Coral Hawkfish: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Coral Hawkfish Fact File

Also popularly known as the sharp-headed hawkfish, pixy hawkfish or spotted hawkfish, the coral hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus) is a flamboyant marine fish with some unique characteristics. Do you know why they are called hawkfish? The otherwise shy fish of sea perches on the topmost points of the reef instantaneously dart and catch its prey just like a ferocious hawk. They love to indulge in a diet of crab and shrimp. Nevertheless, the species is popularly fished mainly for the aquarium trade and this has potentially contributed to its diminishing population.

A total of 34 species and nine genera of hawkfishes have been identified to date. If you're looking for a giant hawkfish or even a coral hawkfish, the Galapagos Islands would be the perfect place to go deep-sea diving or snorkeling. This saltwater species tends to avoid freshwater and can be easily found in shallow waters.

For more relatable content, check out these stingray facts and ray facts for kids.

Coral Hawkfish

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small fish, crustaceans, and planktons

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?


How long are they?

Up to 3.9 in (10 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Whitish-blue with red spots

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Humans and predators

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Coastal lagoons and tropical reefs


Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean





Scientific Name

Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus





Coral Hawkfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a coral hawkfish?

A coral hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus) of the family Cirrhitidae is a fish species endemic to the tropical reefs of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Some other mesmerizing sea fishes like the Mexican hogfish, moray eel, and king angelfish are also interesting to read about.

What class of animal does a coral hawkfish belong to?

A coral hawkfish has been classified under the class Actinopterygii and Cirrhitichthys genus.

How many coral hawkfish are there in the world?

To put it in simple terms, coral hawkfishes are plentiful but accurate records of their current numbers are unavailable, therefore we do not know for sure how many coral hawkfish there are. However, the population trend has projected a steady decline perhaps due to over-exploitation as a result of uncontrolled fishing.

Where does a coral hawkfish live?

These marine water reef fish can be found throughout the globe in ample amounts. Their high commercial value due to popularity in fish trade amounts to large-scale fishing annually. Coral hawkfishes can be traced to the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans.

What is a coral hawkfish's habitat?

The habitat of Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus fish comprises coastal lagoons and tropical reefs. They can also be found in fisheries and aquariums.

Who do coral hawkfish live with?

The social behavioral pattern of hawkfishes is variable. They can live in solitude and they can also adjust living with schooling members or other aquarium fishes. However, it's preferable not to keep these hawkfishes with other fish in an aquarium tank as they easily fall prey due to a hawkfish's aggressive behavior.

How long does a coral hawkfish live?

The average lifespan of hawkfishes ranges from five to seven years but they can live to a maximum of 10 years. Their lifespan is mostly cut short due to the presence of predatory fishes along with unchecked human activities.

How do they reproduce?

Coral hawkfishes are protogynous hermaphrodites. They are born females but later develop into males. They are pelagic spawners and the eggs float in the water. Territorial males engage in protecting the harems inhabited by the females.

What is their conservation status?

According to the records of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the conservation status of the coral hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus) falls under the Least Concern category owing to its abundance within its geographical habitat. However, due to over-fishing, the population of this fish is steadily declining.

Coral Hawkfish Fun Facts

What do coral hawkfish look like?

The compressed oval-shaped body and long, pointed snout gives the Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus a distinct identification. They have a whitish-blue body with red spots all over. Although they possess a small body, they have strong jaws and serrated teeth suited to chew flesh.

Coral hawkfish facts are all about this favorite aquarium fish species.

How cute are they?

Unlike the monkfish that come with a not-too-pleasing appearance, hawkfishes are extremely appealing to the senses due to their bright blue bodies. This is why they are used to brighten up aquariums.

How do they communicate?

Like all other fishes, hawkfishes generally interact through motions and gestures.

How big is a coral hawkfish?

With a comparatively smaller body size, this fish can measure up to 3.9 in (10 cm) in length. The average length is about 3 in (8 cm). Red-spotted hawkfishes have a similar size and grow up to a length of 3.7 in (9.5 cm). They are quite minuscule when compared with giant hawkfishes with an approximate length of 24 in (60 cm).

How fast can a coral hawkfish swim?

The speed range of Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus has not yet been evaluated but they are capable of quick reflexes due to their small size. The lowest depth that they have been found at is 131 ft (40 m).

How much does a coral hawkfish weigh?

There is no evidence of how much coral hawkfishes weigh on an average. It can be estimated that these fish do not weigh much due to their small size.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females have no unique attributions and are generally regarded as male and female coral hawkfish.

What would you call a baby coral hawkfish?

A baby coral hawkfish is called a fry.

What do they eat?

Carnivorous in nature, coral hawkfishes feed on a diet comprising planktons, small fish, and crustaceans. They love to indulge in a diet of crab and shrimp. Some care needs to be taken when this fish is kept in an aquarium along with crustaceans as they can gobble up any shrimp, lobster, or crab in close vicinity.

Are they aggressive?

Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus fish are considered harmless towards humans but they can be aggressive with other tank mates, resulting in violent fights.

Would they make a good pet?

Thinking of recreating a mini sea world at your home? It is known that hawkfishes are excellent as aquarium fish. However, before heading for the purchase be sure to know these crucial facts. Firstly, the minimum tank size must be 30 gal (136 l). Secondly, a pH of 8.1-8.4 has to be maintained along with a suitable water temperature. Marine saltwater fishes fail to adapt in a freshwater aquarium which implies that freshwater fishes such as goldfish and rainbow fish must not be kept together. Tank fishes must be compatible and hawkfishes go well with fishes like skate fish, hogfish, or corkwing wrasse. Corals can be added to the tank but with caution. Hawkfishes prey on small fish, crustaceans like shrimp, and plankton meaning one needs to be extra cautious of picking tankmates.

Did you know...

In 1855, Pieter Bleeker, a Dutch ichthyologist, gave the name Cirrhites oxycephalus to this species due to its longish snout. The term 'oxy' stands for 'pointed' while 'cephalus' means 'head'. The genus name has its roots in Latin and Greek. The term 'cirrus' means 'curl fringe' in Latin while 'ichthys' translates to 'fish' in Greek.

Are coral hawkfish reef safe?

Coral hawkfishes are reef-safe. In fact, they are the best suited for a reef tank or aquarium decorated with corals. If you want to add some other hawkfishes then go for the longnose hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus) or you can also add some wrasses. However, maintaining a reef tank requires a lot of care as hawkfishes rest on corals for support as they do not have a swim bladder. This might cause some serious damage to the delicate corals.

Can you eat coral hawkfish?

Coral hawkfishes are edible and can be found in several restaurants just like the delectable freshwater Swai fish. However, not many people consume hawkfishes as this fish is more popular as a household pet.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our giant grouper facts and Nassau grouper facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable grouper coloring pages.



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