Hawaiian Marine Communities

In this gallery

Christmas wrasse
Bluespine unicornfish
Collector urchin
Longnose butterflyfish
Potter’s angelfish
Hawaiian yellowfin anthias

Hawaii’s abundance of sea life is due in large part to its amazing diversity of marine habitats. This gallery exhibits several of these areas ranging from Oahu’s surf-scoured coastlines of Koko Head, to the gentle waves and currents of Kāne‘ohe Bay where delicate branching and plate-forming corals dominate, then plunge into the deep reefs of Lāna‘i.

The Koko Head exhibit has a surge device that creates a turbulent swirling mix of bubbles and water approximately every 45 seconds. This replicates the crashing waves on exposed shorelines in the high energy surge zone. The animals seen here can be found in the surf swept shorelines of Hawai‘i.

Many fishes start their life in Kāne‘ohe Bay on Oahu’s windward coast. Calm waters in the protected lagoon provide an ideal place for fishes to find a home, feed, and reproduce. Patch reefs here are swathed with thickets of delicate lace corals, finger corals, and rice corals. Montipora dilitata is an extremely rare coral species, existing only a few places in the wild. The Waikīkī Aquarium is a genetic and biologic repository for this species of coral. A few colonies of this rare species can be seen in this exhibit.

The youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawai‘i or the Big Island as it is often called, is home to not only an active volcano, but also a rich fringing reef along the Kona coast. These young reefs contain an abundance of marine life where you can frequently see the longnose butterflyfish which is distinguished by being the first Hawaiian fish species scientifically described, and having the longest Hawaiian fish name “lau-wiliwili-nukunuku-‘oi‘oi”, which can be seen in the Kona Coast exhibit.

Deep beneath the sun-lit shorelines, a fascinating world exists. Along the deeper water reef slopes wire corals and yellow anthias grow and thrive, unknown and unseen by the majority of people. The Deep Reefs of Lāna‘i exhibit displays these and many other extremely rare fishes and invertebrates that are seldom seen above one hundred feet of depth.