You need to remember to breathe when experiencing the beauty of the I&J Ocean Exhibit and its inhabitants. Big or small, every one of these sea dwellers is special.

1. Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)

Yoshi is a mighty loggerhead turtle. Her species nest throughout the world. In South Africa loggerheads call the KwaZulu-Natal coast home, but be on the lookout for tiny hatchlings that get stranded in the Cape.

Yoshi the magnificent loggerhead sea turtle is the undisputed queen of the I&J Ocean Exhibit.

2. Longfinned batfish (Platax teira)

Juvenile longfinned batfish hide beneath pieces of floating debris in the ocean. If a single juvenile meets other juvenile batfish, they will form a group that stays together forever, otherwise it will remain a solitary scavenger.

The cool and unusual longfinned batfish.

3. Giant kob (Argyrosomus japonicus)

Giant kob hunt small fish, shrimps and squid in the surf zone of waters throughout the Indian Ocean, from South Africa to Japan.

The enormous and mighty giant kob. Image courtesy of J. Tresfon

4. Scribbled leatherjacket (Aluterus scriptus)

The scribbled leatherjacket is an opportunistic omnivore, but its preferred food is sea anemone tentacles. Leatherjackets that eat a lot of anemones become brightly coloured and their flesh becomes poisonous - so predators leave them alone.

Our scribbled leatherjacket is as elusive as it is beautifu. Image courtesy of seaunseen.

5. Old woman angelfish (Pomacanthus rhomboides)

This angelfish inhabits coastal waters, where it feeds on algae. However, many of them are swept away by the Agulhas Current and have to scavenge in the open ocean.

The old woman angelfish is always careful not to become a snack for bigger fishes.

6. Giant guitarfish (Rhynchobatus djiddensis)

This unusual-looking fish uses strong, pavement-like teeth to grind up mussels and shellfish that it finds on the seafloor.

Is it a shark? Is it a ray? The giant guitarfish will leave you wondering. Image courtesy of G. Spiby

7. Seventy-four (Polysteganus undulosus)

The seventy-four seabream is a primary piscivore, meaning it only eats other fish. Due to overfishing, it is virtually extinct in the wild.

Even the "normal" looking fish hold a story. The seventy-four warns us of the perils of overfishing. Image courtesy of D. Warmerdam

8. Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Green sea turtles are common visitors to South Africa, breeding on the East Coast, but especially in Mozambique. Bob and Sandy, our resident green turtles, were rescued after being injured by boats and plastic pollution in the wild.

Green sea turtles Bob and Sandy teach us about the dangers of plastic litter.

9. Spotted grunter (Pomadasys commersonnii)

Despite their size, spotted grunters eat small crustaceans which they hunt by shooting jets of water out of their mouths to blow sand away (just like the cowfish). In shallow water, this blast of water can be heard as a "grunt".

Spotted grunters remind us that we can change our spots. Image courtesy of J. Tresfon

10. Short-tail stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata)

Short-tail stingrays don't breathe by sucking water into their mouths - they have holes on the top of their heads called spiracles that suck water in, and then eject it through their gills on their under side.

We can be graceful and powerful at the same time says the short-tail stingray.

11. Natal moony (Monodactylus argenteus)

Natal moonies are the only fish in the I&J Ocean Exhibit that can survive in freshwater. They frequently enter river mouths to take shelter from marine predators.

The shimmering water, rippling off the tiny Natal moonies is a reminder that the smallest thing can have a huge impact Image courtesy of L. Barker

12. Brindle bass (Epinephelus lanceolatus)

Buzz, our resident brindle bass, is a slow-growing fish, but can eventually reach half a ton of pure predator.

What starts as something small, can become something great - like Buzz the brindle bass. Image courtesy of G. Spiby

13. Yellowfin surgeonfish (Acanthurus xanthopterus)

Yellowfin surgeonfish change colours and shape as they age - this change is so pronounced that until recently it was though that the juvenile and mature fish were two completely different species.

The yellowfin surgeonfish wants you to know it's ok to take a holiday, and to wear your favourite colour. Image courtesy of L. Barker

14. White kingfish (Pseudocaranx dentex)

The white kingfish forms schools over open reefs, where they hunt invertebrates and small fish using suction - the same technique used by seahorses.

Image courtesy of G. Spiby

15. Cape moony (Monodactylus falciformis)

This moony is able to survive in a wide range of enviroments - from brackish river mouths to the open ocean.

"We don't want to be the centre of attention", say the Cape moonies - that's ok, we love you anyway. Image courtesy of D. Warmerdam

16. Red steenbras (Petrus rupestris)

The beautiful red steenbras was once a popular game fish, endemic to South African waters, but sadly overfishing has left it rather rare.

The red steenbras never stops exploring, even when others might feel like they are going nowhere. Image courtesy of D. Warmerdam

17. Eagle ray (Myliobatis aquila)

Although docile, eagle rays have a bunch of defensive abilities - colour-changing camouflage, spikes and electric shocks.

The eagle ray takes every chance to be the centre of attention. Image courtesy of G. Spiby

18. Garrick (Lichia amia)

The garrick is a predator that hunts fish species in South African waters, but comes together in large groups to follow the annual sardine migration past KwaZulu-Natal.

The quiet garrick is a solemn reminder that humans need to respect the ocean. Image courtesy of D. 

19. Black musselcracker (Cymatoceps nasutus)

The black musselcracker has incredibly powerful jaws and teeth. It is able to crush urchins, sea stars and shellfish with ease.

Image courtesy of G. Spiby

20. Cape yellowtail (Seriola lalandi)

Cape yellowtail are migratory fish found throughout the Southern Hemisphere, passing South Africa in pursuit of the annual sardine run.

The Cape yellowtail reminds us that we can be sustainable and still enjoy ourselves. Photo courtesy of G. Spiby

21. Elf (Pomatomus saltatrix)

The elf, or shad, is an aggressive predator that migrates across the world's temperate and subtropical oceans in search of smaller fish to prey on.

Image courtesy of G. Spiby

22. Santer (Cheimarius nufar)

Santers are predators that can be found around the Cape of Good Hope and on the East Coast. Their red-blue colouration provides excellent camouflage in deep waters where they hunt squid and smaller fish.

Image courtesy of G. Spiby

23. Yellowbelly rockcod (Epinephelus marginatus)

Yellowbelly rockcods are highly territorial, and will claim a "home cave" which they will spend most of their time resting in.

This yellowbelly rockcod loves the comfort of its "home cave". Image courtesy of J. Tresfon

24. South African butterflyfish (Chaetodon marleyi)

The South African butterflyfish is uniquely South African. It hunts small invertebrates, but as it ages its becomes more "vegetarian" and mature adults eat only seaweed fragments.

Image courtesy of G. Spiby

25. Blue stingray (Dasyatis chrysonota)

Blue stingrays use sensitive electo-receptors to detect worms and shellfish hiding under the sand along the West Coast.

Image courtesy of G. Spiby

26. Barred flagtail (Kuhlia mugil)

These little fish are nocturnal hunters that search for swimming invertebrates in brackish lagoons and estuaries.

Image courtesy of ZooChat.

You can dive in the I&J Ocean Exhibit!

Scuba diving at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town is certainly worthy of being included on the bucket list of any experienced diver, adrenalin junkie or just someone who would like to experience the incredible feeling of being surrounded by the remarkable animals that call the underwater world their home.

Click here to learn more about scuba diving at the Two Oceans Aquarium or getting your PADI qualification with us. 

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