Found throughout the Indo-Pacific from East Africa to Tonga, the spectacled filefish favours reefs up to 43 metres deep. Aliwal Shoal’s healthy coral cover provides
the ideal habitat for this species, whilst also marking the southern boundary of its range. Like all filefish, the spectacled filefish has a distinctive diamond-shaped body. It is mottled yellow-brown in colour, and has a diagnostic white vertical band at the point where its tail fin joins its body. It is a solitary species, and despite being considered abundant throughout its range, is often difficult to spot due to its naturally shy nature. The spectacled filefish is collected for the aquarium trade in some parts of its range, but is nevertheless classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Also known as the honeycomb leatherjacket or wire-net filefish, the honeycomb filefish is considered widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific – from the Red Sea to South
Africa and as far east as Australia and Japan. It prefers reefs shallower than 20 metres, and its colouring can vary greatly from mottled grey to dark brown. This species is characterised by a small white spot at the base of its second dorsal fin. It grows up to 25 centimetres in length, but reaches sexual maturity at 16 centimetres. Young honeycomb filefish often seek protection from floating objects, while adults are commonly associated with rafts of Sargassum seaweed. Sources disagree as to the abundance of this species, although its secretive nature undoubtedly contributes to the rarity of sightings.
Little is known about the modest filefish, due to the fact that it is one of the most deep-dwelling of all filefish species. Believed to be patchily distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific, it favours reefs between 73 and 200 metres deep, and is therefore very rarely seen by
recreational divers. Most of what we know about this species is gleaned from specimens reported as by-catch by deep-trawling fishing boats. Despite the frequency with which the modest filefish is caught accidentally, it is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It is grey-brown or purple-brown in colour, and reaches a maximum length of 30 centimetres (although an average length of 25 centimetres is more common). It is not native to South Africa but has been spotted as far south as Algoa Bay.
The scrawled filefish is found around the world in tropical and temperate waters, including in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific oceans. Its wide range results in this species having many different common names, from scribbled filefish to broom-tail filefish or tobaccofish.
It is considered common, and is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The scrawled filefish is large, with a maximum length of up to 120 centimetres (although most individuals will only reach half that length). It is tan in colour with electric blue lines and spots, and is found at depths of up to 120 metres. The scrawled filefish favours seaward drop-offs and deep slopes, and is usually solitary. Juvenile fish spend many months drifting in open ocean currents under the protection of large rafts of weed.