Hogfish are large members of the wrasse family found in throughout the Western Atlantic. There are three commonly found species in Floridian waters, all readily identifiable by their pig-like snout.
Hogfish are commonly found in loose aggregations over hard bottom areas, such as coral reefs, rocky ledges and wrecks, at depths of 10-100 feet. They are usually widely distributed along the reef, larger individuals live in the main reef area while juveniles live amongst the patch reefs.
Hogfish feed during the day, most of their prey are bottom dwellers. They use their snout to search through sand and under ledges for sea snails, hermit crabs, and sea urchins, and crush them with their strong jaws. Predators of the hogfish include larger bony fish and sharks.
Like their close cousins the wrasse, all hogfishes are born female, and some revert their sex in later years to become males! Hogfish can live more than 10 years.
The three species found in Florida all have similar ranges, from Bermuda and North Carolina, south through the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, down to the north coast of South America.
Hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus
, Looe Key
This species of hogfish is very common off the Florida Keys and the Caribbean Islands.
Juvenile hogfish have a very distinct mottled coloring
Coloration of this hogfish is variable, dependent on age, sex, and habitat, generally they are white with a dark coloring along the tops of their head. They have bright red irises and a dark spot on their dorsal fin. Males are more intensely colored than females.
Spanish Hogfish, Bodianus rufus
, Looe Key
Spanish hogfish are vibrantly colored yellow with a purple coloring along their top. Juveniles often act as cleaner fish and remove parasites from for larger fish, as the mature their diet changes to crabs, brittle stars, sea urchins, and snails.