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Hawaii’s Colorful State Fish

The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a sounds like a made up word, but it is actually the Hawaiian name for the Reef Triggerfish and roughly translates to “fish with the snout of a pig”.

The species is also known by its scientific name, Rhinecanthus rectangulus and is a common site in the shallow waters and reefs all around Hawaii.


The fish’s main characteristic is its colorful pattern of blue lips and a yellow triangle. It can change its color based on temperament. When the fish is docile or asleep it will appear in a kind of muted tone. However, when it is threatened or scared the fish will brighten its colors and make a kind of grunting sound to scare away predators and warn other members of its species in the area. An amazing video of the fish making the sound.


Other unique facts about the Triggerfish include its unique adaptation of multiple spines. These extra vertebra give the fish the impressive ability to straighten itself out and hide in crevices at night to prevent being preyed upon. The fish are known to be aggressive when they are placed in groups so they are usually solitary creatures, however, they pose no risk to humans. Their strong lung capacity is used not only to make their characteristic noise, but also to blow jets of water into the sand to dig up the creatures and algae that they eat. The species is very common to the area and can be seen by swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers.

The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is also a special fish because it holds the distinct place of being the official state fish of Hawaii. The species was first introduced to this position in 1985 on a five year< trial run. After 1990, the state was without a state fish until 2006, when the state voted to make it official. To learn more about the state fish and to find yours, check out State Symbols. Long before becoming the state fish, the Reef Triggerfish has been a symbol for the island of Hawaii and her people, as it appears in numerous local legends and the Indigenous Mythology.

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