school of fish in background
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Below are video clips that show off some of the colorful, unusual, and impressive fish of the sanctuary.

To view a video, simply click on the play button (>) in the video controller at the bottom of the window. A brief description of each video is provided below the window.



The balloonfish, a type of porcupinefish, can inflate its body as a defense against predators. Once inflated, the spines that cover its body stand upright making it too big and spiny to swallow.

Here you see a balloonfish with spines flat against its body, swimming through a "snowstorm" of coral spawn at night.

Video Length: 0:33

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson

Fish of the Flower Garden and Stetson Banks


The fish species found at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are a subset of those you would find elsewhere in the Caribbean. Although there are fewer species of fish represented in the sanctuary, it is still a balanced and healthy ecosystem.

This video provides a sampling of various species seen in the sanctuary:

Schooling jacks; a resting queen parrotfish; a juvenile jack hovering close to a coral head; a barracuda swimming a couple of feet above the bottom; a honeycomb cowfish; a large grouper; a yellowhead jawfish hovering above its den in the sand; two seaweed blennies in a standoff on top of a sponge; a seaweed blenny tucked down in the hole of a sponge; a golden smooth trunkfish swimming just above the bottom; a smooth trunkfish spitting streams of water at the bottom to uncover food; a scrawled filefish swimming nose down near the reef; a marbled grouper swimming in place just above the reef with a scrawled filefish on either side; a yellowmouth grouper staring directly at the camera; a tiger grouper swimming over the reef; a creole wrasse resting under a ledge; and, a small tiger grouper and a queen parrotfish tucked into a crevice in the reef.

Video Length: 2:23

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson, Schmahl, DeBose

Invasive Lionfish Survey (Pterois sp.)

Video surveys are an important part of long-term monitoring efforts at East and West Flower Garden Bank. This video, starting from the end of a transect tape (seen laying on the bottom), is a general survey of the reef and all of the lionfish residing there. How many can you count?

Video Length: 0:51

Credit: FGBNMS/Embesi

Invasive Lionfish Talk (Pterois sp.)

This discussion was part of a presentation on invasive species that was given by Dr. Michelle Johnston, a sanctuary researcher, during the sanctuary's Seaside Chat series in 2012.

One of the invasive species that I'd like to spend time on tonight is the invasive lionfish. I don't know how many of you know about the lionfish problems that we're starting to see in the Gulf, but they're here, they're coming, and it's kind of scary.

Lionfish are very popular in the aquarium trade because they're beautiful fish. I mean, look at them. They have these beautiful stripes, these long spines. They get the name lionfish because when they flair their fins, it actually looks like they have a lion's mane.

Again, these are native to the Pacific Ocean. But, it was thought that these were released in the late '80s off the coast of Florida. The rumor is there was a hurricane, the hurricane damaged one of the aquariums in Florida and the species of fish got out. Now whether that's true or not, this release from an aquarium, we don't know. But, they started establishing themselves on the east coast, of the Atlantic, gradually came down to the Caribbean, made their way to the Florida Keys, and have now hopped over to the Gulf.

The bad news about these guys is that they...basically a summary of all the bad things about that they inhabit all marine types and depths, so they're not picky. They'll live in shallow water, they'll live in water 500 feet deep, they really don't care.

They're sexually mature in less than one year, and once they're mature they reproduce every 3-4 days. So, they grow fast and they're producing a lot of babies. They can reach densities of greater than 200 adults per acre and that's kind of the norm once they get established. There's actually been sightings in the Carolinas, off Cape Hatteras, where they've seen over a 1,000 adults per acre at about 200 feet depth.

So, they like to hang out together, they like to reproduce, and they're also venomous. It's like a triple threat. It just keeps getting worse. They're venomous fish and may also carry a toxin called ciguatera, and I'll talk about that a little bit later [ciguatera discussion is not part of this video segment].

They're also opportunistic predators, so essentially, you put something in front of them, they'll eat it. They're not picky. A lot of times they're eating ecologically, recreationally, and commercially important fish species. So they're eating the little fish that the fishermen like to fish and when they eat the little fish, the little fish aren't growing up to be big fish, and that creates problems.

They're also causing phase shifts on coral reefs. They're eating the little fish that eat the algae and the little fish aren't there to kind of "mow the lawn," so to speak. The reefs are getting dominated by algae and that creates a lot of problems.

Also, they're competing, obviously, with our native fish species for food. They're competing with the snapper and the grouper. They're eating the fish that the snapper and grouper would eat. They, again, have a voracious appetite so they're eating a lot of fish and there's not really anything in this area that's known to eat lionfish.

So, they're venomous, they reproduce, they eat a lot, and nothing is eating them.

Video Length: 3:21

Credit: FGBNMS/Drinnen

Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)


The queen angelfish is a beautiful, disk-shaped reef fish. It has a dark blue spot on the forehead that is speckled with bright blue spots and surrounded by a bright blue ring. This is the queen's "crown." Like all angelfish, it has a sharp spine at the lower edge of each gill cover.

This queen angel is seen at Stetson Bank where it is moving among rocks covered in coralline algae.

Video Length: 0:28

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson

Winter Visitors to Stetson Bank - Drop Camera View


This footage was obtained by placing a camera on the pinnacles at Stetson Bank in February 2001. The drop camera system is used to monitor fish populations without the interference of divers being present. The camera is placed on the seafloor to continuously film for at least an hour.

This video is a compilation of clips from one hour of filming:

A sailfin blenny bravely displays his sail in hopes of attractng a mate, but quickly retreats into a nearby hole as larger fish approach.

Large schools of Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cero, blue runners, and bonita swim in the open waters above. Intermingled in the dense fish parade are scalloped hammerhead sharks, sandbar sharks, and other carcharhinid sharks, as well as large amberjack.

In the foreground, reef-dwelling fish such as smooth trunkfish, french angelfish, scamp (a type of grouper), and blue angelfish, stay close to the sea floor.

Video Length: 1:41

Credit: NOAA Fisheries-Pascagoula

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Juvenile blue tang (fish).  Bright yellow body with irridescent blue marking around eye and at top edge of dorsal fin.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves