Traceable Species

Hawaiian Reef Cave Fish

Hawaiian flagtail, soldierfish, Menpachi

Hawaiian Reef Cave Fish

Hawaiian cave reef fish consist of two types: flagtails (Āholehole in Hawaiian), including the species Kuhlia xenura and Kuhlia sandvicensis, and soldierfish (Menpachi in Hawaiian), including Myripristis berndti and Myripristis amaena. A fifth species is Āweoweo, or Bulleye, Priacanthus meeki. These species can be found inhabiting caves and crevices within the reefs during the day for protection from predators and go out to feed during the night.

The flagtail Kuhlia xenura is endemic to Hawaii and found nowhere else in the world. Both flagtail species look very similar, a silver relatively flat fish with sharp spines on its dorsal fins. The soldier fish are both red with a protruding lower jaw. The lower fins of M. berndti are red with white edges, while M. amaena have all red fins. The Bullleye are red in color and sometime exhibit faint dark dots along their back and fins.

Hawaiian Reef Cave Fish

Cave reef fish have evolved to have large eyes to help them see better in the low-light conditions of reef caves. The red color of both Mepachi and ‘Āweoweo allows them to seem invisible in dark reef caves where light cannot penetrate.  Āhole are often seen in large schools and feed on small fish and invertebrates. They can be found in many different environments ranging from brackish water, tide pools, areas of strong surge, and caves within the reef. They tend to school during the day for protection and disperse to feed at night. Little is known on the reproduction biology of these fish. Āholehole is the only one of these fish that is currently regulated by the State of Hawaii.

Food Info Hawaiian Reef Cave Fish


  • Color: clear, light pink flesh  
  • Texture: soft and moist flesh
  • Flavor: delicate, mild sweet taste
  • Perfect serve: most commonly steamed, fried, baked, or sauteed. 
Species Range
Hawaiian Reef Cave Fish range Source:
Hawaiian flagtail
These crabs mate at the time of maturity, which is approximately 3 years of age. Females are smaller than males; this is because the development of reproductive tissues required more energy for females, leaving less energy available for continued body growth. They grow through a process known as molting—regularly shedding their shell and growing a new, larger one. They continue to molt and grow after they have reached sexual maturity. During the breeding season, the crabs leave their borrows in a phenomenon characterized by mass mate-searching events. Once mating/fertilization has occurred, females spawns in the water. The larvae released during the rainy season develop in offshore waters and return to coastal waters five to eight weeks after larval release.
Mangrove crabs are important fishery resources in all Brazilian coast, mainly in the north and northeast where many fishermen depend upon their catch. In addition to its social and economic importance, the mangrove crab is a “keystone” species in ecosystem, they playing an important role in the processes of nutrient cycling and energy transfer.

Fishing Methods

{'fisheries': [<License: Hawaiian Reef Fish by Hook & Line>], 'gear': <Gear: Hook and Line Reef Fishing>}

Hook and Line Reef Fishing

This fishery uses a variety of artisanal methods to catch reef fish, including handlines, and pole and lines. Catch rates are low, usually only a few pounds per hour with little bycatch (discards). These small-scale fishing methods are similar to those traditionally used by native Hawaiians.


Featured Harvester Bernie Berry

Mangrove Crab Harvester

Canavieiras, Brazil

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