FISHES in Fiji


Fiji Coral Trout Coral trout or “donu” are highly esteemed food fish in Fiji.These fish are also exported to Asia in the live fish trade and thus are susceptible to over-fishing. Commonly known as coral trout or coral groupers, these fish are sometimes also known locally as salmon cod. These tropical, shallow water, bottom living, […]

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Fiji Coral Trout

Coral trout or “donu” are highly esteemed food fish in Fiji.These fish are also exported to Asia in the live fish trade and thus are susceptible to over-fishing. Commonly known as coral trout or coral groupers, these fish are sometimes also known locally as salmon cod. These tropical, shallow water, bottom living, coral reef fish are carnivorous (eats anything that fits into its mouth, high on the food chain, and sometimes can be ciguateric). They are easily caught by hook and line and sometimes by spear gun.
Their body colour varies during their successive various life stages and it can also alter depending on the background hue. Some species have 2 colour morphs.
These fish are predators, with its prominent canine teeth and eyes set high up on the head, lay in waiting in a coral recess; they see a prey, charge out, grab the prey, and rush back to the hole. Fishers would testify to be hooked up to the substrate when the hooked “donu” gets back to its lair. At other times, they mingle with the other fish and at an unguarded moment, pounce on an unsuspecting prey.
These fish live solitarily and aggregate for spawning (when they are targeted by fishers). Some of these fish begin life as a female and then change sex later on.

FDC: Variola albimarginatus (Lyretail Trout) with a cleaner wrasse Labrioides pectoralis. A symbiotic relationship exists whereby the wrasse cleans parasites from the mouth/gill region of the coral trout. The wrasse gains nutrition whilst the coral trout patiently and willingly gets the parasites removed.

Variola louti.

Known as the Coronation Trout. Very distinctive with its lunar shape tail edged by the bright yellow margin. Feeds primarily on fish and found down to 100 meters. Has an Indo-Pacific distribution.


Known as Roving Coral Trout. 2 subspecies. Uncommon. Feeds on other fish. Generally red with blue spots. Found from the Red Sea to Fiji.

Plectropomus areolatus.

Known as the Squaretail Coral Trout. Feeds on fish. Generally grey with 4 saddles covered with ringed blue spots. Found from the Red Sea to Samoa.

Ectropomus laevis.

Known as the Chinese Footballer or the Blacksaddled Coral Trout. There are 2 colour morphs.The lighter phase is shown on the stamp. The dark phase being brown to nearly black with body bars. Small blue dots present on head and body with the edge of fins dark brown.The juvenile colour phase mimics the soft nose pufferfish (Canthigaster volenti).

Freshwater Gobies of Fiji

Freshwater streams and rivers within Fiji and the wider Indo-Pacific are inhabited by the agile and often beautiful fishes from the family Gobiidae. There are more different species of gobies in the world than any other vertebrate (animals with a backbone). Fiji is no exception with gobies representing the most numerous fish species in both freshwater and marine environments.

The four species depicted in this series of stamps are members of a single subfamily called Sicydiinae which should be highlighted in the Indo-Pacific as a flagship group of high potential for use in integrated catchment and river basin-level conservation and management as they: 1, use the entire catchment from headwaters to near-shore marine habitats as part of a specialized amphidromous life cycle; 2, contribute the most to the diversity of fish communities in insular systems of the region, including the highest levels of endemism and 3, are highly threatened due to the complex nature of their lifecycle and apparent sensitivity to hydrological regime change. This group exhibit an amphidromous life cycle, which is a specialized adaptation to the extreme climatic and hydrological variation of tropical island systems.

The cycle consists of spawning in freshwater, free embryos drifting downstream to the sea where they will remain during a planktonic phase before returning to rivers to grow and reproduce. As the larvae return to freshwater, often in mass migrations after heavy rainfall, local human populations have developed a culture of harvesting the larvae in huge numbers as an important source of protein. In Fiji these larval fishes are known as cigana but may well be known as other names in different Fijian dialects. This practice of larval harvest is widespread in the Indo-Pacific and is certainly unsustainable given burgeoning human populations and the complexity of the life cycle. It is this movement from ocean to rivers that is the key link in completing the amphidromous life cycle and crucial to maintaining the ecological integrity of insular freshwaters. These stamps aim to assist in highlighting this group for the Fiji Islands by providing awareness of their existence and threatened freshwater environment.

First day cover envelope – Awaous ocellaris (Broussonet, 1782) – This species is not of the subfamily Sicydiinae but is a very common inhabitant of Fiji’s freshwater streams and also has an amphidromous life cycle. It is usually found on fine gravel bottoms from estuaries to fresh water of rivers. It ranges throughout Asia from India to the Philippines and north to Japan and through Oceania including Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. It will reach a maximum size of about 13 cm.

Sicyopterus lagocephalus (Pallas 1770) – This species is known from the Comoro Islands, Mascarene Islands, Sri Lanka and western Indonesia in the Indian Ocean, and from Indonesia to the Society Islands and Japan to Australia, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and now Fiji in the Pacific. It is the most widely distributed of all Sicydiinae and may have the broadest natural distribution of any freshwater fish in the world. Within Fiji, this species has been found on all of the high islands and up to the highest elevations (up to 1200 m) where it is usually numerically dominant and often one of the only inhabitants along with freshwater eels. It is almost always found in moderate flowing to very swift clear streams with boulder-strewn bottoms often also with smaller gravel, sand and minimal silt. This species appears the most tolerant to a range of water qualities and is also the widest ranging of Fijian Sicydiinae. It will reach a maximum size of about 13 cm.

Stiphodon rutilaureus – Melanesian species ranging from the northern slopes of New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and now eastward to Fiji. It is usually found in swift, clear streams over rocky bottoms. In Fiji this species exists in clear streams on all of the high islands. This species is relatively small and tends to stick to the gravel feeding primarily on algae and reaching a maximum size of around 3 cm.

Sicyopus zosterophorum (Bleeker, 1857) – This species is known from Nias island, Indonesia, off the west coast of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean to southern Japan, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. The easternmost limit of the species is apparently the Republic of Fiji in which this species has been seen on all of the largest islands including Vanua Levu, Viti Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu. Sicyopuszosterophorum is most commonly found in fast moving, high gradient streams with rocky and boulder substrate. A few specimens were examined for gut contents revealing a carnivorous diet of aquatic insects and crustaceans. In captivity thisspecies will only feed on live prey and will not take vegetable matter. This species is relatively uncommon in Fijian streams and tends to only be found in clear, relatively unpolluted waterways. This species reaches a maximum
size of about 5 cm.

Stiphodon sp. – This is a beautiful new species of goby discovered in Fiji by biologists from Wetlands International-Oceania and University of the South Pacific in 2003. It was first found in Savura Creek near Suva but has since been collected on all the largest islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni, and Kadavu. This species is only known from the Republic of Fiji where it is relatively common in swift, clear streams over rocky bottoms. This species reaches a maximum size of around 4 cm Stamp 


Tropical coral reefs contain the colorful and often aggressively territorial anemonefishes of the genera. Amphiprion an Premnas. Anemonefishes are part of a large family of reef fishes called Damselfishes (Pomacentridae) and belong to one of four subfamilies (Amphiprioninae). These fishes are unique in that they live among the tentacles of sea anemones without being stung. They have a mutually beneficial relationship with the sea anemone known as symbiosis. The fishes gain protection from the anemone by living within the tentacles that will sting most other types of organism coming in contact with them. In return, the fishes will protect their host from other fishes trying to eat the anemone (usually Butterflyflishes) and the anemone can also consume waste products from the fishes. Often the anemone will be inhabited by a breeding pair of a male and female and several juveniles that are neither male nor female. Anemonefishes will begin their mature life as males and have the ability to change into a female. If the breeding adult female is removed (e.g. eaten by a predator) then the partner male will change into the breeding female and dominant juvenile will turn into a male.

Eggs laid often under the edge of the anemone on the coral substrate and guarded vigorously by the male. Nest guarding males are extremely aggressive and will frequently attack much larger fishes and in some case may even chase the female away! Even SCUBA divers can sometimes be nipped by the males. Anemonefishes are among the more popular aquarium fishes as they are brightly coloured, easily cared for. Fiji reefs contain four confirmed species of Anemonefishes all from the genus Amphiprion that are also popular in the aquarium trade. The confirmed species of anemonefishes occurring in Fiji waters are Amphiprion Chrysopterus, A. melanopus, A. periderion and A. sandracinos. While economically these fishes may play only a small role in the country, they are part of the food chain of the reef, providing a link to a larger, more commercially targeted fishes.

Premnas Biaculeatus (Bloch, 1790) – Spinecheek anemonefish

This species is found mainly in protected coastal waters and lagoons of the Indo-West Pacific in about 1-6 m of water. This species is listed in the global database Fish base as occurring in Fiji but this appears unlikely as its presence cannot be confirmed by scientists or aquarium collectors. It appears that the easternmost limit of this species is Vanuatu. It is distinguished by a large spine on its cheek that extends across the head bar. The juveniles and males are bright red and the large females become maroon to nearly black. Usually found in pairs in which the female is much larger than the male. This species is usually associated with the anemone Entacmaea quadricolor and feeds primarily in zooplankton and benthic algae. Maximum size is about 13 cm.

Amphiprion perideraion Bleeker, 1855 – Pink anemonefish

Usually found mainly in lagoons and seaward reefs of the Western Pacific in about 3 – 20 m of water. This species does occur in Fiji. It is usually pinkish to orange in coloration with transparent fins, one white stripe following the dorsal contour from the snout to the caudal fin and one vertical white stripe between the head and trunk. The primary food items are benthic algae, zoobenthos and zooplankton. This species is usually found inhabiting the anemone Heteractis crispa, Macrodactyla dorennsis and Stichodactlya gigantea. Maximum length for this species is about 10cm.

Amphiprion chrysopterus Cuvier, 1830 – Orangefin anemonefish

This species is usually found in passages and outer reef slopes of the Pacific Ocean from 1 – 30 m depth. This species is found in Fiji. It is characterized by a short and deep body with a small head, generally yellow on the body edges, yellow-brown to dark brown in the sides, with two vertical white or blue vertical stripes, the first behind the eye and the second before the anus. Fins are generally orange to yellow except for the tail, which is usually white. This species feeds mainly on planktonic copepods, algae, echiuroid and sipunculoid worms and pelagic tunicates. it is symbiotic with the anemones Entacmaea quadricolor. Heteractis aurora, Heteractis crispa, Heteractis magnifica, Stichodactyla haddoni and Sichodactyla mertensil. Maximum length for this species is about 15 cm.

Amphiprion frenatus Brevoort, 1856 – Tomato clownfish

This species is usually found on the reefs of sheltered lagoons and embayments in about 1 – 20 m of water and is listed as occurring in the Western Pacific. Its occurrence in Fiji is unconfirmed and probably unlikely. Aquarium collectors have listed this species from Fiji and it has been listed in many visual census inventories however the species is most likely being confused with the unusual color form of A. melanopus that is unique to Fiji , Tonga and Samoa and looks very similar to A. frenatus. This coloration is overall orange with a black edged white bar just behind the head. This species has been found to feed mainly on filamentous algae and zooplankton. It is usually symbiotic with the anemone Entacmaea quadricolor and has a maximum size of about 14 cm.


Eels are scaleless fish shaped like snakes, with long dorsal and anal fins that extend onto the tail. Freshwater eels belong mostly to the family Anguillidae, and go down to the sea to breed, returning as smaller versions known as ‘elvers’ that swim against currents and up waterfalls to return to their natural habitats.They are common in all streams and rivers in Fiji, and form an important component of the diet in some places, especially the highlands of the two main islands,Vitilevu andVanualevu.Although their flesh is tasty, they are rarely found in markets, and never in restaurants or hotels.

The people of Korolevu, on the upper Sigatoka River towards the centre of the main island of Vitilevu, keep and feed large eels in a pond near the village, and claim to be able to call them, while people of Lovoni, in the centre of the island of Ovalau, also feed tame eels in the river that flows through the village. In the chiefly village of Mabula on Cicia in northern Lau, the migration of freshwater eels to spawn is a highly anticipated annual event, occurring in the rainy season around March.

Moray eels lack pectoral fins and usually inhabit coral reefs and lagoons. Despite their reputation for being ferocious, they are much sought after by Fijians because of their tastiness, being nicknamed ‘vuaka ni waitui’ (pork of the sea). Some species can be poisonous, notably the dabea (Gymnothorax javankus) and a number of deaths have occurred recently in Fiji from moray eel poisoning.There is one freshwater moray eel, which is featured this set.

The most common generic name for freshwater eels in Fiji is tuna or, in parts of Eastern Fiji, its variant duna.The name rewai is also fairly widespread in parts of Eastern Fiji, including Rewa and the Muala group of western Lau.A common expression originating from Rewa is vakavuti ma rewed, literally ‘when eels have hair’, meaning never – rather like the English ‘when pigs fly’ or ‘when hell freezes over’.

In Fiji, as in many other Pacific islands, particularly in Polynesia, an ancient legend is told of a gigantic eel that was raised by a loving family in a pool near their house, but turned vicious and threatened to eat the family members, or ravished the daughter. The father eventually chopped its head off, and buried it just outside their house. (In some versions, the eel offered itself up to be killed). From this grave grew the first ever coconut tree. In memory of its origin, the coconut shell still displays the eyes and mouth of the eel.

A fascinating eel is the Soya, believed to be found only in the lake of Vuaqava island, near Kabara in Southern Lau. It is semi that if you whisper it will hear you and hide, but if you make a lot of

noise it will not hear you, and be easy to catch. Unfortunately, no specimen has yet been obtained to determine its scientific identity.

Another notable eel, called tautaubale (the walker) or balebalekoro (hill-crosser), among many other names, is dark with large pectoral fins and leaves freshwater to slither over hills and valleys for many miles, by dint of releasing small quantities of vvater from its mouth as it goes to keep its stomach slippery.

There are a number of traditional ways of catching eels. One is simply to feel with the hand in the mud where one is suspected to be hiding – known as buburu – or in a cave or under an overhang (taraduna). If the cave is particularly deep, a stick known as an Mesa is inserted to force the eel from its hiding place. Eels are also frequently caught in nets, weirs, and bamboo fish-traps (vuvu).The people of Rewa and Noco specialise in catching eels with a lemonthorn hook line left overnight with a mangrove crab as bait, known as a mated.

There are believed to be at

O. least six freshwater eels in Faq.The following more common eels are featured in this set.

badamu Anguilla obscura.This is the most common eel, long and slender and grey with a reddish tinge (hence the name, dame meaning ‘reddish’), found from mangrove swamps to marshland, lakes and the smallest streams.

dlria Anguilla marmorata. This is a large, full-bodied and highly esteemed freshwater eel with many small black, white and yellow spots giving its body a mottled appearance – indeed its main Fijian name means ‘the spotted one’. It is commonly found under rocks in larger rivers, and is less aggressive than the badamu.

dadarikai Gymnothorax polyuranodon. This common black and white striped moray eel is the only freshwater species found in Fiji, frequenting the rocks of faster-flowing streams. Unlike other moray eels, it is not particularly esteemed as food by Fijian and is indeed taboo in some places, or simply not eaten. Like all eels, it can deliver a vicious bite, especially during the season when reeds flower (around February to April).

Boxer-Shrimp-Stenopus-tenuirostrisCoral Reef Shrimps of Fiji
Peacock-Mantis-Shrimp-Odontodactylus-scyllarus-Coral Reef Shrimps of Fiji
Striped-Bumblebee-Shrimp-Gnathophyllum-americanumCoral Reef Shrimps of FijiCoral Reef Shrimps of Fiji
White-spotted-Anemone-Shrimp-Periclimenes-brevicarpalisCoral Reef Shrimps of Fiji
Mangrove-Jack-Lutjanus-argentimaculatusFreshwater Fish
Rock-Flagtail-Kuhlia-rupestris-Freshwater Fish
Dualspot-Goby-Redigobius-spFreshwater Fish
Snakehead-Gudgeon-Giurus-margaritaceus-Freshwater Fish
Orange-Spotted-Therapon-Perch-Mesopristes-kneriFreshwater Fish
Spotted-Scat-Scatophagus-argus-Freshwater Fish
Silverstripe-Mudskipper-Periophthalmus-argentilineatusFreshwater Fish
Spotted-Flagtail-Kuhlia-marginatus-Freshwater Fish
Common-Dolphinfish-Coryphaena-hippurusGame Fish
Wahoo-Acanthocybium-solandriGame Fish
Pacific-Blue-Marlin-Makaira-nigricansGame Fish
Yellow-Fin-Tuna-Thunnus-albacaresGame Fish
Fairy-Cod-or-Lunar-tailed-Cod-Variola-loutiShallow Water Marine Fishes
Peacock-Rock-Cod-Cephalopholis-argusShallow Water Marine Fishes
Horned-Squirrel-Fish-Sargocentron-cornutumShallow Water Marine Fishes
Yellow-banded-Goatfish-Upeneus-vittatusShallow Water Marine Fishes
Dusky-Anemonefish-Amphiprion-melanopus-Clown Fish
Pink-Anemonefish-Amphiprion-perideraionClown Fish
Orange-fin-Anemonefish-Amphiprion-chrysopterusClown Fish
Spine-cheek-Anemonefish-Premnas-biaculeatusClown Fish
Beli—Freshwater-Goby-Sicyopterus-lagocephalusBeli Fish
Beli—Freshwater-Goby-Stiphodon-rutilaureusBeli Fish
Beli—Freshwater-Goby-Sicyopus-zosterophorumBeli Fish
Beli—Freshwater-Goby-Stiphodon-spBeli Fish
Fresh-Water-Eel-Anguilla-marmorataFiji’s Duna (Freshwater Eels)
Fresh-Water-Eel-Gymnothorax-polyuranodonFiji’s Duna (Freshwater Eels)
Fresh-Water-Eel-Anguilla-obscuraFiji’s Duna (Freshwater Eels)
Brown Marbled Grouper – Epinephelus fuscoguttatusGroupers
Leopard Coral Grouper – Plectropomus leopardusGroupers
Camouflage Grouper – Epinephelus polyphekadionGroupers
Squaretail Coral Grouper – Plectropomus areolatusGroupers
Chinese-Footballer-Plectropomus-laevisCoral Trout
Roving-Coral-Trout-Plectropomus-pessuliferusCoral Trout
Coronation-Trout-Variola-loutiCoral Trout
Squaretail-Coral-Trout-Plectropomus-areolatusCoral Trout
Clown Triggerfish Balistoides conspicillumFiji Trigger Fish
Yellow-spotted-Triggerfish-Pseudobalistes-fuscus-Fiji Trigger Fish
White-banded-Triggerfish-Rhinecanthus-aculeatus-Fiji Trigger Fish
Albacore-Tuna-Thunnus-alalungaFiji’s Tuna – Today and for the Future
Bigeye-Tuna-Thunnus-obesusFiji’s Tuna – Today and for the Future
Skipjack-Tuna-Katsuwonus-pelamisFiji’s Tuna – Today and for the Future
Yellowfin-Tuna–Thunnus-albacaresFiji’s Tuna – Today and for the Future
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