The Red Indian Fish is definitely a favourite of the dive community. Not too rare but not too common they make for a great surprise and are well worth shaking your rattle or giving your quacker a toot to alert your buddy. Whilst an untrained eye will fail to spot these curious fish, with a bit of help they are more than obvious and will easily become a species that pops up everywhere. The optical issues come from the Red Indian’s attempt to blend in with local flora and fauna such as kelp and sponges. So how do you spot this elusive fish?
Red Indian Fish Mistake 1. Sponges are not thin and tall. Whilst I am sure that you could find a sponge that looks similar in shape, the Red Indian resembles a fish just a little bit more than it does a sponge. With a body length of around twenty centimetres and a height of between five and ten centimetres they tend to embody the typical fish dimensions.
Red Indian Fish Mistake 2. Most underwater flora and fauna don’t have a permanent frown. Red Indian mouths are permanently marked with an upside down smile. Along with their small eyes they have a tendency to look permanently grumpy. So if you see an unhappy sponge get your camera ready or shake that underwater rattle.
Red Indian Fish Mistake 3. Why is that seaweed/seagrass moving when there is no surge? Usually when you dive there is a bit of surge or some form of current, however sometimes the ocean can be quite a calm place. The final undoing of the Red Indian Fish is that they try to look like kelp or seagrass, often mimicking the swaying movements to increase their camouflage. If there is a strange underwater plant moving when it shouldn’t check it out and there is a good chance it’s a Red Indian.
Bare island is the perfect place to see these camouflaged fish. Of the dive sites around the island the drop off on the western side, known as Bare Island Back Wall, yields the best results. With a maximum depth of 22 metres but plenty to see above the 18 metre mark this site is a favourite amongst new and experienced scuba divers. The wall itself is a gentle descent to the sandy bottom with cascading boulders full of coral, multiple overhangs hiding skittish Wirrah and the ever present Gus the Grouper.