tropical fish of East africa

East Africa Diving

The Indian Ocean is filled with unspoilt reefs and abundant sea-life. Divers from all over the world visit Zanzibar year after year to enjoy the tropical water and vibrantly colourful world underwater world of this East African island. Dive sites around Zanzibar have abundant tropical fish and creatures that have never disappointed those that come to dive or snorkel East Africa.

There are many to mention, but here are a few:

Green sea turtle

Green Sea turtles are beautiful creatures and classified as endangered, but can still be seen around Zanzibar. Turtles are herbivores and can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) and weigh more than 700 pounds (300 kgs), making them one of the largest sea turtles and herbivores. They enjoy a sunbathe on the beach every now and then and also lay their eggs on the beach in nests

In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community.

Fun fact:

You might think their name is from the colour of their shell, but in fact it comes from the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat. 

Green Sea turtles (the inspiration of our logo too!)
Green Sea turtles (the inspiration of our logo too!)

Sea horses

Divers can spot seahorses mainly in shallow tropical and temperate water where they can be found in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds and coral reefs. These delicate beings are on the endangered list too and are often dried and sold as delicacies in the East. 

Fun fact: the males carry unborn young and seahorses mate for life. 

Sea horse

Sea stars (also called Seafish although they are not fish)

Sea stars are invertebrates. They can get up to 11 pounds (5 kgs!) and sizes average between 4.7 and 9.4 inches (12 cm to just under 24 cm) Some live up to an age of 35 years.

They search for food using their light-sensitive eyespots on the tips of the arms. They mostly feed on mollusks such as clams, oysters, and snails and eat by attaching to the prey before extending their stomach out through the mouth. Enzymes do the rest of the work, breaking the food down to digest.

Sea stars have a wide variety of habit and can be found on rocks, in tidal pools, grassy shores, on the beach and around coral reefs.


Bengal snapper

Found on their own or in schools around coral heads and rocky outcrops, they feed on crustaceans and small fish. They are pretty wide spread and can be found in moderate depths with some living much deeper (range of anything between 5-30 m.

They hunt at night (nocturnal predators) and eat mainly fish, but will eat crustaceans, gastropods and cephalopods.Their average size is around 30 cm. 

Bengal snappers

Lion Fish

Lionfish is also called zebrafish, firefish, turkeyfish, tastyfish or butterfly-cod, recognised and characterized by the red, white, creamy, or black bands stripes and fan-like pectoral  fins. They are venomous spiky fin rays.

Lionfish are active hunters. They sometimes retreat to crevices between rocks and corals, but can be seen moving about both alone or in small groups. They ambush their prey by using their outstretched, fan-like pectoral fins and slowly “corner” them.

An adult lionfish can grow as large as 18 inches, while juveniles may be as small as 1 inch or less.

Fun fact:

Because lionfish are venomous, not poisonous, there is no harm in eating the lionfish meat. Once you dispose of the spines, there is no risk.

Lion Fish
Lion Fish

Other sea life worth a mention (and covered in another blog):

Bottlenose dolphin


Morey Eel


Harlequin Shrimp

Mantis Shrimp

Sea cucumber

Red Snapper

Spotted Unicorn Fish

Striped Renora

Bicolour puller

Redtooth Triggerfish


Emperor Angelfish

Brommarbled Grouper

Giant Triggerfish


Blue spotted Ray

More underwater sea life featured here.

The best way to experience the reefs around Zanzibar is to book a dive or snorkel experience with East Africa Diving.

East Africa Diving can assist with any of the tour or outing bookings and are happy to assist with recommendations.

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