Stripey Fish who does not have a Hawaiian name

  • Terry Lilley / Contributed Photo

    Meet the Stripey Fish who does not have a Hawaiian name!

Some native fish species here in Hawaii were not recognized and were never given a Hawaiian name because in old Hawaii no one more than likely ever saw this fish. Stripeys live in shallow calm waters usually in lagoons or at the muddy mouth of streams and rivers. A good place to see them in Kauai is in the Lydgate Pond which is man made but acts as a perfect stripey habitat.

Thes fish six inch long fish tend to hide in the muddy water and are very shy. They would be very hard to see from above looking down into the murky water and they look similar to the Hawaiian Sergeant fish and are often confused. The Sergeants have vertical stripes that look like the emblem on a Navy Sergeants uniform but the Stripey has lateral stripes. The Stripey is not used for food or medicine so it was pretty much ignored until recent times when snorkelers with masks finally saw a few. There used to be a dozen of these fish living under the Hanalei Pier but the large 2018 flood event washed them out to sea and I have not seen any since.

Not much is known about this adorable little fish and they are known to occur in other parts of the Pacific Ocean all the way to New Zealand but the Hawaiian variety looks a little different and may need a DNA study to see if it is a different species.

When you can find the Stripey you usually see them in small schools of four to ten and they swim in the open water zig zagging through the schools of different fish species. With their striped pattern this creates an illusion which makes it hard for a larger predator fish to catch them especially in muddy water!

The Stripey feeds on floating plankton and small invertebrates and another good spot to find them is in back bays under piers like in Kane’ohe Bay in Oahu. You can see the Stripey in action in my movie The Worlds Guide To Hawaiian Reef Fish that is now online and up on my underwater educational web at


Terry Lilley is a marine biologist living in Hanalei Kauai and is co-founder of Reef Guardians Hawaii, a nonprofit on a mission to provide education and resources to protect the coral reef. To donate to Reef Guardians visit


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