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Common Fish

The Whitsundays are abundant with marine life. The coral reefs are full of amazing marine species, including marine mammals, sea turtles, corals, plant life and plenty of fish. Below are some common fish you might spot while snorkelling, scuba diving or even fishing in the Whitsundays.


Sweetlips are often targeted by fishers, as well as those checking out the reefs from below. You can find the beautiful Harlequin Sweetlips in caves, cracks and swim-throughs or under big plate coral, as they this where they like to hang out. Sweetlips are a shy fish named after his most obvious feature, their lips. If you are lucky, you might find the famous "disco dancer," which are the juvenile sweetlips, usually spotted inside a patch of staghorn coral or in any other good hiding place. They are very colourful and they never stop moving in their flaps real quick way that looks like a crazy dance and gave them their name.


Emperor fish are usually found over sandy areas adjacent to reefs where they forage for crabs, sand dollars, fish and other bottom-dwelling organisms. The Red Emperor is one of the oldest fish in the reef living up to 50 years old. They can get extremely large and are a orangey red colour, and are often targeted by fishers. However, due to their large size, they are a hard catch, even for experienced fishers. Juveniles live in shallow water seagrass beds and mangroves, moving offshore as they grow. Sex changes from female to male occur as the emperor grows.


Parrotfish are a common sight while snorkelling or scuba diving in the Whitsundays, as they live in the shallow waters of the reefs. They are often heard before they are seen as they love to crunch on the corals that cover the reef, which can be heard from almost anywhere in the water. They have beak-like mouths are colourful scales, which is where they get their name and are a beautiful sight to see.

Maori Wrasse

While the Maori Wrasse might not be the most common fish you’ll spot while in the Whitsundays, they certainly do leave an impression. They are one of the largest species you’ll see here, and they are found in several of the bays and reefs around the Whitsundays. They are exceptionally large and are blue and green with an amazing pattern on their fact, similar to the face tattoos of the Maori. They have huge lips and a large hump on their head, which gives them their other name, the humphead Maori wrasse. They are often spotted hovering around snorkellers, as they are known for being very friendly and eager to greet visitors!