Bluespine Unicorn Fish: The Beautiful Tang


It is a bit difficult to distinguish between cute and weird when it comes to bluespine unicorn fish. A bluespine unicorn fish is a marine ray-finned fish species that lives in the Indo-Pacific. You do not come across a fish that looks like this often, or even know that something that looks like this even exists. You will find a few interesting things about this unique marine fish, feel free to check them out.


Being quite light, a bluespine unicorn fish can grow up to 70 centimeters in length. One of the most interesting features about this fish is that it has a leather-like skin instead of scales. Along with that, the anal and dorsal fins of the fish are yellowish with thin blue lines. The most majestic part would be the iridescent blue caudal fin and the two bright blue spots next to it.

It has a bluish-gray body with 2 blue spines on each side at the base of the tail; hence the first name. These tail blades are very sharp, and they are capable of inflicting deep cuts. When threatened, a bluespine unicorn fish will thrash its tail all over with the purpose of slicing the blades into the predators. It also uses its blades to ward off intruders from its feeding grounds as well.

As you can see, there is also a bony horn on its forehead; hence the middle name. However, the little horn only exists in adult fish since it grows in time as the fish mature. This horn can be as long as 15 centimeters, and it is located far back on the head. Despite the length, the horn never extends the length of the snout of the fish. The purpose of the horn? We don’t know yet. You can differentiate a male from a female by the additional tail streamers that only males have.

2Feeding & Habitats

Bluespine unicorn fish are residents of the tropical Indo-Pacific region, living near the shore. Young ones stay in small groups, usually in shallow protected bays and harbors. Meanwhile, adults inhabit channels, lagoons, moats, and seaweed reeds with strong surges. They are solitary so they swim around by themselves on coral reefs but small schools are also common. As herbivores, bluespine unicorn fish feeds on brown and red algae with coarse or leafy blades. They have small teeth with finely serrated edges that make algae consumption easy for them.

3Human Use

Because they are so common, people eat them a lot despite their strong flavor and odor. In fact, people usually eat them raw but other cooking methods such as baking, boiling, grilling, and sauteing are also common. The skin of the fish is very tough, this is why Hawaiians called them “kala” which means rough. When their skin is removed, it reveals white meat with a slight pink-red taint while the texture is firm or moist. Speaking of skin, the Hawaiians stretch the fish skin over a half coconut shell to make a small knee drum. Until today, bluespine unicorn fish is still one of the common food sources for the people of Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.

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