Red fish is the name used for a number of fish species dwelling the world’s seas from Australia to Canada, from Trinidad and Tobago to the UK, especially in coral reef areas. The name obviously derives from the color of the species: all the fishes belonging to the category are red, pink or orange-colored. The group includes thousands of species, some of the most characteristic families being squirrelfishes, bigeyes and flame cardinalfish.
Though red fishes are an extremely diverse group, they all share the preference to live in shallow waters, mostly on and around coral reefs. Squirrelfish can be found in numerous locations, from the eastern coastline of the United States to the waters of Brazil, as well as in the West Indies and around Bermuda Islands; various species of cardinalfish can be found around Indonesia, while bigeyes are quite widespread in the Pacific region and in the Indian Ocean. Most red fish species prefer salt water, but there are some that live in brackish waters.
As their name indicates, all the species belonging to the group are red, though the intensity of their color differs from one species to the other and the hue depends on many factors such as the temperature of the water and the availability of food. Almost all red fish species are small, usually not growing larger than 20-30 cm, with only a few exceptions such as the Eastern nannygai, which grows to 40 cm, the Queen snapper, which usually reaches the same size, or the red drum, which is a real giant among red fish, able to reach the weight of over 40 kg. Most red fish species have slim bodies, relatively large mouths and large eyes to suit their nocturnal, benthic lifestyle. Some of them are uniformly colored, while others have spots or stripes on their bodies or have fins colored differently. Red fish are very diverse in terms of pattern colors as well – some of them have silver or black stripes, but green or blue accents are not uncommon either.
Most red fishes are carnivorous, feeding primarily on the small crustaceans that live in reef areas such as mollusks, shrimp and tiny crabs. Most of them are nocturnal animals, spending the day in hiding or guarding their territory and coming out to feed during the night only.
Red fishes are shy, but hardy little animals that have developed a number of techniques to protect themselves, one of the most interesting defense methods used by some of them being sound production. Longspine squirrelfish are able to produce different sounds for different situations – they have a short grunt when they are trying to defend their territory and they can also emit a long line of successive grunts, a staccato, to inform other fish about danger. Sometimes, the squirrelfish that live in the same area join forces and emit the staccato together, thus being able to scare away even larger predators, such moray eels.