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12 of the Most Beautiful Fish in the Philippines

Errah is a bookwormy and logophilic writer and science & technology teacher. He often writes about scientific ideas, theories, and research.

This article will list 12 of the most gorgeous and wonderful fish that live around the Philippine islands.

This article will list 12 of the most gorgeous and wonderful fish that live around the Philippine islands.

Fish in the Philippines

The Philippines is regarded as the world's largest archipelago without any land borders and is surrounded by the sea. It is composed of more than 7,600 islands and is part of the Coral Triangle (a marine area of the western Pacific Ocean where 75% of marine species on earth can be found). It owns 70% of the region's marine biodiversity and 60% of the whole planet.

Did you know that the Philippines has more marine species per unit area than any other place on earth? It has more saltwater species than all of North America, South America (including Brazil and Ecuador), Africa, Europe, and Australia (including the Great Barrier Reef) combined. Unbelievable but true! Due to its innumerable life, the country has been referred to as the Center of Marine Biodiversity of the World, the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity, and the Amazon of the Sea.

Fish are the most abundant living things in the Philippines' waters. There are more than 3,600 fish species (including freshwater) currently present in the country. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

This article will showcase 12 of the most beautiful marine fish found in the Philippines, which can be also listed as the most beautiful fish in the world. (Note: Some kinds of fish on the list can be also found in other countries. You can keep them as pets for your fish tank or aquarium.)

1. Harlequin Filefish or Orange-Spotted Filefish

If you touch the harlequin filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris), you will sense that its skin texture is the same as sandpaper or a file, which is where it gets its name. This species is a real eye-catcher though. It has a blue body with rows of orange polka dots with yellow edges.

It feeds exclusively on coral polyps. By feeding on them, the fish's smell changes similarly to its food. It also camouflages the fish from predators.

2. Flaming Prawn Goby or Spikefin Goby

Though the flaming prawn goby (Discordipinna griessingeri) might look like a phoenix or the Pokémon known as Rapidash, it is neither bird nor horse, but a fish instead. With its white body coupled red, orange, and yellow spots and pointed fins, this majestic beauty indeed resembles a flame.

This benthic creature is known for its continuous fin-flaring behavior to tell other creatures to leave its territory.

3. Mandarinfish

The mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus) is so beautiful and stunning! It looks like an abstract painting with wavy lines on a fish or a fish wearing the garment of the Imperial Chinese mandarin. The bright coloration of blue, orange, black, green, purple, and yellow warns predators that they are toxic to consume.

This species has no scales. Instead, its skin secretes toxic mucus that also helps to repel enemies and parasites.

The mandarinfish is known for its magical courtship dance. Males swim back and forth to impress a female; the female puts her pectoral fin on the male pectoral fin that she loves, somewhat holding hands; they then rise slowly together and swim quickly downward while spawning eggs and sperms.

4. Emperor Angelfish

Angelfishes symbolize beauty, emotions, transformation, and awareness. They are the most popular fishes to keep in a saltwater aquarium as a totem animal.

Emperor angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) coloration is stunningly beautiful. Juveniles have a body of alternating blue, black, and white rings and curve lines. When they become adults, however, their coloration changes to blue with bright yellow stripes. The fins become orange and the eyes look like they're covered with a black mask.

5. Black and Orange Dragonet or Fingered Dragonet

When I saw it for the first time, I thought the black and orange dragonet (Dactylopy kuiteri) was a sea slug. The body of this bottom-dweller is white with orange and black patches—hence the name—with some populations that have blue spots on their fins.

The first pelvic-fin is higher and separated from the rest of the pelvic fin. It raises when disturbed or when the males are mating. It spends its time burying itself in mud, sand, or rubble.

6. Beautiful Dartfish

The word kallista on its scientific name is from a Greek word meaning “most beautiful.” The first dorsal fin has filament and is higher and sunder to the rest of the dorsal fin. The body is silver which reflects light. A dartfish (Ptereleotris kallista) shines and looks like it emits rainbows. It is a very beautiful fish and truly lives up to its name.

7. Picturesque Dragonet or Spotted Mandarinfish

The picturesque dragonet (Synchiropus picturatus) shares the same genus as the mandarin fish. Like its cousin, it is extremely colorful, however, its body is green with black, blue, and orange spots instead of wavy lines. These fish also produce toxic mucus to protect themselves from predators and parasites.

Due to its swimming style, the rapid pulsing of the fins, and tendency to hover extensively, it has been called the hummingbird of the sea.

8. Yellowtail Wrasse

I have seen this pelagic animal on the shore of Quezon, swimming in the intertidal zone. The juvenile of yellowtail wrasse (Coris gaimard) has a bright orange body with white spots rimmed in black, resembling a clownfish. Adults, however, are multi-colorful. The pink face has blue lines and the body is a combination of green, orange, purple, and blue, along with its signature yellow tail.

9. Ribbon Eel or Ribbon Moray

The name of ribbon eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita) gets derived from its long, thin dorsal fin and wavy swimming style, similar to the motion of a gymnast's ribbon. It is protandrous, meaning it is born as a male and later transforms into a female.

The lifecycle of this moray has three stages: juvenile stage, male adult stage, and female adult stage. At the juvenile stage, it is a black male with a yellow dorsal fin; at the male adult stage, the black color changes to blue; and at the last stage, it becomes a female and is entirely yellow. They are often seen in hiding spots and feed on marine creatures that swim too close to them.

Bluestriped fangblenny hiding in a hole.

Bluestriped fangblenny hiding in a hole.

10. Bluestriped Fangblenny or Tubeworm Blenny

A bluestriped fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos) has two fangs in its lower jaw, which it uses to tear the scale and fin off of the fish it feeds on. It can change its color to five different colorations to mimic other species, much like a chameleon or octopus. It can also hide its 5-inch body in holes.

11. Banded Pipefish or Ringed Pipefish

The banded pipefish (Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus) reminds me of those beautiful African equines, the zebra. Its long, slender body is banded by white and black vertical stripes. Its tail, however, is oval red with a white margin and center and resembles the holborn glory flower.

These pipefish are also known for their ritual mating dance. They align their snouts to each other's tails and then spiral. They then repeatedly twitch their snouts and swim quickly forward in opposite directions before the female deposits her eggs in the male's pouch. Like other pipefish and seahorses, the males carry the young.

12. Elegant Firefish or Purple Firefish

The elegant firefish (Nemateleotris decora) has a graceful and stylish appearance. In fact, your daughter (or anyone else who loves vibrant colors) might love it due to its coloration: pink and purple. The head is violet, and the fins are a combination of purple, pink, and red. The body, however, is white or yellow.

These fish are also monogamous, meaning they only have one partner during their lifetime and are often found as a pair.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Errah Caunca