Where in the world: The Coral Sea


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The Coral Sea, off the north-eastern coast of Australia, is bounded by the coast of Queensland, including the Great Barrier Reef, by Vanuatu and New Caledonia, the southern Solomon Islands and Tasman Sea. It is home to more than 2,000 species of fishes.

Cardinalfishes (above)

Cardinalfishes are under-rated as aquarium fish because of their shy, nocturnal natures. They are paternal mouthbrooders and species like the Pyjama cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera) make ideal community fish. Keep them in groups of at least five individuals.

Moray eels (pic by Prilfish, Creative Commons)

Although moray eel diversity is reasonably high in the Coral Sea, at more than 30 species, most grow too large and are too aggressive for the average aquarium.  A notable exception is the Snowflake moray (Echidna nebulosa), a very common aquarium species.


Stingrays are typically associated with coastal and estuarine habitats with sandy or muddy bottoms, and relatively few species are found near coral reefs. One is the Blue-spotted ray (Taeniur aa lymma) which can be found in sandy areas associated with coral reefs.


More than 100 species of damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are known from this sea and the group includes the iconic anemonefishes. Most damselfishes, such as this Talbot’s damsel (Chrysiptera talboti), are territorial and aggressive to tank mates, particularly congeners.


The family Serranidae includes colourful denizens of reefs, such as anthiases and soapfishes. Some members of the subfamily Epinephelinae, such as the Panther grouper (Chromileptes altivelis), are attractive when young but grow too large for average aquaria.


The Coral Sea is home to about 30 species of hawkfishes (Cirrhitidae), including the Scarlet hawkfish (Neocirrhites armatus). These ambush predators are typically found on coral reefs and rocky substrata where they feed on small fishes and crustaceans.is), are attractive when young but grow too large for average aquaria.


The wrasses (Labridae) are one of the most diverse groups in the Coral Sea, with well over 100 species found there. Many wrasses, tuskfish and hogfish, such as this Coral hogfish (Bodianus mesothorax) are imported from the region.


The marine angelfishes (Pomacanthidae) are sought for their vibrant colours. A striking feature in many species is a dramatic change in colour pattern as juveniles grow. A number, such as this Emperor angel (Pomacanthus imperator), are best left to the advanced aquarist.


The dartfishes have been reclassified as gobiids. Those such as this firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica) feed on micro-invertebrates such as copepods in the wild, although take most meaty foods in the aquarium.  A tight tank cover will prevent them jumping out.


Also known as tangs, the surgeonfishes get their name from the sharp spine or spines on their caudal peduncle. The Regal tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) is one species suitable for the larger home aquarium, being relatively robust if maintained under proper conditions.


Triggerfishes, including species from the Coral Sea such as this Clown triggerfish (Balistoides conspillicum), are sought after as aquarium fish due to their fabulous colours. However, triggers are ill tempered and can inflict nasty bites from their powerful jaws and sharp teeth.

Pufferfishes (pic by Ular Tikk, Creative Commons)

Pufferfishes of the subfamily Canthigasterinae, such as this Valentini puffer (Canthigaster valentini), are frequently seen in the Coral Sea. Often found in large schools in the wild, some members are actually the filefish (Paraluteres prionurus) which mimics the puffer.

Why not check out our other features in this series:

Where in the world: The Brahmaputra

Where in the world: The Orinoco river

Where in the world: The Amazon

Where in the world: The Fly river

Where in the world: The River Niger

Where in the world: Thailand

Where in the world: The Parana river

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