• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Category Archives: Sulawesi Diving

Echinaster callosus delights divers with bands of color

Echinaster callosus, or the Banded bubble starfish, delights any diver who spies it. Its colorful bands of bubbles distinguishes it from all other sea stars.

A Distinctive Appearance

echinaster callosus
A Bubble banded starfish at Otje Garden dive site

As with other sea star species

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, Echinaster callosus has five arms. Its central disc is small and its arms cylindrical. However, its upper surface is covered with warts or bubbles that protrude. Their color varies from yellow to pink to purple. Also, the bubbly warts near the center begin to form bubbly bands of white closer to the arm tips.

Moreover, each arm tip has an eyespot for sensing, as well as a cluster of suckers.

Its maximum diameter is about 25 centimeters. This lovely starfish is found throughout tropical Indo-Pacific waters, although it is not commonly seen anywhere.

Despite its distinctive appearance, this starfish easily blends into Gorontalo’s coral rich marine environments. Divers should look between five and thirty meters to find it.  

As with other sea stars, the mouth of this species is underneath its central disc. Small hairs move food to its mouth. Scientists say the Banded bubble sea star eats small invertebrates that it finds on surfaces or the sea floor.

The Surprising Feel of Echinaster callosus

Like most sea stars

, Echinaster callosus is safe to touch. A diver who carefully touches a Banded bubble star will immediately sense the soft bubbles and bands. However, that diver will also feel rows of sharp spines among the bubbles.

Detail of Echinaster callosus

These spines are pedicellariae. On the Banded bubble star

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, they are tiny and retractable. They are yellow green in color. A pedicellaria is basically a jaw with muscles and sensory organs. It is shaped like a tiny wrench or claw at the end of a spine. Scientists have not done much study of the function of pedicellariae.  

Predators and Reproduction

Both Giant triton shells (Charonia tritonis) and Harlequin shrimps (Hymenocerta picta) feed on Banded bubble stars. In fact

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, the sea star in the detailed photo only had three of its five arms. The other two had been eaten!

Like other sea stars

, Echinaster callosus can regenerate from a single arm.  However, this starfish also reproduces sexually. Embryos hatch into larvae and float with other planktonic sea life. As they mature, they grow five distinctive arms and settle to the sea floor.  

For your chance to see a Banded bubble star in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

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Bodianus dictynna thrives in Gorontalo

Bodianus dictynna is commonly found in Gorontalo’s coral rich reefs. This species was scientifically described in 2006. Since it is only found in the Pacific Ocean, the common name is Pacific Diana hogfish.

One Goddess, Two Species

For decades, divers and fish enthusiasts thought that there was only a single species of Diana hogfish. However, based on Dr. Martin F. Gomon’s extensive research, populations were separated in 2006. The Diana hogfish in the Indian Ocean remain Bodianus diana, whereas the newly named Bodianus dictynna lives in the Pacific Ocean. Both are very similar in appearance. So

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, the best way to recognize the species is simply by location.

Bodianus dictynna
Bodianus dictynna with a Salvador Dali sponge

Both Latin word diana and dictynna refer to the Roman goddess Diana. She was the moon goddess and famous huntress. The genus name Bodianus comes from a Portuguese word that means modesty. As a result of Gomon’s research

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, scientists now recognize 45 species of Bodianus. These are found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans.

Bodianus dictynna in Gorontalo

The Pacific Diana hogfish lives in warm

, tropical waters. It lives as far north and south as Japan and Australia. Its eastern boundary is Tonga. No one knows yet how the recent volcanic explosion there will affect fish life. For unknown reasons

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, this hogfish species is rare in the central Pacific plate.

As to habitat, Bodianus dictynna prefers coral reefs. Juveniles frequent black corals and gorgonians. The juveniles also like the ceilings of underwater caverns. So

, Gorontalo’s Jinn Caves dive site is a great place to search for this fish.

Divers should note that juveniles have a color pattern distinct from adults. Juveniles have a maroon and white maze pattern with distinctive black spots. These spots are on both ventral and dorsal fins as well as on the tail’s end. A terminal phase male sports a large black spot on the end of his dorsal fin. Also, he will have a black spot on mid anal and pelvic fins.

Adults eat molluscs and crustaceans. Juveniles eat parasites off the skin of other fish. Adults mate in pairs.

For your chance to see a Pacific Diana hogfish in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

    

Green turtle pays a visit to Gorontalo reefs

Green turtle is a species only occasionally seen along Gorontalo’s dense coral reefs. Adult green turtles are strictly vegetarian and so live near sea grass flats. Those seen at Gorontalo dive sites are migrating between sea grass areas in western Gorontalo to those in North Sulawesi Province. Divers will usually see Hawksbill turtles here.

Green Turtle Identification

green turtle on reef
The beautiful shell pattern of Green turtle

Both Green and Hawksbill turtles have similar appearances. However, certain features help identify both species. Green turtles have a single pair of large scales between their eyes. These are called prefrontal scales. Hawksbills have two pairs of small scales. Also, a hawksbill turtle has a distinctive hook on its beak, whereas a green turtle will have a rounded beak. Green turtles have smooth shells with smooth edges, whereas a hawksbill’s shell edges will be clearly serrated

, especially towards the tail. Lastly, an adult Green turtle has a single claw on each front flipper, whereas a Hawksbill turtle will have two. Oftentimes, the shell of a green turtle will be highly polished with visible patterning.

Worldwide

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, Green turtles can grow up to a meter and a half in length. Also , they can weigh up to 400 kilograms. Those found in Indonesia are usually no longer than one meter.

Although baby green turtles eat a variety of things, adults shift to a plant diet. That means they eat mainly sea grass and marine algae. The common name green turtle comes from the fact that the fat found under this turtle’s shell is distinctively green in color. Scientists suspect the color is a result of the vegetarian diet. Also, this turtle’s scientific name is Chelonia mydas.

Moreover, should a diver notice the tail of a Green turtle, that turtle will be male. Only a male’s tail is long enough to protrude from under its shell.  

Breathing in Sea Turtles

Divers know that sea turtles spend most of their lives underwater. However, they must breathe oxygen from the air. While traveling to dive sites in Gorontalo

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, guests might notice when a turtle’s head breaks the surface. One breath is enough to exhale stale air and replace it with fresh air. A green turtle will dive for about four to five minutes. Then it will surface for a couple of seconds to catch a breath. Divers should never interfere with sea turtles while trying to breathe. Sea turtles will sleep in a safe place. During sleep, respiration slows considerably.

Nesting Sea Turtles

turtle on the reef
Pausing on a Gorontalo reef

A female sea turtle will reach forty to sixty years in age before laying her first eggs. Breeding females will lay eggs every two years. They will lay these every two to three weeks. They lay 50 to 150 eggs each time.

The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings. Research on green turtles find that higher temperatures produce males

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, whereas lower temperatures produce females. Scientists worry that rising ocean temperatures from climate change will result in too few female green turtles.

A female sea turtle will crawl onto a sandy beach at night. Then she will dig a hole to lay eggs and recover them. Scientists believe they return to the beach of their birth to lay eggs.

Baby turtles will hatch about two months of incubation. They will usually hatch about the same time. Then they crawl as quickly as possible to the sea. Many predators from birds to large fish eat baby sea turtles. The chances of surviving to adulthood are very small. Humans still collect eggs and hunt sea turtles. This is illegal in Indonesia.

Although land turtles can pull head and flippers inside the shell

, sea turtles cannot.

For your chance to see a green turtle in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Bornella anguilla Spotted in Gorontalo

Bornella anguilla is an unusual nudibranch that sports a mosaic pattern on it skin. Numerous branches grow from its body. Its colors include brown, orange, and tan.

A Rare Find

Bornella anguilla eating
Bornella anguilla ready to eat hydroids

At the end of a dive at Gorontalo’s Otje Garden dive site, a dive master showed guests a most unusual nudibranch. It was busy munching on hydroids, its mouth parts clearly open. Eager underwater photographers took their chance to take shots. Miguel’s Diving staff confess they see this nudibranch less than once a year.

Bornella anguilla, the Eel Bornella nudibranch  

In 1984, this unusual nudibranch received its official name when Johnson submitted his research. Its scientific name reflects its distinct ability to swim like an eel. Anguilla means eel in Latin. Other Bornella species of nudibranch can swim as well. However, they flex their bodies from side to side to generate motion. In this way, they swim sideways. Bornella anguilla creates a muscular wave that moves down its body. In this way, it swims head first in an eel-like manner. While swimming, its rhinophores and cerata lay down for better streamlining.

Bornella anguilla is found throughout the Indo-West Pacific region. However, divers have also seen it in the Indian Ocean. It can grow up to eight centimeters in length. That means it can be rather large for a nudibranch.

Unusual Body Structure

This species of nudibranch has an unusual body structure.

Below the twin rhinophores on its head are its eyes. Although the eyes of most nudibranchs are hard to see, those of this nudibranch are distinct. They look blue or black, depending on the angle. Can you spot the eye in the close-up photo? Rhinophores are sensory organs that detect chemical scents in the water. The eyes measure light and darkness.

Most remarkable are the numerous branches growing from the body. These are called cerata. A pair of them grow around the brown rhinophores. This helps protect the sense organs from predators that can nibble a replaceable cerata instead.

Bornella anguilla close up
Close-Up of Bornella anguilla

Another unusual feature of this nudibranch are its gills. Most nudibranchs sport a cluster of gills near its dorsal rear and look like a small tree. On this nudibranch, the gills are distributed along the dorsal side of the body and protrude from the various branches that grow there. They look like mostly transparent feathers that poke from a cerata. These are visible in the close-up photo.

To dive in Gorontalo with dive masters skilled at spotting unusual marine life, please make your dive reservations with Miguel’s Diving.

Hawksbill Turtle Swims in Gorontalo Waters

Hawksbill turtle is the most common sea turtle that divers see in Gorontalo. Green sea turtles also live in local waters. Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, and Leatherback turtles are the other species found in Indo-Pacific oceans.

Identifying a Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill turtle sunburst
A Hawksbill turtle swims by

Both Green and Hawksbill turtles appear similar. However, certain features help identify both species. Hawksbills have two pairs of small scales between their eyes. These are called prefrontal scales. Green turtles have a single pair of large scales. Also

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, Hawksbill turtles have the distinctive hook on their beaks. Hence their common name. In addition, the large back plates on their shells overlap. As a result, the rear edges of the shell looks jagged. Those plates are called scutes. Overlapping scutes are called imbricated. Hence the scientific name Eretmochelys imbricata. Lastly, the Hawksbill turtle has two visible claws on each front flipper.

A larger turtle is more likely to be a Green sea turtle. Hawksbills found in the Indo-Pacific are smaller than those found in other tropical seas. Their size at maturity is only one meter in length. They also mature much more slowly, taking over thirty years.

The Hawksbill turtle prefers certain sponge species. It also eats jellyfish, tunicates, soft corals, crabs, squid, and fish. Surprisingly, this sea turtle is biofluorescent. Perhaps its diet of certain coral species makes it so. Also, this sea turtle will close its eyes when eating a jellyfish.

Threats to Hawksbill Sea Turtles

Eretmochelys imbricata is considered critically endangered. It is illegal internationally and in Indonesia to import or export turtle products. Also, it is illegal to harass, capture, or kill Hawksbill turtles.

All sea turtle species are threatened or endangered, according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Some sea turtles think floating plastic bags are jellyfish and eat them. Eating plastic will eventually kill the sea turtle by blocking breathing and digestion.

Nesting Sea Turtles

A female sea turtle will reach forty to sixty years in age before laying her first eggs. Breeding females will lay eggs every two years. They will lay these every two to three weeks. They lay 50 to 150 eggs each time. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings. Higher temperatures produce females, whereas lower temperatures produce males.

Eretmochelys imbricata
Eretmochelys imbricata rests on a Gorontalo reef

A female sea turtle will crawl onto a sandy beach at night. Then she will dig a hole to lay eggs and recover them. Scientists believe they return to the beach of their birth to lay eggs.

Baby turtles will hatch about two months of incubation. They will usually hatch about the same time. Then they crawl as quickly as possible to the sea. Many predators from birds to large fish eat baby sea turtles. The chances of surviving to adulthood are very small. Humans still collect eggs and hunt sea turtles. This is illegal in Indonesia.

Land turtle can pull head and flippers inside the shell. However

, a sea turtle cannot. Also, sea turtles secret excess salt swallowed when eating via tears.  

For your chance to see a Hawksbill turtle in Gorontalo, please make your dive reservations directly with Miguel’s Diving.  

Travelers Choice 2020 Award for Miguel’s Diving

Travelers Choice 2020 has been given to Miguel’s Diving Gorontalo. This prestigious award goes to the top 10% of worldwide travel businesses on TripAdvisor.

Travelers Choice 2020

On July 28, 2020, TripAdvisor announced the winners of its 18th annual Travelers Choice Awards. This recognizes the best travel-related businesses worldwide. In addition to dive centers, like Miguel’s Diving, hotels, restaurants, and airlines are included. The Travelers Choice Award replaces the Certificate of Excellence given in previous years. Miguel’s Diving has earned the earlier Certificate of Excellence for five years in a row. The 2020 award marks the sixth year achieving recognition via TripAdvisor.

Travelers Choice 2020
Recent TripAdvisor Awards

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,817 business worldwide achieved the Travelers Choice 2020 recognition. Over 8.7 million businesses have a listing on TripAdvisor. They consider millions of reviews left by the public. TripAdvisor evaluated reviews made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. They analyzed reviews for quality and quantity to identify businesses with outstanding service.  

Passion for Excellence

Lindsay Nelson is the chief experience and brand officer for TripAdvisor. In announcing Travelers Choice 2020

, Nelson said,

“This has been a tough year for our industry. But the global desire to go and explore, whether the destination is an hour away or across the world, remains strong. We’re passionate about guiding travelers to the good out there, especially the good found within these recognized hotels, restaurants and airlines that rise to the occasion in offering the best of the best.”

Rantje Allen extends the deepest gratitude to our guests who have reviewed Miguel’s Diving Gorontalo on TripAdvisor. “Without the support of our diving guests, we would not achieve this prestigious award,” he added.

About TripAdvisor

As the world’s largest tourism site, TripAdvisor contains more than 860 million reviews. Prior to the pandemic, 463 million travelers accessed the website each month. Considered the ultimate travel review site, TripAdvisor is available in 28 languages and 49 markets. Content includes travel planning, price comparison, and guest comments & pictures.  

For your chance to enjoy excellent service, please book your dive trip with Miguel’s Diving.

Pilot Whale Video

Pilot whale video from a calm day on Tomini Bay in Gorontalo made the rounds on social media. One of Miguel’s Diving staff shot the video as a large pod swam by his fishing boat.

Short-Finned Pilot Whales

The cetaceans seen in the video are Short-finned Pilot Whales. Their scientific name is Globicephala macrorhynchus. Distinguishing features include a rounded, bulbous head. Its fins are set forward on its body and point sharply back. The mouth slants upward. Mostly, its color is uniformly black. Some individuals exhibit a diagonal stripe from eye to dorsal fin and a cape. Sometimes, a lighter belly patch is visible. The body is slender but robust.

Short-finned pilot whales breaching

Short-finned Pilot Whales are among a group of marine life called blackfish. These cetaceans are mostly jet black in color. The Long-finned Pilot Whale is not found in our area, as it prefers the cold waters of the northern and southern oceans. In Gorontalo, Miguel’s Diving staff have seen other blackfish species. This includes Pygmy Killer Whale, Melon-Headed Whale and False Killer Whale. Surprisingly, Miguel’s Diving staff and guests also see Killer Whales or Orca. In addition to the pilot whale video, we have videos of orca in Gorontalo.

Human and Pilot Whale Encounters

On their days off, several of Miguel’s Diving staff venture into the deep waters off Gorontalo. Their goal is to catch Yellowfin tuna. They use traditional handline method. After a tuna is hooked, the fisherman will pull in this catch using only his skill and the strength of his arm. This will take over an hour. Typically, tuna will weigh between thirty and eighty kilos. The fisherman’s small outrigger canoe has room for only one fish at a time. This demonstrates the sustainability of their traditional method.

pilot whale video
Outrigger canoes in Gorontalo

If the fisherman pulls in his catch at sees only half a tuna, that means that a Mako shark has eaten the other half. The shark will purse the fisherman returning home with his catch to get the other half of the tuna. However, if the fisherman pulls in his tuna and sees only a string of bones, that means a Short-finned Pilot Whale has eaten the meat and eyes.

During tuna runs, after a few whales appear, they will call others. In the coming days, more and more pods of pilot whales appear in the fishing area. Numbers reach hundreds upon hundreds. When this occurs

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, the tuna will panic and flee the area. The fishermen are left behind, but the pilot whales will pursue. The name for his whale in Gorontalo language is paupau.

Pilot Whale Video

Recently, Boka, one of Miguel’s Diving staff, was at sea in his outrigger canoe when a pod of pilot whales began to pass. Using his cell phone, Boka shot this pilot whale video. Short-finned pilot whales do not breach often. So

, the breaching seen is this video is remarkable. Also, viewers can hear the whales exhale as they breach the surface. Divers occasionally see them during surface intervals when we move the speed boat to the next dive site. For your chance to see cetaceans in Gorontalo, like pilot whales, please book your trip with us!

Who is Miguel?

Curious travelers sometimes ask this question. At other times, divers call the dive center and ask to speak with Miguel.

Who is Miguel: The Official Answer

He is the first son of the company’s founding director Mustafa Abulhajat. At the time of exploration work for the dive business in Gorontalo, he was only four years old. Now however, our dive center is ready to enter its eighteenth season. Miguel is now in his mid-twenties.

Arriving from a motorcycle trip

To understand who is Miguel, one must realize that he is not only a scuba diver. He also loves to sky dive. Another passion comes directly from his father. That is long distance motorcycle trips. Miguel has driven the mountainous Trans-Sulawesi highway from his home in Manado to Gorontalo. That trip took several days. Each trip he will stop by the dive center for a photo op.

The current answer to the question who is Miguel has a professional angle. He has a post with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Beside speaking Bahasa Indonesia and Manadonese, he speaks English, Dutch, and French. At the time of his appointment, he ranked number three out of one thousand candidates nationwide. Not doubt, the crew at Miguel’s Diving is very proud of him.

Pioneers in the Dive Industry

Miguel school boy
Miguel as a schoolboy

Who is Miguel also has a family answer. His grandfather was an influential figure in the early days of tourism in Manado. His father counts among the first Indonesians active in diving Bunaken. His grandfather also ran the first electrical lines to remote western Gorontalo. In those days, no bridges crossed the rivers there.

Originally, Mr. Mustafa created Miguel’s Dive Club to support diving activities around Bunaken Marine Park. After he made the decision to open diving in Gorontalo, the company name became Miguel’s Diving Center. We are the pioneer dive operator in Gorontalo. Other operators have come and gone. We have operated seasonally since opening in 2003.

Experience Counts

who is Miguel
Graduating with a law degree

Our business model is based on ecological sustainability and community development. To sail and dive Gorontalo waters requires experience of the area’s micro environments. So

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, we train Gorontalo fishermen as dive staff. Our guests benefit from their local knowledge.

Miguel’s Diving provided the push to create Olele Village Marine Park. Our staff are officially recognized as guardians of Gorontalo’s marine environment. This includes community education and input to government programs. They also report violations to marine patrol officers.

For your chance to dive with Gorontalo’s pioneer dive operator, please make your dive reservations with us.

DIVER Magazine Features Salvador Dali Sponges

DIVER magazine features Salvador Dali sponges and their distinctive swirls in an article by Steve Jones.

Swirled Surfaces

Salvador Dali sponge
One of Gorontalo’s Salvador Dali sponges

One of Gorontalo’s claim to fame is the discovery of Salvador Dali sponges. This morphology of Petrosia lignosa is unique to the northern coastline of Tomini Bay

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, Indonesia. The article found in DIVER magazine explains the discovery. Also, it explains the origin of these bizarre looking sponges. Rantje Allen christened this sponge after the famous Spanish painter. He is the diving pioneer in Gorontalo. The surreal style of Salvador Dali describes the appearance of these giant sponges.

Divers will usually find these sponges below 25 meters. At those depths, they are protected from seasonal high waves and storms. Additionally, they grow off the vertical coral walls in Gorontalo. There, ocean currents bring plankton to them. The article explains how they can break off in storms. When this happens, these ancient giants fall to the ocean bottom. They can no longer feed and soon die, turning to dust in a matter of weeks.

DIVER Magazine Spring 2020

DIVER magazine is the longest established dive magazine in North America. It is published in British Columbia, Canada. Moreover, DIVER magazine is available in print, mobile and on-line editions. This flexibility in format makes the magazine a favorite among divers.

DIVER Magazine cover
DIVER Magazine Spring 2020

Currently, divers are mostly staying at home because of the corona virus (Corvid-19). As a result, DIVER magazine is making its Spring 2020 edition free of charge. Interested divers simply click this link and then access magzter. Then they can open an account and enjoy free access to this edition and others for a seven-day period. What a great idea!

An Award Winning Photographer

This Spring edition of DIVER magazine contains an article on Salvador Dali sponges. Accompanying the article are incredible underwater photographs by Steve Jones. Mr. Jones is an award-winning underwater photographer and journalist. His travel and work spans the globe, including Antarctica.

During his worldwide travels, Mr. Jones visited Gorontalo during wave season. Ocean conditions are challenging during that time of year. However, he left with a sizeable archive of spectacular photos of Gorontalo’s marine environment.

The article also explains conservation efforts of Gorontalo’s marine environment. Specifically, Mr. Jones describes the great care that Olele villagers take of their home reefs. Additionally, the education campaigns that Miguel’s Diving promotes get a shout out.  

After enjoying the article consider becoming a subscriber to DIVER magazine. Then, please make your dive reservations with us to see those Salvador Dali sponges for yourselves!

Clownfish eggs delight scuba divers

Clownfish eggs delight divers who happen to spot them. The parents will lay a patch of eggs close to an anemone. That anemone serves as their protective residence.

Clownfish Eggs from Light to Dark

clownfish eggs guarded by parents
Clownfish tend their eggs

When mating time approaches

, the male clownfish will select a place for the female to lay her eggs. Moreover, the place will be close to the protective cover of their host anemone. He will clean the area, removing debris and any algae there. When the female is ready, she will join the male and inspect the location. She will deposit from 400 to 1,000 eggs in a patch. The male will fertilize them immediately. Each egg will measure about three to four millimetres in length.

After that, the male will tend the clownfish eggs. He will fan the eggs with his fins and clean them with his mouth. Also, he will eat any infertile eggs. New eggs are brightly colored from yellow to red. This depends on the species. However, as the clownfish eggs mature, their color darkens noticeably. This process takes about six to eight days to mature. Prior to hatching, the eggs become transparent. At that time, divers can the eyes and mouth of the new Nemos inside the eggs.

Clownfish eggs will hatch a few hours after dark. Research shows that these eggs will not mature in the presence of light pollution. The new larvae or fries swim in the free ocean and eat plankton. Those that survive will seek an anemone to call home. As they grow

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, they gradually acquire immunity to the stings of their host anemone. Researchers disagree on how immunity is acquired.

Transgender Rules

clownfish eggs ready to hatch
Clownfish eggs ready to hatch

The largest clownfish in a colony will be the female. All nemo fries are male. If the female dies or is removed, the dominant male will become female. That means that clownfish are hermaphrodites.

Because these fish live with anemones, some people call them anemonefish. Also, many people call them Nemo, a name that people easily recognize.

Clownfish of Gorontalo

Clownfish live in Asia Pacific waters where the species number twenty-eight. The clownfish from the Nemo films is the False or Western clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris). Almost identical is the Orange or Eastern Clownfish (Amphiprion percula). Sulawesi marks the transition area between western and eastern species. Both of these have been photographed in Tomini Bay where Miguel’s Diving operates.

The Eastern clownfish looks different than the western species. Its black edging is noticeably thicker. Also, the eastern species has an orange iris. This makes its eye look smaller.

For your chance to see clownfish eggs, please book your dive trip with us.

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