5 colorful fish you will see while snorkeling the Mexican Caribbean


Snorkeling and diving in the Mexican Caribbean is a fabulous experience, and we must strive to keep it that way. Our oceans are under stress due to our warming planet, and another particular threat to these gorgeous reef fish is sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens use toxic chemicals which harm the coral and the fish. When snorkeling or swimming in the ocean, please use Mineral Sunscreens! Mineral sunscreens will help in keeping our reef fish healthy!

Cozumel is my very favorite place to snorkel. The water is clear, blue and warm, and the reefs are full of colorful tropical fish to look at! The island is one of the top five scuba diving destinations in the world. If you snorkel in these crystal clear and calm waters, these are the 5 most colorful reef fish you will see.


The three most common angelfish species seen in the Caribbean are the Queen Angelfish, French Angelfish, and the Gray Angel. Angelfish are fascinating to watch because they always travel in pairs since they mate for life. It is very rare to see a lone angelfish! Angels are also “cleaner fish” for larger pelagic life.

The beautiful Queen Angelfish is electric in its color

The French Angelfish

The Gray Angelfish is the largest of the Angel species, growing to 2 feet

Butterfly Fish

The Butterfly Fish are related to the Angelfish, but are much smaller. They, too, are almost always in mated pairs. Butterfly fish tend to be a little shy, swimming away quickly when one gets too close! Like Angels, they are “cleaners.”

This is the Four Eyed Butterfly Fish, the most common on Caribbean reefs

Banded Butterfly Fish

The most colorful, Spotfin Butterfly Fish

Parrot Fish

The Parrot Fish is not only colorful, but indispensable on the reef. Parrots get their name from their tough teeth and “beakish” mouth, which they use to grind algae out of hard coral, and later excrete to make up the sand on the reef! With coral in danger because of warming water temperatures, parrots are also in trouble since they feed on coral.

The Stoplight Parrot Fish as an Initial Phase, or young, fish

The terminal, or adult, Stoplight Parrot Fish. Yes, that fish turns into this fish!

Rainbow Parrot Fish are quite a bit larger than most parrots

A Pudding Wife has buck teeth and is closely related to the Parrot

File Fish

I love File Fish! They have the strangest mouths and are so “flat,” or “skinny.” They always seem to be watching for snorkelers and divers, and they twist and turn to get a good look! They are so colorful!

The Juvenile White Spotted File Fish

The adult White Spotted File Fish is very orange. I love their retractable spine, it is like a crown!

Scrawled File Fish are leaner and larger, with large fan tails

Trigger Fish

Another fish that always excites me is the beautiful Trigger Fish. The Queen Triggers are so beautiful. They look as though someone painted them! Trigger Fish need to be treated warily, as they can take offense, especially when making their egg casings.

Isn’t the Queen gorgeous? She is the most typical trigger fish seen on Caribbean reefs.

A Gray Triggerfish

A reef is such a busy place, with small fish and big fish going about the business of their lives. It is always fun to just watch the fish as they swim, eat, and clean each other. The colors often do not seem real. Tropical fish are nature’s art! It is up to all of us to make better decisions to keep our ocean and ocean ecosystem healthy. I want future generations to enjoy our ocean reefs as much as I do!

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About Author

Tam Warner Minton is the travel blogger, writer, and photographer behind the adventure travel blog, www.travelswithtam.com. She has traveled to all seven continents, and is an advocate for citizen science, the environment, and getting out of one’s comfort zone. An avid scuba diver, Tam goes on many ocean research expeditions, and is an amateur underwater photographer. Her book, ALL FISH FACES, introduces amazing, colorful underwater creatures many have never seen before, but are crucial to our oceans. Showing kids of all ages the amazing life beneath the waves is the way to preserve our oceans for future generations! Click to see author's profile.

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