Blennyfish of Cozumel: Mighty Macro You Don’t Want to Miss
If you’re new to scuba diving in Cozumel – or even if you already love the place – there’s a good chance you don’t realize the sheer variety of marine life you can find on nearly every dive.
Many divers here are on the lookout for sea turtles, nurse sharks, beautiful Caribbean fish, and giant green moray eels.
And with good reason. Those are some of Cozumel’s best and frequent dive encounters.
But certainly not the only ones!
If you’re here learning or practicing your underwater photography in Cozumel, you'll want to pay attention to and appreciate the great variety of species here – especially those of the tiny variety.
Cozumel Dive Sites are Bursting with Blennies
One of the tiniest among macro marine species to photograph here in Cozumel is the cute and challenging blennyfish.
Blennies are an excellent subject for underwater macro shots.
They’re plentiful and photogenic. That is, if you can find them and get the shot.
A quick look at any reef identification reference book will have your head spin with the number of blenny varieties there are in the Caribbean area.
But as a dive photographer in Cozumel, you’ll likely have the best luck spotting two of the most common ones found here:
The “Roughhead Blenny” (Acanthemblemaria aspera)
The “Spinyhead Blenny” (Acanthemblemaria spinosa)
These two types are also entertaining to find, as they peek out at the world through surprisingly expressive eyes.
They often hide in tiny holes in hard corals and abandoned tubes and crevasses along the reef, so they’re tough to pick out, at first…but hang in there!
It gets easier to anticipate where to look the more you relax and explore.
Roughhead blennies can vary significantly in color, from olive, beige, bright yellow, and other shades.
Their distinctive feature, as you might’ve guessed, is a patch of spikes, or cirri, on the top of their heads – one cirrusover each eye.
A Spinyhead blenny is very similar, but rather than displaying exaggerated cirri above its eyes, it has more of a “buzz haircut” appearance.
You’ll see small translucent bumps on its head, but they’re short and more closely cropped.
As noted in the excellent ID reference book, Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas by Humann and DeLoach, they are dark with trademark “yellow-green ‘goggle’ eyes.”
You'll see these often when diving in Cozumel.
Where to Find a Blenny in Cozumel
Generally, blennies are plentiful along the reefs of Cozumel, and you can find them on nearly any dive.
But it helps to know a little more about where to look.
Deeper Wall Dives
On a deeper first dive, like Columbia Deep or Palancar Caves, keep your eyes peeled for blennies in the hard, story corals on the top of each reef section.
I swear, if you stare long enough at any brain or other area with hard, stony corals, it seems you can conjure a blenny to poke it’s head out and start yelling at you!
Shallower Strip-reef or Garden Reef Dives
There’s never a shortage of underwater macro photography subjects in Cozumel’s shallower “second” dive sites – which is why the second dive is usually my favorite!
And blennies? They’re everywhere.
Diving through any rich mid-depth dive sites like Punta Dalila or Paso de Cedral, or frankly any Cozumel dive site, you’re sure to find a lot of blennies hanging out.
But some of these shallower spots might find them more on the down-low – namely, closer to the bottom and even more effectively camouflaged among low coral, rocks, soft corals, and algae.
You’ll still see them in the hard corals here, but be sure to check for them in small coral outcroppings just off to the side of the main reef structure – maybe even hiding out in some green algae.
A bonus of these shallow reef dives in Cozumel is the chance to scout the sandy areas for my personal favorite blennyfish: the pikeblenny.
Slightly rarer a find, pikeblennies spend a little more time out and about, on top of the sand.
However, they are extremely thin and delicate little fish, and almost constantly in motion when out in the open.
Along with their white coloring (when inactive/not engaging with another fish), this makes them very hard to spot on that sandy background. And in turn, even harder to photograph. IMHO.
More often than not, they’ll spot you first and rapidly dart back under the sand before you’ve even registered what you just saw!
All that said, as you settle in and gain smoother diving skills and excellent buoyancy, you’ll start occasionally spotting their little snouts poking out of the sand.
And then, if you give them time, you might really luck out and catch one emerging, or even flaring up in a show of interaction with another nearby pikeblenny, like this:
Blennies of Cozumel – Countless more to Capture
The blennies introduced here are just a few of the most common types here in the Caribbean.
There are so many more – free-swimming and tube-dwelling – all along every section of the national marine park. (Not to mention other excellent underwater photo subjects in Cozumel!)
If you love finding photogenic marine creatures great and small, you’ll appreciate the variety of dive sites and locations to look for these charismatic little fish.
And if you need help finding the best specimens, learning more camera techniques, or just added time to spend practicing on each shot, it’s well worth investing in a professional photography course.
Not only will you have some help finding more of Cozumel’s endless underwater photo subjects, but you’ll have the time you need to compose a few thoughtful frames before moving along in the drift.
And ultimately, you’ll come away with more satisfying images to proudly share with family, friends, and the world.
Learn more about visiting Cozumel for some underwater photography, and how you can do it with minimal impact to our ocean environment, here.