Hawaiian Marine Communities
Hawaii's abundance of sea life is due in large part to its amazing
diversity of marine habitats. This gallery exhibits several of these areas
ranging from Oahu's surf-scoured coastlines of Koko Head, to the gentle waves and
currents of Kaneohe Bay where delicate branching and plate-forming corals dominate, to the deep reefs of Lanai and finally to the unspoiled ancient reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The Koko Head exhibit has a surge device that creates a turbulent swirling mix of bubbles and water approximately every 45 seconds. This replicates the crashing waves on exposed shorelines in the high energy surge zone. The animals seen here can be found in the surf swept shorelines of Hawaii.
Many fishes start their life in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu's windward coast. Calm waters in the protected lagoon provide an ideal place for many fishes to find a home, feed, and reproduce. Patch reefs here are festooned with thickets of delicate lace corals, finger corals, and rice corals. Montipora dilitata is an extremely rare coral species, existing only a few places in the wild. The Waikiki Aquarium is a genetic and specimen repository for this species of coral. A few colonies of this rare species can be seen in this exhibit.
The youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii or the Big Island as it is often called, is home to not only an active volcano, but also a rich fringing reef along the Kona coast. These young reefs contain a unique richness of marine life where you can frequently see the longnose butterflyfish which is distinguished by being the first Hawaiian fish species scientifically described, and having the longest Hawaiian fish name "lau-wiliwili-nukunuku-'oi'oi", which can be seen in the Kona Coast exhibit.
Deep beneath the sun-lit shorelines, a fascinating world exists. Along the deeper water reef slopes wire corals and yellow anthias grow and thrive, unknown and unseen by the majority of people. The Deep Reefs of Lanai exhibit displays these and many other extremely rare species of fish and invertebrates that are seldom seen above one hundred feet of depth.
While most people are familiar with the main Hawaiian Islands, the entire archipelago extends 1,200 miles (1,930 km) to the Northwest of the main island chain. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands represent one of the most pristine and ancient reef areas remaining in the world. Recently awarded U.S. National Monument status, these reefs contain several unique species of fish and invertebrates found nowhere else in the world. Amongst these is the beautiful masked angelfish; the Waikiki Aquarium is the only aquarium in the world to display this fish where it can be seen in the Ancient Reefs exhibit, and is the only place in the world to have successfully bred and raised this species.