When you snorkel BVI reefs, you will see an amazing variety of fish, coral, sponges, and sea environments. Choosing the top 10 fish was hard, but was done so based on some of the most common, some of the most beautiful, and some of the most interesting species.
Be on the lookout for these amazing species and hundreds of others when you snorkel BVI waters. The best way to see more fish is to keep your body quiet by gently using your flippers and making no sudden moves. Of course, stay with a buddy, but work the outer perimeter of larger groups of snorkelers to increase the probability of seeing more of these BVI beauties.
Scientific Name: Holacanthus ciliaris
Locals might call them: Angelfish
These stunning coral reef inhabitants (in feature image above) can be found alone or in pairs throughout the abundant BVI snorkel spots. These fish make amazing underwater pictures as they gracefully move between seafans and and coral formations. They feed primarily on sponges with a little algae. photo credit: nashworld
Scientific Name: Acanthurus bahianus. Locals might call them: Ring Tail, Doctor Fish.
Look for small juveniles in tide pools and larger adults over shallow reefs. You might see adults in large schools. They like to eat algae, small fish and crustaceans, and larvae like plankton. As you snorkel BVI reefs, may notice juveniles providing cleaning services along with other fish species as they enjoy eating algae off other fish. You might even get to see them snacking on molting skin and parasites from green turtles. If you see a bluish color on an adult, you know you have discovered a male guarding eggs. photo credit: Thespis377
Scientific Name: Abudefduf saxatilis
Locals might call them: Pilotfish, Barbel
Look for these easy-to-spot fish as you snorkel BVI shallows of coral or rocky formations. They usually are in groups of five or more and feeding on algae. They are docile and won’t come looking for you, but as with all flora and fauna, do not touch. These fish have spines on its tail fin which is capable of inflicting painful wounds. photo credit: mentalblock_DMD
Scientfic Name: Acanthurus chirurgus. Locals might call them: Barbel.
You might notice these small groups of fish because they eat sand when feeding on algae. Like the sergeant major, spines on their tail fin may inflict painful wounds if you go out of your way to grab one. These fish like to work with juvenile ocean surgeons and sergeant majors to provide cleaning services to other fish and turtles…mainly because they like to eat the algae. It is easy to get confused because another type of sucker fish is also called doctorfish, but this one is not prone to sucking on your toes! Another thing that is confusing is that they are frequently seen with tangs and sergeant majors all together so you may have to study the pictures to remember the difference. photo credit: brian.gratwicke
Scientific Name: Aetobatus narinari. Locals might call them: Sting Ray.
These beautiful and amazing creatures are relatively easy to identify as you snorkel BVI hot spots because of their dramatic spotted pattern across their dorsal (top) sides. The spots can be white, bluish white, greenish, pearly, or yellow on body colors of black, dark grey, or brown. You may even see a different pattern of larger white rings with black centers. A favorite haunt of the spotted eagle ray in the BVI is conch beds found throughout the islands. They are common in BVI, but you are lucky to see one when you snorkel BVI waters because these rays spend most of their time in open water. Check out the spotted eagle ray we were lucky to see on a Cooper Island snorkel. They like to eat fish, shellfish, shrimp, octopus, squid, and sea urchins. photo credit: alexdecarvalho
Scientific Name: Acanthurus coeruleus. Locals might call them: Doctorfish, Blue Doctor.
You’ll find the blue bursts of color on coral reefs, grassy patches, or rocky areas. They travel in small and feed on algae. As mentioned earlier, juveniles meet with doctorfish and sergeant majors to host cleaning stations. In the BVIs, you may be told that these are doctorfish because that name is used for them here. But of the fish that congregate together on the reefs, they are the easiest to discern because of their dark marking under the top fin that curls around almost making a mask. They also have tail fin spines that warn larger fish and snorkelers to leave them alone. photo credit: San Diego Shooter
Scientific Name: Albula. Locals might call them: Bone Fish.
These fish are not known for their beauty, but are interesting just the same. They are often seen in schools in shallow waters, except for large adults that are solitary. They feed on worms, crustaceans, and mollusks. Though they are not prized as a marketable food fish, they are one of the most important game fishes worldwide because they are exciting and challenging to catch. photo credit: wim hoppenbrouwers
Scientific Name: Aulostomus maculatus. Locals might call them: Trumpetfish.
The trumpet fish is commonly found lurking in weedy areas, especially around shallow reefs. Their swimming habit of being “snout-down” camoflauges them amongst vertical corals and grasses. The trumpet fish hunts solitary as it ambushes small fish and crustaceans. Sometimes rather than impersonating a blade of grass, they sneak up on their prey swimming behind larger “harmless” plant-eating fish. Crafty little fish! They are closely related to cornetfish, but you can show your expertise by pointing out to your snorkel buddies that the trumpetfish has a fan-shaped tail while the usually smaller cornetfish has a pointed tail. photo credit: sniffette
Scientific Name: Balistes vetula. Locals might call them: Ol’ Wife.
You may see these colorful fish alone or in schools over rocky or coral areas. Yes, you may also see them in large aquariums even though they do not get along well with other species. These dazzlers are found at many snorkeling hot spots in the BVI and throughout the Atlantic Ocean. And though beautiful, they are armed to inflict pain with a very hard, poisonous “trigger” near the front of its top that it uses to elude being eaten. They feeds mainly on invertebrates. To catch a sea urchin, they blow water to flip it and then attack it where its spines are the shortest. photo credit: stokes rx
Scientific Name: Gymnothorax moringa. Locals might call them: Spotted Moray.
This species is found alone living on the bottom in the coral reefs’ shallow rocky and grassy areas. Its bite is very dangerous, but it will leave you alone if you do the same for him. You will likely see a moray as they are active during the day feeding on fish and crustaceans. Just watch the bottoms of rock formations to look for a head protruding from a hole. Its foreboding mouth-opening gestures is just its method of breathing. photo credit: sniffette
Have you had the chance to snorkel BVI reefs? What have you seen? Do you think we missed one in our top 10? Comment below!