Moorish Idols

© Johan Boshoff

Common Family Name

Moorish idol


Crowned scythe

Scientific Name



Up to 25 cm, average 20 cm.


Compressed, disk-shaped body. Small fins with dorsal spines extending into a whip-like filament called the philomantis extension. Long, tubular snout with terminal mouth and bristle-like teeth. Small horn-like structure over the eyes. Contrasting bands of white, black and yellow.

General Info

Zanclidae family consists of 1 genus and a single species. Sometimes confused with the schooling Coachman. Found close to coral reefs. The sickle-like dorsal fin shortens with age. Change colour to drab colouration at night when they rest. Usually seen alone or in pairs over the reef. They mate for life. Pelagic spawners.


Feeds on sponges, tunicates and benthic invertebrates.


Occurs in all temperate and tropical oceans of the world.

© Johan Boshoff