Rhinopias: There are 6 different species of rhinopias ...

The Rhinopias belongs to the Holy Grail for underwater photographers.

The Rhinopias is one of the most searched fish in the world. This rare species is described as the 'Holy Grail' of underwater photography and tops the list of weird and strange creatures - called critters - that can be found. They even belong to the top attractions in the few places on the world where they can be seen!

The Rhinopias, who are also classified in the family of scorpionfish (Scorpaenidae), includes only six species.

These fish are characterized by the special shape of the head with an upturned mouth. The eyes are on top of the head and have a special kind of eyebrows. The mouth includes strange protrusions. The body itself is relatively narrow, but sometimes also contains this same type of protrusions. Their size varies from 2 to 23 cm. Usually you will see them just sitting motionless between pieces of hard or soft coral, of course like all other scorpionfish perfectly camouflaged.

Because they are so little seen, the identification goes often very wrong. However there are a number of noticeable differences.

Rhinopias eschmeyeri Rhinopias eschmeyeri
Rhinopias frondosa Rhinopias frondosa
Rhinopias frondosa Rhinopias frondosa
The Rhinopias eschmeyeri is called in English the Paddle flap scorpionfish. This species is the easiest to distinguish. Their body comprises only one single colour and without any markings. In contrast to the other types of Rhinopias this species also has no additional appendages on the body. However, an important feature is that the fins have almost no notches. So far, white, pink, red and purple specimens were found.

The Rhinopias frondosa is in English known as the Weedy scorpionfish. In this kind, however, we have two completely different looking frondosas. The first kind has a lot of similarities with the Rhinopias eschmeyeri. It is thanks to the dorsal fin, which does have notches that we can easily distinguish him. The second type is then very often confused with the Rhinopias aphanes. This one has, like the Rhinopias aphanes a kind of appendages over the body and is therefore also better called the Weedy scorpionfish. The only way, however, to distinguish it from the Aphanes is that his body is full of pale spots and blotches compared to the continuous stripes of the Aphanes.

The Rhinopias aphanes (known as the Lacy scorpionfish) is almost identical to the Rhinopias frondosa with appendages, with the only difference that the Rhinopias aphanes has a kind of network full of lines or stripes instead of the circles from the frondosa. They also live in a different environment. The Rhinopias Aphanes can only be found Papua New Guinea, Australia, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia, while the Frondosa is found in Indonsesia, the Philipinnes, in the west of the Pacific ocean and Mozambique.

The three other kinds, Rhinopias xenops (Hawai), Rhinopias argoliba (endemic to Japan, Sagami Bay) and the Rhinopias cea (endemic to the Easter islands) are almost never observed.

Our great desire to photograph the Rhinopias has been fulfilled in Lembeh. At sixteen meters depth our guide found a bright red Rhinopias eschmeyeri. In 2010 we had the opportunity to take photos of a Rhinopias frondosa around the Island Lembata, this during our first trip to the Mollucs. Later, also in Bali we found a red Rhinopias frondosa.

The best place to see these magnificient fish is Ambon, the capital of Maluku province of Indonesia.

Rhinopias frondosa Rhinopias frondosa
Rhinopias frondosa Rhinopias frondosa
Rhinopias eschmeyeri Rhinopias eschmeyeri
If you ever are lucky enough to find one of them make sure to take your time before you take the picture. Think about the composition and observe wisely the surroundings. Rhinopias are perfectly camouflaged and they will rarely swim away. But shooting a wonderful image of a rhinopias remains a challenge. Furthermore, you can actually easily return for a second or a third dive, because they move very little.

Although, like their mysterious presence, it seems that they sometimes unexpectedly die or disappear.

Species of Rhinopias :