The Reef Fish

One of the most common fish that can be found in the coral reefs that surround the beautiful islands of the Dry Tortugas are the angelfish. The angelfish is a type of perciform fish from the family called Pomacanthidae. There are marine angelfish which are different from freshwater angelfish that are found in the Amazon River basin. These (the marine angelfish) are a colorful and vibrant species of fish that typically make their home in the coral reef.

Though they look similar to another reef inhabitant, the butterflyfish, the angelfish can be distinguished by its preopercle spine which is a hard bony flap that covers the angelfish's gills. They can also be distinguished by their small mouths, large pectoral fins and a round or oval fin at their tail. The largest an angelfish can get is 60 centimeters. These are some of the more friendly species of fish out on the reefs and they are known to approach or come close to divers and snorkelers. You can usually only find them in shallower reefs that are less than 50 meters deep, which is the type of reef that is predominant in Key West and the Dry Tortugas where the clear and shallow waters allow for excellent snorkeling opportunities.

What's most interesting and impressive about this species of reef fish are their outer colors. These colors change as the fish matures and gets older, but what is most attractive is the way their vibrant colors interact and match with the illuminating colors of the coral reef. The different colors and the changing of colors is thought to coordinate with social hierarchy and rank. The young male angelfish, for instance, has black bands which the females do not have, and the mature male angelfish has bright orange bands. There is a specific type of angelfish, called the Queen angelfish, which is thought by many to be the most beautiful of all the angelfish complete with its neon blue and neon yellow scales as well as a scattering of iridescent purple and orange markings. This type of marine angelfish, however, is not as friendly and approachable as the other kinds.

So when you get out to the Dry Tortugas aboard the Yankee Freedom make sure to strap on your snorkeling mask and fins and head into the gorgeous, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You will catch all kinds of amazing and exotic tropical fish in these waters, but keep an eye out for the particularly vibrant, friendly and unique angelfish.