Aquarium Fish

Moorish Idol

posted: 05/15/12
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Moorish Idol
Courtesy of Drs. Foster and Smith
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The Moorish Idol is also commonly known in Hawaii as "Kihikihi" which means "curves," "corners," or "zigzags," and refers to its shape and color pattern. It is the only member of the family Zanclidae, and a very close relative of the Tangs or Surgeonfish. One of the most widespread fish, it can be found throughout the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and all of the tropical Pacific. Wild specimens can attain a length of 7 inches, but 4 inches is more likely in the aquarium.

The Moorish Idol tends to be very peaceful. Due to its size, schooling nature, and need for swimming space, it requires a large tank (minimum of 50 gallons). As its beauty is most evident while swimming, giving it adequate room is well rewarded. It is compatible with most fish and larger invertebrates, but should not be kept with any polyps or corals, which it will eat. Small invertebrates may be threatened as well.

The Moorish Idol is a very difficult fish to feed. Live rock with large amounts of algae and sponges on which it can feed will help it acclimate. Then offer a varied diet of finely chopped meaty items, mysid shrimp, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, Spirulina, and algae. It should be fed several times a day.

Perhaps the most graceful of all marine fish, for many hobbyists, it also one of the most difficult fish to keep because it is so difficult to feed. For all but the most expert hobbyist, it is better admired in the ocean or in a public aquarium rather than in a home tank.

Fish Facts

Name: Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus (canescens))

Family: Zanclidae

Range: Indo-Pacific, Red Sea

Size: Up to 7 inches

Diet: Omnivore

Tank Set-up: Marine: Coral or rock, plants, driftwood

Reef Compatible: With caution

Tank Conditions: 78.8°F; sg 1.022; pH 8.1-8.4

Minimum Tank Capacity: 50 gallon

Light: High

Temperament: Peaceful

Swimming Level: No specific level

Care Level: Experts only

Reproduction: Egg Layer

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