The Humuhumukunukuapua’a: Hawaii’s state fish!


The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Rhinecanthus rectangulus), a reef triggerfish, is the official state fish of Hawaii. The name is surely a mouthful to pronounce, but you can pronounce it as who-moo-who-moo-new-koo-new-koo-ah-poo-ah-ah.

In Hawaiian, the name means “triggerfish with the snout like a pig” and it’s the longest word in the Hawaiian language! They became the island state’s fish in 1984 via a public survey, but it wasn’t official until five years later. The Humuhumu triggerfish is one of the most recognized fishes from Hawaii. It has an interesting color pattern and is a nicely built fish, growing up to ten inches long. Surprisingly, for such a fun-looking fish, the Humuhumu has strong, sharp teeth, and can be aggressive towards other organisms nearby. When pursued by a predator, they tend to make grunting, almost pig-like noises, which is where they get part of their name from. They’ve been known to bite human ankles if aggravated by one, and their bites can leave marks.

Not only can Humuhumu be aggressive toward other animals, but they can also be aggressive toward each other. This has led them to be solitary animals who rarely travel in groups. According to, when threatened, these triggerfish dig themselves into a hole in the coral reef, and use this as a shelter while locking their main spine so it’s hard for predators to get to. They use this method at night to protect themselves while they rest as well.

Humuhumu aren’t fish that are usually eaten by Hawaiians. Although triggerfish are edible, and it isn’t illegal in Hawaii to hunt for the state fish, Humuhumu were only eaten by earlier Hawaiians. As stated in the same article by, earlier Hawaiians would dry the fish and use it as cooking fuel. They were also used to replace pigs for food in some religious ceremonies.

Here are some other interesting facts about Humuhumunukunukuapua’a:

Though these fish are already very brightly colored, their teeth and top lip are bright blue. When getting ready to eat, they can be seen blowing water from the mouth to divide sand from edible things.

They have two spines, both of which are used so Humuhumu can protect themselves.

Humuhumu can change color, depending on what they’re doing. Threatened and submissive fish turn more muted, while relaxed and healthy turn vibrant.

This article only talks about the main parts of the Humuhumu fish, there are many more attributes to the reef triggerfish to read about! Hopefully this page helped you learn more about this uniquely named animal.