How to Identify Saltwater Fish Species

How to Identify Saltwater Fish SpeciesIt can sometimes be surprisingly difficult to identify a particular species of saltwater fish due to a number of factors. Fish can change colors such as the Giant Trevally, which changes from silver to almost black when in hunting mode. In addition, if you happen to be in deeper waters or where there is little light, the color that the fish appears to be could be false. Luckily, by remembering as much as you can about the appearance and behavior of the fish, and perhaps with a photo to help your memory, you can easily identify the species of that particular fish.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Fish identification card
  • Waterproof camera
Step 1
Get a saltwater fish identification card. You can purchase them at many dive shops, fishing supply stores and kayak shops. These cards are usually pocket-sized and are waterproof. Fish Flips, an online snorkeling guide, even offers identification flip books that are attached to a coiled wrist strap perfect for snorkelers and divers.
Step 2
Take note of everything that you find significant about the fish. Does the fish have unique markings? Does the fish seem to prefer to be near a particular type of coral? Look at the how the fish moves and whether or not the fish has teeth. Compare the fish to the identification card or consult Fish Flips to see if you can find a similar type.
Step 3
Take photos of the fish. If you can't find anything that looks similar on the identification card, take a picture of the fish. If possible, try and take pictures from a few different angles as well as pictures of that fish's environment.
Step 4
Get professional help to identify the fish. Ideally, you will simply be able to stop by your local dive shop or fishing supplies store and ask the people who work there if they can ID the fish. If you still can't identify your mystery fish, contact your local aquarium. Most aquariums have an education department that you can contact and may be able to help you.

Tips & Warnings

If you're a diver interested in learning more about fish identification, consider taking the PADI AWARE Fish Identification course.

Article Written By Shiromi Nassreen

Shiromi Nassreen has been writing professionally since 2005. She specializes in travel and outdoor topics, and her articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including "DISfunkshion Magazine" and Matador Travel. Nassreen holds a Bachelor of Arts in theatre studies from Rose Bruford College of Speech & Drama.

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