We carry a few of these little Fish ID cards with us since we first saw them on a charter a few years back. ID cards like these are available in dive shops and on most dive & snorkel boats, and are really useful to have with you for quick identification of something you saw while in the water.
Some of the most popular cards are from an online company called Franko Maps. They’re about the size of a standard scuba slate, and since they’re plastic you can take them right in the water with you so you don’t have to try and remember what you saw back on shore or in the boat. We wrote about them here. If you do a general search on Amazon, you’ll find a few styles and companies that make them, but “in the wild” we’ve encountered those from Franko more than the others. After spending quite a bit of time in the water recently, they do have some issues associated with their convenience.
First, the images are not to scale (which admittedly would be hard to do), so you will have some trouble distinguishing between fish that are a similar shape but a different size.
Second, since these cards show a graphic representation, rather than a picture, the colours aren’t always a good depiction of what they will look like in their natural environment. This could be caused by the light level (imagine the difference at night), the clarity or turbidity of the water, or how deep you are as the colour spectrum starts to vanish from the red side as you descend.
Third, as the cards are about the size as you see the one above on your screen (if your using a desktop), the text is starting to get too small for the length of my arms!
To try and find something better, I did a simple Google search and came across a great website: Florent’s Tropical Reef Life Identification Guides. A click on the page for The Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida and…boom, there they all are, and just like they look in reality.
I’ve been spending some time looking at the Odd-Shaped Swimmers like cowfish, trunkfish and balloonfish as there seems to be a fair number of them in the area off the Fort Lauderdale coast where we are spending our days in the water. Also the Gobies & Blennies, which (I think) I’m looking at, would be impossible to cover on a little Fish ID Card.
So if you’re in the water on either the Caribbean or Pacific side, I highly recommend Florent’s Tropical Reef Life Identification Guides. It has a very easy web address to remember with reefguide.org. So next time exploring a reef, you won’t looked this bewildered.