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Fish You Might Encounter at Xel-Ha

Snorkeling is a fun sports a whole family can enjoy.   It could be more fun, if you know what to look for.  The followings are some of fish you might encounter during snorkeling at Xel-Ha in Cancun, Mexico.  Enjoy your snorkeling!

Barracudas are usually found in warm, tropical regions. Size varies from rather small to as large as 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters) in the great barracuda. Barracudas are primarily fish eaters of smaller fishes. While probably the meanest looking fish in the ocean with a large mouth with many sharp teeth, they are usually only curious about divers and snorkelers and are not a real threat. They will not bite you unless provoked. Remain calm and do not antagonize the fish. But, they may sometimes mistake a shiny piece of jewelery for a small fish and may grab for it. So, you’ll probably want to leave your jewelries at home.

manta ray
Photo by James Watt

Manta rays are the largest rays and are closely related to sharks. The word manta is Spanish meaning blanket, which is a word that describes the appearance of these animals very well. Mantas are distributed worldwide and generally inhabit tropical seas. In average, they are about 20 feet wide and weigh up to 3000 pounds. These harmless rays have a short tail and no stinging spine. They are graceful swimmers using their fins to propel them through the water. They have no teeth. They have few natural predators, such as the shark or killer whale.

Sergeant Major
photo by Richard Ling /CC BY 2.0

The Sergeant Major or píntano is a large, colorful damselfish. This fish gets its common name “sergeant major” from the stripes that resemble the traditional insignia of the military rank. It grows to a length of about 15 cm (6 inches). Sergeant majors are found throughout the tropical reaches of the Atlantic, including off the south coast of the United States and Central America. They are often found on coral reefs at depths of between 1 and 12 meters. They lay their eggs in patches on a firm substrate and guard them vigorously until they hatch. They are popular aquarium fish, although their aggressively territorial nature can pose problems if not closely watched.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke /CC BY 2.0

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish are referred to as surgeonfish due to the very sharp, movable spines on either side of the tail that resemble surgeons’ scalpels. Do not try to grab these little guys. Adult blue tangs are deep blue to purplish-blue with a yellow caudal spine, and reach 39 cm in length. Blue tangs are marine reef-associated, and abundant in Florida, Bahamas, and the Caribbean Sea. In coral reefs, they live in holes and crevices where they are sheltered from predators while they sleep at night. Blue tangs live singly, in pairs, or in small groups of up to 10 or 12 individuals.