Fishes of The Maldives (Season, Types, Swimming & Best Dive spots)

Fishes of The Maldives (Season, Types, Swimming & Best Dive spots)

Fishes of The Maldives – Complete Guide

One of the most beautiful island nations in the entire world, The Maldives thrives in marine life. Its rich coral cover and the preservation efforts by local communities ensure that divers and snorkelers have the time of their lives when vacationing in this tropical paradise. Discover a myriad of fishes of The Maldives as you explore the deep waters of this archipelago.

 The Maldives is located ideally across the equator, giving travellers a feel of both the hemispheres through its 1,200 odd islands. While there are plenty of tours focused on finding whales or dolphins in Maldives, the exploration of fish remains a bonus as one is bound to come across a plethora of schools or shoals of fishes no matter the location of the dive.

 Various factors contribute to the occurrence of different fish species, ranging from temperature and ocean currents to depth and availability of prey. Many luxury resorts in The Maldives offer a fish spotting guide that you can refer to tick off the species you’ve already sighted. Regardless, here is a handy guide of most of the fishes of The Maldives.

 Different Types of Fishes in The Maldives

 Different Types of Fishes in The Maldives
 Different Types of Fishes in The Maldives (courtesy: yangwewe)

 Fishes are broadly water-based creatures that may either have bones or cartilage. Irrespective of whether the fish is bony or cartilaginous, it will have gills – the organ it uses to breathe in oxygen extracted from water. While some fishes may be able to leap out of water and glide on sand (sting rays, for instance), they cannot survive outside of water for a prolonged duration. All fish have fins, but not all have scales. Some types of fish have a smooth body. Discover the different types of fish that you are likely to encounter on Maldives diving tours.

Sharks in Maldives

 Popular movies would have us think that sharks are dangerous fish. However, most of them can be quite harmless. Shark species found in The Maldives include whale shark, sharpnose sevengill shark, tawny nurse shark, bigeye thresher shark, zebra shark, blacktip reef shark, smalltooth sand tiger shark, whitetip reef shark, scalloped hammerhead shark, star spotted smooth-hound shark, blue shark, snaggletooth shark, sicklefin lemon shark, silvertip shark, sliteye shark, bignose shark, tiger shark, silky shark, spottail shark and oceanic whitetip shark.

Rays in Maldives 

A fun option when looking to book activities in Maldives is a diving trip with the country’s sea rays. This part of the Indian ocean can surprise you with rays in various hues. Rays are cartilaginous fish which are flat in shape, with very flexible bodies that can swim both on the water surface and in the depths of the ocean. Common ray species spotted in The Maldives are manta rays, short fin pygmy devilrays, eagle rays, electric rays such as the torpedo ray, and stingrays like pink whipray, blotched fantail ray and Jenkin’s whipray. Manta rays in Maldives can also be seen feeding or aggregated at cleaning stations. 

Tuna in Maldives

At most hotels in The Maldives, you will find tuna on their menu. This saltwater fish is not just a Maldivian delicacy but also a means of livelihood for most of the locals. Tuna fishing, curing and export contribute significantly to the Maldivian economy.

If it is Maldives’ fishing tours that you are interested in, you will be able to learn how to use the traditional technique along with the modern methods of angling. Several Maldives day tours also take you to one of the 200 inhabited islands in the country and let you watch the process of curing tuna to ready it for export.

Various species of tuna are found in The Maldives. Some of these are bullet tuna, skipjack tuna, frigate tuna, dogtooth tuna and kawakawa or mackerel tuna. If you are into cooking seafood, do not miss special culinary lessons with the locals who will show you how to smoke tuna or spice it with local condiments and grated coconut. It is not mandatory to know Dhivehi – local language of The Maldives to fully enjoy these sessions.

Puffers in Maldives

One of the most fascinating fishes of the Maldives is the puffer fish. Known by various other names such as balloon fish, bubblefish and blowfish, puffers have the ability to inflate into a ball as a defence mechanism when it is chased by predators.

Puffers have spikes all over their body which are highly poisonous to both humans and other marine fish and animals. Antidotes are not available to the sting of a puffer. Maldives have a handful of puffer species such as whitespotted pufferfish, honeycomb sharp nosed puffer, blackedged pufferfish and ambon sharp nosed puffer.

Filefish in Maldives

Also known as shingles, foolfish or leatherjackets, filefish are generally quite harmless. They feed on anemones, crustaceans, soft corals, algae and smaller fish in marine waters. These tropical fish can grow up to six inches in length, making them a delightful watch during Maldives’ snorkelling tours. Common filefish species found in The Maldives are scrawled filefish, longnose filefish and wirenet filefish.

Triggerfish in Maldives

Arrayed in rich colours and patterns, the triggerfish are marvellous creatures in any subtropical ocean. The part of the Indian Ocean that surrounds The Maldives is home to at least ten species of triggerfish. Look for Maldives honeymoon packages that let you spot fishes among other aquatic life forms such as cetaceans, to be able to spot as many triggerfish as possible.

You will be able to sight starry triggerfish, flagtail triggerfish, orange striped triggerfish, reef triggerfish, clown triggerfish, Picasso triggerfish, titan triggerfish, yellowmargin triggerfish, Indian triggerfish and redtoothed triggerfish in The Maldives.

Eels in Maldives

Eels are slippery fish that look like snakes. With ray fins that help them swim through the water, these species of fish are predatory in nature. In The Maldives, one can look forward to sighting moray eel, spaghetti eel, honeycomb moray eel, ribbon eel and white mouth moray eel. Known to be one of the most dangerous fish in the world, eels, specifically morays, can be lethal to humans.

Wahoo in Maldives

Several Maldives tour packages that offer fishing will also guide you on game fishing. Most tours begin from Malé – the world’s smallest capital and the idea of trophy fishing makes the trip even more exciting. Wahoo is a trophy fish that is not only good to pose and take pictures with but also makes for a nice meal. Wahoos can be up to 2 metres in length, requiring trolling as a fishing method for them to be caught.

Tang in Maldives

Tangs are reef fish that survive for up to 7 years. Very vibrant in their colour pattern, these fish offer a lovely opportunity for underwater video shooting and photography. In The Maldives, keep your eyes peeled for Desjardin’s sailfin tang or Red Sea sailfin tang and brush-tail tang, the latter being herbivorous in nature. Desjardin’s sailfin tang, however, eats meat along with algae and seaweed.

Surgeonfish in Maldives

An extension to the tang species, surgeonfish are often counted among tangs and vice versa.  Also known as doctorfish, the surgeonfish is characterized by its vertically flat body and bright colours. The species that one can see in The Maldives are blue surgeonfish, palette surgeonfish, lined surgeonfish, spotted surgeonfish, lieutenant surgeonfish, striated surgeonfish, Thompson’s surgeonfish, two-spot surgeonfish, convict surgeonfish and yellowfin surgeonfish.

Unicornfish in Maldives

Exclusively herbivorous, the unicornfish mainly feeds on marine algae. The Maldives is blessed with unicornfish species in striking colours that make its reef-covered waters a delight to swim in. Some of those species are spotted unicornfish, Vlamings unicornfish, sleek unicornfish and orange spine unicornfish. Often, unicornfish are considered to be a part of surgeonfish and tangs.

Mackerel in Maldives

Mackerels are pelagic fish that come in various shapes and sizes. Specifically in The Maldives, one will find snake mackerel which is a type of gemfish. Mackerel scad or speedo is another species of the mackerel family, commonly used as bait to catch other fish. Mackerels are known to be quite nutritious, thanks to the high content of fatty acids. These fish have scales on their body.

Boxfish in Maldives

A unique fish in this tropical archipelago is the boxfish. Shaped in the form of a box, the yellow boxfish is capable of reaching a maximum length of 40 cm. When this fish is young, it is bright yellow in colour, with black spots dotted all over its body. As it grows, its colour changes to a brownish shade of yellow and its body becomes elongated. To protect itself from predators, it is able to make its skin toxic.

Gobies in Maldives

A goby is a small fish with a body that tapers towards the end but begins with a large head. Gobies are ray-finned and sometimes have suckers on their ventral side. Different species of gobies found in The Maldives are dawn goby, decorated goby, half barred goby and four bar coral goby. The dawn goby is endemic to The Maldives, Seychelles and some other islands in the Western Indian Ocean.

Dartfish in Maldives

Dartfish are superbly coloured fish which are rather small in size. Thin and elongated, some of the most beautiful dartfish in The Maldives are fire dartfish and elegant dartfish. They measure about 6 cm to 8 cm in length with a couple of dorsal fins. While one dorsal fin has 6 spines, the other has only one spine, but with up to 32 rays, just as their anal fin. Wonderfully streaked and multicoloured in nature, dartfish can be white, silver, magenta, orange, yellow and green, all at once.

Jobfish in Maldives

Distantly related to snappers, jobfish thrive in reef environments. The abundance of coral reefs in The Maldives is a major reason for the sighting of various species of jobfish in this country. One can easily see small toothed jobfish, crimson jobfish, green jobfish and rusty jobfish here. They are also considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, thanks to the fleshy taste.

Snappers in Maldives

Snappers are popular fish species for consumption and culinary experiments. Rich in vitamins and proteins while being relatively low in calories, snappers make for nutritious meals. The Maldives is richly populated with this type of fish.

Some of the snapper species that one is likely to come across are mangrove red snapper, yellowtail blue snapper, Bengal snapper, blue snapper, two-spot banded snapper, black and white snapper, two-spot red snapper, midnight snapper, blacktail snapper, emperor red snapper, humpback red snapper, one-spot snapper, blue striped snapper and Indian snapper.

Fusiliers in Maldives

Fusiliers are reef fish that mostly feed on small planktons. Some of the species of this pelagic fish family that are spotted in The Maldives are yellowfin fusilier, fusilier damsel, slender fusilier, dark-banded fusilier, goldband fusilier and banana fusilier. Owing to their small size, they are often used as live bait for fishing. Maldives’ weather, while pleasant throughout the year, also sees some rain. During the monsoons, in particular, fusiliers come in handy to catch bigger fish in the sea.

Sweetlips in Maldives

Named after their big lips, sweetlips come in different patterns and colours. While their lips almost always stand out, their fins are often coloured in shades contrasting to the rest of their body. Sweetlips species usually found in The Maldives are painted sweetlips, oriental sweetlips, giant sweetlips and harlequin sweetlips.

They range in size from 55 cm to 1 metre and feed on molluscs, other fish and crustaceans. Most sweetlips do not flee from divers, so there is a good chance of spotting these. However, juveniles might be found hiding in the branches of corals.

Emperors in Maldives

Emperor fish are commonly fished for their delicious taste, making them a popular seafood item in The Maldives, after tuna. Species of emperors one can come across in this nation are red axil emperor, spotcheek emperor and thumbprint emperor. They vary in size between 30 cm and 76 cm and may be found in reef flats or outer reef slopes and caught using handrails.

Goatfish in Maldives

Also called red mullets, goatfish can grow up to 12 to 24 inches in length. This predator species eats urchins, starfish, worms and crustaceans – mostly organisms dwelling at the bottom of the ocean floor. Some goatfish species to watch out for in The Maldives are dash-dot goatfish, side-spot goatfish and long barbel goatfish. Goatfish are known to use their barbels not only for catching prey but also for attracting mates – males wriggle theirs to attract females during the mating season.

Butterflyfish in Maldives

These tropical fish have a disc-shaped body with a generally yellowish colour, the distinctive feature of each sub-species varying only in patterns. A multitude of butterflyfish species are sighted in the waters of The Maldives.

One can find threadfin butterflyfish, blackpyramid butterflyfish, Bennet’s butterflyfish, long-nosed butterflyfish, citron butterflyfish, yellowhead butterflyfish, collared butterflyfish, vagabond butterflyfish, saddleback butterflyfish, teardrop butterflyfish, spotted butterflyfish, oval butterflyfish, Klein’s butterflyfish, chevron butterflyfish, Madagascar butterflyfish, triangular butterflyfish, black-backed butterflyfish, spot-nape butterflyfish, Meyer’s butterflyfish and Indian butterflyfish.

Bannerfish in Maldives

Bannerfish are ray-finned fish that are disc-shaped and found in and around reefs. The bannerfish species one can look forward to sighting in The Maldives are long-fin bannerfish, Indian bannerfish, schooling bannerfish and masked bannerfish. If you go on a diving tour, spend some time around reef overhangs and crevices or on their slopes to better your chances of finding these fish.

Other Fishes of the Maldives

The moment one lands in Malé – capital city of The Maldives, one longs to discover the secrets hidden in the depths of the Indian Ocean. There are many more fish species to be found on snorkelling or diving tours across the length and breadth of this Asian country. Some possibilities are freckled driftfish, smoothbelly sardinella, sprat, bluestripe herring, soldierfish, Commerson’s frogfish, cornet fish, lionfish, groupers, hinds and anthias.

Swimming, Snorkelling & Diving with Fishes in The Maldives

Swimming & Snorkeling with Sharks in the Maldives
Swimming & Snorkeling with Sharks in the Maldives (courtesy: michalporebiak)

One of the best activities to do in Maldives is getting into the turquoise waters that are full of little fish and corals in a myriad colours. For a truly exclusive diving experience that will span across many days, look for liveaboards in Maldives that are not only luxurious but also take you deeper in the high seas.

Apart from regular snorkelling and diving trips that let you watch fish up close, you can also opt for cruises in dhonis – traditional Maldivian wooden boats that drop the anchor at a particular point so you can swim at leisure.

Remember to avoid touching any fish and always let them approach you. Never squeeze or try to harm the underwater organisms, as they may either suffer or attack or poison you in some cases as a defense tactic.

Fishing in The Maldives

Fishing Tours in Maldives, Sunset Night Fishing Trips with Price
Fishing Tours in Maldives, Sunset Night Fishing Trips with Price (Image credit: colterolmstead)

For enthusiasts of angling, there are several fishing trips organized by guest houses in The Maldives, especially on local islands. Learn traditional and modern fishing techniques and catch trophy fish, reef fish or other fish for your next meal on the island.

Whether it is the fishes of The Maldives that you wish to see, experience the local life or luxuriate in the ultra opulent overwater pool villas on a private island, Samudra Maldives will make your wishes come true!