Fishes in the Maldives

Here is our guide to some of the marine life you can expect to see in the Maldives. You can expect close encounters with most of these species during a one week dive trip.


  • Angelfish
    Angelfish are not naturally curious of divers, but not too wary either so they make great subjects for underwater photography. Lots of colour, so use the flash and get nice and close. A bit of effort will be well rewarded.
  • Barracuda

    Fast a beautiful hunters, these are amazing fishes and should be respected for their sleek powerful and abouve all speedy control in the water.
  • Bigeye Jacks
    bigeye jacks

    As the name implies, they have big eyes. Well, I guess they look big against the silver body. Their latin name is Caranx sexfasciatus and as a shoaling species, you you usually see them together in their hundreds. A species that will come quite close to people while feeding, Jacks make great subjects for photographs in darker conditions where an underwater flash can highlight their body sheen.
  • Blennies

    Small but thoroughly fascinating fish with unusual lifestyles. You may see Blennys swimming around or more likely, just see their heads emerging from burrows in the sand.
  • Butterflyfish

    They are small and like to stay together as couples. Over 120 species of Butterflyfishes on the Maldives reefs
  • Cardinalfish
    A brown fish with a black lateral stripe, common in the maldives and definitely worth noting because of the habit of brooding young finding a safe refuge in the parent’s mouth. Cardinals may be popular aquarium fishes, but seeing them in the wild is a totally different experience. Taking the time to watch them in their own environment is worth the effort because only then do you get to see their authentic habits and characteristics.
  • Clown fish

    Great subjects for underwater photography and beloved of children who have seen Finding Nemo, in the maldives you really can find your own nemo.
  • Coral hawkfish

    Remaining motionless for long intervals these little predators wait perfectly still until their prey are in range.. Feisty little beggars.
  • Cowfish

    So named for the longhorn appearance from the front, the cowfish is a popular native of inner reefs. A relative of the puffer, the cowfish sits motionless, protected by excelent camoflague. Mainly feeds on sponges and shrimps.
  • Eagle ray
    Spotted rays are a common site in the maldives. They are excellent swimmers with a wingspan of up to 8 feet.
  • Goatfish
    Often found in large shoals, goatfish are members of the mullet family. They hoover the reef for small prey like a well oiled, yellow machine at night.
  • Gobies

    Gobies are the largest genera of fishes on tropical reefs so you WILL see them on the Maldives when diving and snorkelling.
  • Grouper

    Big red and grey groupers are largely nocturnal, so divers looking in nooks and crannies under coral ledges can often find them sleeping the day away.
  • Hawksbill Turtle
    hawksbill turtle

    Turtles are not naturally curious of divers, but will swim away slowly, unless they are busy with something. Treat turtles with utmost respect, because they are considerably cooler than you are.
  • Longfin pennantfish

    Also known as the false moorish idol.
  • Manta Ray
    manta ray

    Perhaps the most famous and sought after undersea encounter in the Maldives is swimming with manta rays, These graceful giants of the ocean awe all who encounter them. Mantas in the maldives have been spotted at up to 20 foot across. Manta Rays are open ocean filter feeders but luckily for us come very close to the islands at cleaning stations. Apparently they have very large brains and certainly seek out humans and seem to enjoy swimming with us.
  • Moorish Idol
    moorish idol

    Typically reaching around 7 inches in size, the Moorish Idol is a beautiful reef fish with contrasting bands of black, white and yellow stripes running vertically down its body and a long sweep at the end of its dorsal fin. Fans of the 2003 animated film Finding Nemo, will doubtless remember the moorish idol named Gill who helps little Nemo escape from a fish tank.
  • Moray Eel
    moray eel

    Hidden away during the day, you occasionally see them ‘gasping’ from a crevice in the coral. At night these wonderful active hunters come out to search for food..
  • Napoleon Wrasse
    napoleon wrasse

    Unmistakeable large fish. The Napoleon Wrasse looks formidable but is harmless to humans.
  • Octopus

    Octopus are arguably the most intelligent creature on the reef (humans don’t even make the top ten).The octopus makes a great subject for underwater photography, but only if you can see them, because they are masters of camoflague, able to change colour to match their surroundings. I love seeing video of octopus that captures this behaviour, but please don’t aggravate this wonderful animals just to try and get them to display.
  • Puffer fish

    Puffer fish have smiley faces and large appealing eyes. Hopefully you will not disturb them so they wont need to puff up into a spiky ball. Most photos of inflated puffer fish are records of human abuse of the underwater environment..
  • Rabbitfish

    These fishes stay in shallow areas and have a good turn of speed when disturbed, hence the name.
  • Sergeant Major
    segeant major

    Sergeant Major Fish is also known as the Five Banded Damselfish. They grow up to about 5cm and are mostly found in medium sized schools.
  • Snapper

    Common and delicious fish, now being endangered through overfishing.
  • Squid

    We have all probably eaten Kalimari at some point, but until you see them alive underwater, you cannot appreciate how truly weird and wonderful squid are.
  • Stingray

    In the sandy seabed around the maldive islands live many beautiful blue spotted stingrays. As long as they are left alone, these beautiful creatures harm nobody.
  • Triggerfish

    Triggerfish are noisy eaters. On the maldives reefs you can often hear their sharp pecks of the coral. Beautiful, but shy, most photos are of rapidly retreating triggerfish, but ocassionally, you can strike lucky. However they can also be protective of their territory.
  • White Tipped Reef Shark
    white tipped reef shark

    A regular sight on some maldive reefs, the classically ‘shark shaped’ shark is a fast hunter. Docile during the day, they come alive at night, hunting fishes in packs.
  • Whitespotted bamboo shark
    sharks tooth

    Not a common sight, the White Spotted Bamboo Shark is a nocturnal hunter, feeding on fishes and crustaceans. By day they hide in cracks in the coral. Never reaching a metre in length, these are fascinating animals and a great introduction to seeing sharks in their own environment

These a common fishes in the Maldives and you could consider yourself unlucky if you didn’t see at least 80% of them during a one week stay. Why not learn about corals too? The Maldives are made of coral but few people know much about these beautiful creatures.