The Moorish Idol, is a marine fish species, the sole extant representative of the family Zanclidae. It is a common inhabitant of tropical to subtropical reefs and lagoons. The Moorish idol is notable for its wide distribution throughout the Indo-Pacific. A number of butterflyfishes (genus Heniochus) closely resemble the Moorish idol.
The body of moorish idols is circular in shape and very narrow in width. The white, sickle-shaped dorsal spines are elongated backwards into a filament which grows longer as the fish ages and trails behind it as it swims. It has a protruding tube like nose which puckers up at the end. The mouth has a yellow saddle across the top and bristle shaped teeth. The base color of the body is white with alternating bands of black and pale yellow bars. The eyes are set high up away from the mouth and on adults there are bumps above the eye. The projections are larger in males. The species grows to 24 cm in length.
Moorish Idol's facts
Do you know?
It is the only species in the family Zanclidae.
It is said the Moorish idol got its name from the Moors of Africa, who supposedly believed the fish to be a bringer of happiness.
The Moorish idol is sometimes confused with the angelfish and the butterflyfish.
The Moorish Idol is generally a timid fish, although adult males can be hostile or territorial towards each other.
Moorish Idol's Behavior & Ecology
Moorish idols can be found across the coral reefs of Maldives. Moorish idols are diurnal (active during the day) and may be seen alone or in pairs, occasionally forming large schools. Juveniles may be more likely to school in small groups than adults. Adult individuals mate for life, and males will show aggression towards other males.
Moorish Idol's Feeding
Their long nose and mouth with bristle like teeth is adapted to picking algae, coral polyps, tunicates, sponges and benthic invertebrates off the rocks and out of crevices.
Moorish Idol's Reproduction
Something special about the Moorish Idol is that they mate for life. A pair will stay together throughout their lifespan, unless one of the dies or is killed by a predator. Moorish idols are pelagic spawners; that is, they release eggs and sperm in the water column, leaving fertilized eggs to drift away with the currents. The range of these fish may be explained by the unusually long larval stage. The fish reach a length of 7.5 cm (3.0 in) before becoming free-swimming juveniles.
Moorish Idol's Relationship with Humans
The Moorish idols are also a coveted aquarium fish but, despite their abundance and wide array of habitats, they are notoriously finicky and hard to adjust to captivity.
Moorish Idol habitat
Zanclus cornutus inhabit coastal and offshore rocky and coral reefs, and lagoons and is often found in pairs (Myers 1991, Allen and Erdmann 2012). This species is a specialist feeder, feeding primarily on encrusting sponges (Dorenbosch et al. 2005). The maximum recorded length for this species is 23 cm (Anderson and Hafiz 1987).