout the reefs of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

During the day goatfish form schools, often mixing with fish of other families. At night, the schools disperse as each fish feeds along the ocean bottom. Goatfish are commonly followed by scavengers hoping for a free meal stirred up by the goatfish's whiskers.

Small goatfish can be seen feeding during the daylight hours.

Further reading

Wet Web Media

Photo by Paul and Jill