When writing about Hong Kong marine life, or generally looking up a mystery fish I snapped on a local dive, I usually refer to my copy of Hong Kong Reef Fish Photo Guide 香港珊瑚魚圖鑑, (To, Ching and Shea 2013) published by the Eco-Education and Resources Centre (ERC). Although not the only book about the fish of Hong Kong, it is at time of writing the most up to date, is the result of a very thorough survey, and it has the huge advantage of containing photographs of every fish listed, all taken underwater in their natural environment (as opposed to dead specimens on a slab) making identification a lot easier.
I was therefore delighted to discover recently that the team who published this book have recently converted the content into an Android app called Hong Kong Fish, and that app is completely free! Here are the app’s features as listed by the publisher on the Google Play page:
– Records of more than 270 species of reef fishes in Hong Kong.
– “Bookmark” function allows you to record and share fishes’ information.
– Photos, body features and distribution of fishes are included for identification.
– All fish records are sorted by their habitats and families.
– Can be used offline.
– Information of fishes is frequently updated.
I downloaded the app and here’s how it looks (Image credits: ERC):
The app is fast, nicely presented, easy to navigate, and fully bilingual in Chinese and English. Moreover it’s easy to switch between the two languages, which is great for me as many of my dive buddies are Hong Kong people and we are not always on the same page when it comes to the names of fish!
In addition to the listings and features of each fish as described above, the app also rates each fish with a ‘rare level’ ranging from one star for ‘common’ (like anemonefish) to five stars for the most elusive creatures (like frogfish and giant grouper). The classification of fish by the marine habitats of Hong Kong — coral, rocky reef, sandy, and estuaries — gives the app an educational dimension. The record-taking function is a little gimmick which allows you to save a listing with a date and time to a kind of clipboard which you can then share, email etc.
The huge advantage of a local fish guide in app format is that it has the potential to be updated as new records and sightings are made. There are not a huge number of past studies of fish life in Hong Kong, and conditions are always changing so it’s quite likely that new records will be made in the years to come, and these can easily be added to the app.
Overall, it’s a very neat little app that all Hong Kong divers can make use of. In future, it would be great if the app was extended further to have a community participation element — divers could record their sightings, submitting photos and their locations to flesh out the original fish survey. And someday it would be great if the publishers create an ID guide to Hong Kong’s marine invertebrates — crustaceans, cephalopods, molluscs etc — because there’s not much information about them out there for divers and laypeople.
Good work, ERC!
Sweetlips quiz results
Last week I published a little puzzle about the growth stages of the Painted Sweetlips, a local fish (yes, it’s listed in the fish app). Go take a look if you want to have a go first. Now, here’s the answer — the six pictures in chronological order (click to enlarge):
B and D are very similar but the dorsal fin is more developed in D and the head is bigger. In reality, B was a really tiny little fish, just a few cm long.
E still has his baby stripes but is starting to turn silvery.
A and F again look quite similar but A still has a bit of yellow whereas F hasn’t, and F is bigger with more rows of spots.
C is actually quite a big sweetlips, with adult markings, around 40 cm.
Did you get it right?
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