Moorish Idol

The Moorish idol, also known as the Zanclus cornutus, is a species of marine fish belonging to the family Zanclidae. These fish should be best left in the wild as the success rate in keeping them alive in captivity is extremely low for the long-term. They are popular fish due to their unique and majestic appearance. The general public got to know this fish through the character named Gill in the movie Finding Nemo. The name Moorish idol is a reference to the Moors of North Africa, who believed the fish could bring happiness to those who encounter it in the wild. In this article, we will explore the characteristics and care of this beautiful fish.


The Moorish idol is a tall, compressed fish with a long, sickle-shaped dorsal fin and a small mouth. Its body is white and yellow with black stripes and a black mask around its eyes. It has a long, filamentous dorsal fin which can grow to an impressive length. This fish can grow up to 23 cm (9 inches) in length.


Moorish idols are found in the Indo-Pacific, ranging from the eastern coast of Africa to the Hawaiian Islands. They inhabit coral reefs and are often found in pairs or small groups.


In the wild, Moorish idols are social fish and are often found in pairs or small groups. They are known to be territorial and can be aggressive towards other fish. In captivity, they may become aggressive towards other fish, especially if they are not provided with enough space.


Moorish idols are omnivorous and feed on a variety of foods in the wild, including sponges, tunicates, and algae. In captivity, they should be fed a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter. Some suitable foods include brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, krill, spirulina, and algae-based foods. Because their metabolism is fast they need to be fed multiple times a day.

Reproduction and lifespan

There are no reports of successful breeding in captivity. The lifespan of a Moorish idol in the wild is around 5-7 years. In captivity, they are notoriously known as one of the most difficult species to keep alive for a longer period of time. They are extremely finicking eaters and need sponge in their diet.

Keeping the Moorish Idol at home

The Moorish idol is not recommended in the aquarium hobby due to its demanding care requirements. They require a large aquarium of at least 473 liters (125 gallons) with plenty of swimming space and hiding places. The aquarium should have live rock to help maintain water quality and provide hiding places for the fish. The ideal water temperature is between 22-26°C (72-78 °F) and the pH should be between 8.1-8.4. The specific gravity should be between 1.020-1.025. They are finicky eaters that need multiple feedings a day. Sponge is a big part of their diet.


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