The squirrel fish – Holocentridae – is a family of fish in the order Beryciformes that have very large eyes and a pronounced rear dorsal fin. The size of most of these fish are typically between 2 and 7 inches in length, and their vivid colors are typical to all species. A total of 150 species of squirrelfish are currently known to scientists, most of them being nocturnal which makes them difficult to find unless you are an experienced diver.
When it comes to breeding and mating, both the squirrel fish and the soldierfish, which belong to the same order, have similar practices. In the wild, these fish are much less careful than most varieties of reef fish. Unlike gobies, they release their eggs in the open ocean, and their mating process is much less complex. The fish are known to leave their young to grow and develop in their own way once they hatch without guarding them.
While there is very little difference between soldierfish and squirrel fish, Holocentridae do differ when it comes to food intake, depending on the species. Soldierfish normally feed on zooplankton, while the diet of most squirrelfish tends to be more diverse. Some members of the Holocentrinae family are venomous, and can give their prey painful wounds. They may feed on a variety of benthic invertebrates and smaller fishes. The big eyed squirrelfish is a good example, feeding mainly on shrimp and sand-dwelling worms. Despite being carnivorous, most squirrelfish maintain a good overall relationship with species of a similar size and ability to their own.
Squirrelfish distribution is largely worldwide, although there are some areas where you can expect to find them more frequently. By nature, the squirrelfish prefers warmer waters, and individual species may be found only in specific areas. About 19 species are found west of the southern tip of India, in the Indian Ocean. Some species are more prevalent than others; a good example is the Longspine Squirrelfish, which can be found both in the North Indies and the coast of the United States. Some subspecies are even located in Brazil and alongside other South American coastlines. With the preference for warm waters filled with rock, rich coral and plenty of tiny invertebrates that can serve as food to the squirrel fish, Holocentridae species may also be found in areas like Hawaii, Bermuda and North of Australia.