Moorish Idol

(7 customer reviews)



Moorish Idol, Zanclus canescens

  • Common Name: Moorish Idol
  • Latin Name: Zanclus canescens
  • Synonyms: Hawaiian Idol
  • Distribution: Originally from the Indo-Pacific region, including the Red Sea, East Africa, Japan, and Hawaiian Islands.
  • Max Size: Up to 9 inches (23 centimetres).
  • Temperature Range: 72-78°F (22-26°C).
  • pH Range: 8.1-8.4.
  • KH Range: 8-12 dKH.
  • Care Level: Moderate to difficult; requires precise care due to delicacy.
  • Lighting Preference: Moderate to high lighting.
  • Preferred Food: Varied diet including live foods, frozen preparations, and herbivorous fare such as algae and spirulina.
  • Behaviour: Can be shy, yet active and graceful swimmers.
  • Suitable for Reef Tanks: Moorish Idols are generally not recommended for reef tanks due to their delicate nature and potential for nipping at corals.
  • Discoverer: The Moorish Idol was not named for a specific discoverer.
  • Interesting Facts: Often considered symbols of good luck in some cultures. Their distinctive appearance is featured in various forms of art and popular media.

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LIVESTOCK = Fish, Critters and Corals

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Aquarium Plants: Are shipped the same as and can be mixed with Dry goods *Free shipping on orders over £50 or £6.99 for orders under £50. Some geographical restrictions may apply.

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The Moorish Idol, Zanclus canescens, can also be named Hawaiian Idol. these fish are incredibly attractive. They flaunt a striking appearance, showcasing a compressed, disk-shaped body adorned with bold black, white, and yellow stripes. This species can reach a maximum size of around 9 inches (23 centimetres) in captivity. Boasting a distinctive, elongated dorsal fin and a long, delicate snout, reminiscent of a bird’s beak. Its dramatic colouration and elegant physique make it a highly sought-after species among aquarists.


Belonging to the family Zanclidae, the Moorish Idol is the sole extant member of the genus Zanclus. The genus name, Zanclus, originates from the Greek word “zanukos,” signifying a sickle or pruning hook, possibly referencing the fish’s peculiar shape. Canescens, its species epithet, stems from the Latin word “canescere,” meaning to become grey or hoary, likely alluding to the fish’s subdued colouration.

Natural Habitat

The Moorish Idol inhabits coral reefs and rocky shores in tropical and subtropical waters, favouring areas with rich coral growth and abundant hiding spots among crevices. Its habitat typically features vibrant, diverse marine life, encompassing a variety of corals, sponges, and other invertebrates.

Keeping Moorish Idol Healthy.

Maintaining the Moorish Idol requires an experienced aquarist due to its high care level and moderate difficulty. It necessitates a large tank (minimum 100 gallons) with pristine water quality, stable temperature between 72-78°F (22-26°C), and a pH level of 8.1-8.4. Regular water changes and a well-established tank are crucial to mimicking its natural environment.

Special Requirements and Feeding

This species requires a varied diet consisting of live foods, frozen preparations, and herbivorous fare such as algae and spirulina. Multiple daily feedings up to capacity are recommended to ensure proper nutrition. Additionally, providing ample swimming space and ample hiding spots aids in reducing stress levels.

How Many Should I Keep

Moorish Idols are best kept singly or in mated pairs due to their territorial nature. It’s advisable to house only one per tank to mitigate aggression and competition for resources.

Lighting Preference

They thrive under moderate to high lighting conditions, replicating the bright, sunlit environment of their natural habitat. Adequate lighting promotes the growth of beneficial algae, which serves as a supplementary food source for the Moorish Idol.

Suitable Tank Mates

Peaceful tank mates like tangs, wrasses, and other non-aggressive species of similar size can cohabit with the Moorish Idol. However, aggressive or territorial fish may lead to conflicts, jeopardising the well-being of the Idol.

Reproduction in the Wild

Moorish Idols, scientifically known as Zanclus canescens, reproduce via broadcast spawning in the wild. They release their eggs and sperm into the water column during spawning events, where fertilisation occurs externally. Larvae hatch from the eggs and drift in the ocean currents before settling in suitable habitats such as coral reefs.

Breeding Zanclus canescens

Breeding Moorish Idols in captivity, although challenging, has been achieved in some instances.

  1. Set-Up: A spacious tank of at least 150 gallons with excellent water quality, stable temperature between 72-78°F (22-26°C), and appropriate lighting is essential.
  2. Courtship/Spawning: Courtship involves the pairing of a male and female Idol, characterised by increased activity and the display of intricate swimming patterns. Spawning often occurs during dusk or dawn. The release of eggs and sperm into the water column signifies successful breeding.
  3. Rearing: Once spawning has taken place, separating the eggs or larvae from other tank inhabitants is crucial. Larvae require specialised feeding protocols, often involving rotifers and copepods as initial food sources before transitioning to larger zooplankton as they grow.

Sexual Dimorphism

Moorish Idols do not display significant sexual dimorphism, making it challenging to visually differentiate between males and females based on physical characteristics alone. Both sexes exhibit similar colouration and body features.


Native to the Indo-Pacific region, Moorish Idols primarily inhabit tropical and subtropical waters around coral reefs. They can be found in various locations, including the Red Sea, East Africa, Japan, and the Hawaiian Islands.


The Moorish Idol, scientifically known as Zanclus canescens, is a visually stunning fish characterised by its striking black, white, and yellow stripes. They thrive in well-maintained aquariums but require diligent care due to their specific needs. Reproduction in the wild involves broadcast spawning, while captive breeding requires meticulous tank setup and specialised care during courtship, spawning, and rearing stages. Moorish Idols exhibit minimal sexual dimorphism and originate from the Indo-Pacific region, inhabiting diverse coral reef ecosystems.

Successfully breeding Moorish Idols in captivity demands precise conditions and careful attention to replicate their natural habitat. Understanding their reproductive behaviour, setting up appropriate breeding environments, and providing adequate care during courtship, spawning, and larval rearing stages are crucial for a successful breeding program.

7 reviews for Moorish Idol

  1. Blair Stewart-Henderson (verified owner)

    One of, if not my favourite fish in the hobby. Often these guys get horrible reputations for being hard to get eating. That is true, if you’re doing it yourself. Having bought an idol from my local shop and one from the Abyss, I can honestly say it’s night and day. The amount of effort I had to put into my first idol just to get to a place where it was regularly eating pellets or flake was crazy. My idol from abyss was a breeze. Within hours of being in the tank it was destroying flake food and nori from my clips. A month on and nothing has changed. Both idols are doing well and visually hard to tell apart but when it comes to feeding time you can always spot the abyss idol. Really impressive from the abyss team. They definitely know what they are doing !

  2. Frank

    Had marine fish now close on forty years.

    Always resisted the temptation to get a moorish idol.
    Because the experts say how hard they are to keep.
    Well thought go for it .
    Bought it , it arrived , acclimatised it , put it in tank waited half hour then fed.
    Ate fine and has done since first at it when it hits the water.
    Fingers crossed should have a happy life been well looked after.
    Only quality fish from abyss.

  3. Richard Henderson

    Can’t believe how good my Idol is, eating like a horse within half an hour of being introduced into my well established aquarium, incredibly well acclimatised to life in an aquarium. Will definitely recommend you Abyss

  4. Dave Williams (verified owner)

    The fish was delivered in immaculate condition and took no time to settle in. My guy is eating everything I put in front of him (flakes, pellets and frozen). Abyss have done a great job of getting this legendary finicky fish eating before coming to you. Thanks abyss!

  5. kxrider13 (verified owner)

    Was hesitant to buy this guy at first due to the bad reputation for being incredibly hard to keep and feed. However this beauty has been happy from the moment he went into my tank and was not fussed whatsoever with other fish. He was delivered early in the AM which is good and he’s eating everything I’ve offered to him after just 3 hours with the exception of brine flakes but that won’t take long before he’s devouring them too. Really happy with the service from Abyss and will definitely be a returning customer. 5 stars 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

  6. Jamie hatton (verified owner)

    Thank you abyss I’m amazed how my idol eats everything flake pellets and frozen &nori I’ve had mine about 2 weeks now settled in and he’s the top dog in the tank! Smashing the food, definitely recommend abyss if you want one of these!

  7. Jamie hatton (verified owner)

    Thank you abyss I’m amazed how my idol eats everything flake pellets and frozen &nori I’ve had mine about 2 weeks now settled in and he’s the top dog in the tank! Smashing the food, definitely recommend abyss if you want one of these!

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Dry Goods Delivery.

The store has provided information regarding their order dispatch and estimated delivery times. Here are the key details:

  1. Dispatch Timeframe: Orders placed before 2pm will be dispatched on the same day. Orders placed after 2pm will be dispatched on the next working day.
  2. Delivery Date and Time Guarantee: While the store aims to dispatch orders promptly, they cannot guarantee a specific delivery date and time. As the delivery process relies on couriers, there may be factors beyond their control that could affect the delivery timeframe.
  3. 1st Class Mail: For orders sent via 1st Class mail, the aim is to have them delivered on the next working day after dispatch.
  4. 2nd Class Mail: Orders sent via 2nd Class mail typically take approximately 2-3 working days for delivery after dispatch.
  5. APC Next Day Delivery: APC Next Day delivery is available for UK mainland postcodes. It is usually delivered on the next working day after dispatch. However, please note that items being delivered to more remote areas may require additional time for delivery.

It’s important to keep in mind that while the store strives to provide efficient delivery services, unforeseen circumstances or external factors could potentially impact delivery times. For further details or specific inquiries about delivery, customers should refer to the store’s terms and conditions or contact the store directly.

Livestock Delivery.

The store maintains specific policies regarding the delivery of livestock. Here are the key points:

  1. Licensed Livestock Courier: The store exclusively uses a licensed livestock courier for shipping fish and coral. This approach is chosen to ensure responsible and ethical transportation of the livestock.
  2. Livestock Shipping Fee: The livestock shipping fee charged to customers of £19.99 does not cover the true cost, and therefore, there is a minimum spend requirement of £30.00 before the option for livestock shipping becomes available.
  3. Pre-Arranged Delivery: The store never ships livestock without first arranging a suitable delivery day. Before dispatching the livestock, the store must confirm the agreed-upon delivery day with the customer.
  4. Saturday Delivery Confirmation: Customers who choose Saturday delivery must have their availability confirmed for the upcoming Saturday before the store sends out the livestock. This confirmation ensures that the livestock can be received promptly.
  5. Failure to wait for livestock: Not waiting for livestock, even if there is a reasonable delay, or cancelling an order after it has been dispatched will lead to you incurring charges for an emergency return to the base. Additionally, any losses of livestock will also be charged to you. Please be aware that the items you are ordering are living creatures – livestock. We kindly ask that you refrain from ordering livestock if you are unable to accommodate the possibility of a delayed delivery.

    These terms and conditions are a fundamental aspect of our policy. Our primary goal is to dissuade individuals who could react negatively to a delayed delivery and subsequently request order cancellations. It is of utmost importance to underscore that your order pertains to living creatures, not mere inanimate objects. In the event of an occasional delay, it is crucial that you respond in a rational and responsible manner, taking into account the welfare of the livestock. We kindly request that you refrain from placing an order for livestock if you tend to react strongly to such situations. By proceeding with the order of livestock, you indicate your acceptance and agreement to abide by these specified terms and conditions.

  6. Signature Requirement: Livestock deliveries require a signature upon receipt and cannot be left in a safe location. This precaution ensures proper handling and the well-being of the livestock.
  7. Geographic Restrictions: The courier has strict geographic restrictions for livestock deliveries. Unfortunately, deliveries to Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Channel Islands, and certain Scottish offshore postcodes may not be possible. Customers are encouraged to contact the store via email to confirm if livestock delivery is available in their area.
  8. Minimum Order Value and Order Cancellations: The store has a minimum order value of £30 for livestock shipping. Additionally, the store reserves the right to cancel orders that are deemed high-risk or involve a high number of single tropical freshwater fish species.

It is essential for customers to familiarize themselves with these policies before making a purchase. For more detailed information or specific inquiries, customers should consult the store’s terms and conditions or reach out to the store directly for clarification.

Livestock Geographical Exemptions.

The store has specific geographical exemptions for livestock deliveries. Here is a list of the areas and postcodes where livestock delivery is not available:

  1. Islands: Livestock cannot be delivered to the Shetlands, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man.
  2. Postcodes: Livestock delivery is not available to the following postcodes:
  • AB30 to AB39, AB41 to AB45, AB51 to AB56
  • DD8 to DD10
  • BT all
  • DG3 to DG9, DG12 to DG14
  • KA18 to KA19, KA26, KA29 to KA30
  • HS all
  • IM all
  • JE all
  • ZE all
  • KW15 to KW17
  • TD9
  • FK17 to FK21
  • GY all
  • KA26, to KA28
  • PA20 to PA38, PA41 to PA49, PA60 to PA61, PA76 to PA78
  • TR21, to TR25
  • PH3 to PH26, PH30 to PH44
  • IV all

Customers residing in these areas should be aware that livestock delivery is not available to their location.

We can ship livestock to the Isle of Wight, this area is subject to a surcharge.

For further information or specific inquiries about livestock delivery to a particular area, customers are advised to contact the store directly for clarification.


According to the store’s policy, customers have the right to cancel an order within 14 working days of receiving the goods. To initiate the cancellation, the goods must be returned to the store in new and unused condition, adhering to their Returns Policy.

Important points regarding the return process are as follows:

  1. Return Condition: The goods must be returned in new and unused condition, as originally received. It is important to ensure that the goods are in the same condition as when they were sent out.
  2. Return Timeframe: The goods must be received by the store within 21 days of notifying them about the cancellation. During this time, customers are responsible for any loss or damage that may occur during the return shipping process.
  3. Refund Process: Once the store receives the goods in new and unused condition, they will initiate the refund process. The purchase price will be refunded to the customer.
  4. Return Condition Inspection: If the returned goods arrive in a condition that is less than what they were sent out in, the store reserves the right to return the goods to the customer, and no refund will be processed.

It is essential for customers to carefully review the store’s Returns Policy and follow the specified procedures to ensure a smooth and successful return and refund process. For more detailed information or specific inquiries, customers should consult the store’s terms and conditions or contact the store directly.


According to the store’s return policy, the following guidelines should be followed for returning goods:

  1. Use Returns Form: Customers need to use the store’s provided returns form to initiate the return process. This form helps the store acknowledge that the goods are being sent back.
  2. Return for Testing: If the goods are being returned for testing, the customer is responsible for covering the return shipping expenses.
  3. Refund of Postage Fees: The store will only refund postage fees if the order arrives damaged or becomes faulty within the first 4 weeks of purchase. Proof of posting is important, and customers should ensure the goods are well-packed and obtain proof of posting as the goods remain their responsibility until received by the store.
  4. Refund of Postage Costs for Replacement: If goods are being returned within 7 days of purchase under the Replacement Policy, the store can refund postage costs. However, the customer needs to agree on a delivery service with the store in advance, and only standard or tracked shipping fees will be refunded. The store cannot refund the cost of any special delivery service.
  5. Non-Refundable Postage: Postage costs for goods returned for any other reason than those mentioned above are non-refundable. The store reserves the right to deduct the original postage cost from any applicable refund.
  6. Mistaken Purchases: If a customer has made a mistake in their purchase, they need to return the goods to the store. The customer is responsible for the return shipping costs in such cases.

It is important for customers to carefully follow the store’s return procedures and terms and conditions. For further details or specific inquiries, customers should refer to the store’s website or contact the store directly.


If customers receive faulty goods, the following guidelines apply according to the store’s policy:

  1. Notification of Faulty Goods: Customers must notify the store within 7 working days if they receive faulty goods. This notification should be made as soon as possible.
  2. Replacement Parts: If possible, the store will dispatch replacement parts for the faulty goods.
  3. Return of Goods: If replacement parts are not possible, the store may request customers to return the faulty goods in accordance with their Returns Policy. The specific return procedures and conditions should be followed.
  4. Verification of Damage: Once the store receives the returned goods, they will verify the damage. If the damage is confirmed, the store will supply the required replacements.
  5. Return Postage Costs: If the goods returned to the store are found to be in good working order, the store is not able to refund the return postage costs. Additionally, the store reserves the right to deduct their original postage cost from any applicable refund.
  6. Consequential Loss or Damage: The store cannot take responsibility for any consequential loss or damage that arises directly or indirectly from the goods supplied.

Customers should carefully review and adhere to the store’s Returns Policy and procedures for returning faulty goods. For further clarification or specific inquiries, customers should consult the store’s terms and conditions or contact the store directly.

Manufacturer’s Guarantees

The store works in collaboration with manufacturers to ensure that their guarantees are honored, and they make their best efforts to resolve issues within the warranty period. The following guidelines apply to refunds and replacements:

  1. Postage Costs under Manufacturer’s Guarantee: Postage costs can only be refunded if the goods are returned to the store within 7 days of the original purchase, as per the manufacturer’s guarantee.
  2. Refund of Postage Costs for Faulty Goods: The store will refund postage costs for guarantee/warranty returns only if the product becomes faulty within the first 4 weeks of receipt.
  3. Replacements with Manufacturer Authorization: Replacements, whether parts or goods, can only be offered when authorized by the manufacturer. Customers should contact the store for further guidance in such cases.
  4. Prior Approval for Returns: Goods should not be returned to the store without prior approval. Customers need to contact the store and obtain approval before returning any items.
  5. Replacement of Glass or Ceramic Items: Glass or ceramic items can only be replaced if the store is notified within 48 hours of receiving the delivery.
  6. Replacement of Glass Bulbs/Tubes: Glass bulbs or tubes can only be replaced if they become faulty within 14 days.

Customers should note and adhere to these guidelines to ensure a smooth and efficient resolution of any issues with their purchased items. For specific inquiries or further information, customers are advised to refer to the store’s terms and conditions or contact the store directly.


According to the store’s policy, customers have the following responsibilities regarding breakages:

  1. Checking Goods on Arrival: It is the customer’s responsibility to thoroughly check the goods upon arrival for any damage. This should be done before signing for the parcel. If the parcel appears damaged, it is advised not to sign for it.
  2. Reporting Breakages: Any breakages or damages must be reported to the store within 48 hours of receiving the goods. It is important to promptly notify the store to initiate the resolution process.

By carefully inspecting the goods upon arrival and reporting any breakages within the specified timeframe, customers can ensure that appropriate actions are taken to address the issue. For specific instructions on reporting breakages or further information, customers should refer to the store’s terms and conditions or contact the store directly.