The tropical reef squirrelfish are easily identified thanks to their colourful bodies, spiny elongated fins, and huge eyes. Also called the Longspine Squirrelfish, these fish can grow up to 11 inches in length and tend to hang around docks, reefs, and inshore waters. You’ll find them in the warm tropical Atlantic Ocean around the Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Holocentrus rufus, or Longspine Squirrelfish, is a beautiful red-orange colour that helps it to blend in with the corals it sleeps in during the daytime. It also has a spiny dorsal fin that can inflict wounds when handled, to which many fishermen can attest. Anyone who has had the misfortune of finding a squirrelfish at the end of their fishing line knows how difficult it can be to extricate the fish because its immediate response is to dive deep into a rock cavity.
While the adult squirrelfish are a prominent red colour, juveniles have a silvery shimmer thanks to cells on their skin that reflect light. Young squirrelfish tend to group together while adults prefer establishing their own territory alone. The squirrelfish gets its name from the sound it makes with its swim bladder, used to warn off predators or define their territory.
Squirrelfish are nocturnal carnivorous fish that feast on small crustaceans, mollusks, and gastropods.
They hide in the crevices of coral reefs during the day and at night swim through seagrass beds to hunt prey. Its famous large eyes help it to see well in the dark nighttime water.
Both the Longspine Squirrelfish and Dusky Squirrelfish, which has a deeper red colour and goldish tinge, are commonly seen in Bermudian waters.