Hunting the Longnose Hawkfish

by | Jul 3, 2020 | Photography, Reef | 0 comments

So far this year I have racked up a total of zero hours underwater.  Obviously, in the grand scheme of things it isn’t really significant, nor that important, given the crises many folk are having to face.  However, it’s my hobby/work and I am missing it.  To that end I’m revisiting my image archive to look at some of the most well-known species I’ve found underwater and adding a little commentary to perhaps offer some insights into their lives in the wild.

My first subject is the Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus).  This eater of small crustaceans is pretty well-known in captivity and across its geographical range.  A quick look on shows that it is found from the Red Sea to Panama.

I shot this fish in the Maldives; it was rare to find one this shallow.

Finding the Longnose in the wild can be something of a challenge, due to their predilection for hanging around in gorgonians.  In the Red Sea, where I have the most experience with the fish, they are mostly seen in the large gorgonian Anthella nobilis, a strikingly beautiful animal of high current areas, which really grows well at the thirty meter and deeper mark.

Being a deep dweller means you have limited time on standard SCUBA to find the fish, you have to be very careful not to damage the gorgonians, and you have to try and get a good photo… and did I mention there’s often a current?  Suffice it to say, it is not easy.

My friend Colette posing for me. This shot was taken in the 35-40m range. Not a dangerous depth, but one at which you needs to take care and monitor your gas supply and No Deco Limit very closely.

I’ve always been intrigued by these fish, since the first time I saw one, and I realized why they have that very striking pattern: it’s to hide amongst the branches of gorgonians.  Once you know this, they make a lot more sense.  Also, for deeper dwelling fish, where the red component of the light has been absorbed by the waters above, what we see as red (in this case with the light from my flashguns), will appear as a much darker brown to black, as will the gorgonians, which only appear to be this salmon pink due to the addition of my artificially provided light.


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