The Moorish Idol is the iconic tropical reef fish and is immediately recognizable from its many appearances on numerous products relating to the ocean. It appears on beach towels, swimsuits, aquarium supplies, clothing, toys and a multitude of articles occurring in popular culture. Its name possibly stems from the belief that the Moors of Africa considered them a symbol of happiness.
It is a beautiful fish with bold yellow, black and white bars as well as a bright orange "saddle" over its long nose. It is a graceful swimmer, trailing its long dorsal streamer as it glides over the reef in search of sponges and tunicates to feed on. Moorish Idols are widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific. They are found on reefs all around Hawai'i and occur singly, in pairs and, rarely, in small schools.
All photos Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler
The Hawaiian word for this fish is kihikihi which can mean "corners", "angular" or zig-zag". According to the literature, Moorish Idols have been around for a long time. Fossil remains of a close relative of this fish dated as being 50 million years old have been found in Italy.