Animals Wildlife 12 Gorgeous Animals of the Coral Reef By Anna Norris Writer Georgia State University Anna (Norris) Mitchell is a writer, editor, and photographer who loves capturing nature through her camera lens. our editorial process Anna Norris Updated December 18, 2017 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species Diverse and beautiful Photo: Debra James/Shutterstock Coral reefs host the widest variety of living creatures in the ocean, providing fish with food, homes and protection. Shallow tropical seas boast animals of every size and color. Here are 10 beautiful animals that make their homes in this intricate ecological system. Bartlett's anthias Photo: chonlasub woravichan/Shutterstock Many fish find solace in the coral reef. The bartlett's anthias travels in groups, finding shelter in the branches of coral. All of these fish start out as female, and some turn into males — but only the most colorful male leads the pack. Butterflyfish Photo: LagunaticPhoto/Shutterstock Butterflyfish have a unique courtship ritual, swimming in circles up close to the surface of the ocean to release eggs and sperm into the water. When the eggs hatch, the young find shelter in the reefs. Clownfish Photo: Ste Everington/Shutterstock Also known as anemonefish, these colorful fish live in sea anemones in a symbiotic relationship. The stinging anemones protect them, while their waste is food for the anemone. Lionfish Photo: Vassil/Wikimedia Commons With its flare of long, venemous fins, the lionfish is an impressive (and beautiful!) predator. Although native to the Indo-Pacific, the lionfish has flourished since its introduction to the East Coast of the United States, making it an invasive species. Yellow tang Photo: IcyS/Shutterstock In shallow tropical seas, the yellow tang benefits from sunlight. Though dull at night, as soon as the sunlight seeps through, the yellow tang brightens in color. Harlequin shrimp Photo: Luiz A. Rocha/Shutterstock Harlequin shrimp might look tiny, but they are fierce predators of starfish. Working in pairs, they can even take down the intimidating crown-of-thorns starfish. Mandarinfish Photo: Thesupermat/Wikimedia Commons Also known as the Mandarin dragonet, this multicolored fish is so named because of its resemblance to a traditional Imperial Chinese robe. They tend to feed near the bottom of reefs, so they can be quite elusive. Banded pipefish Photo: littlesam/Shutterstock Banded pipefish switch roles when it comes to parenting: the male gives birth after transferring the females eggs into his pouch. Their long, thin bodies allow them to hide within the reeds and reefs. Moon jellyfish Photo: Efstathios Chatzistathis/Shutterstock Moon jellyfish, though translucent, look majestic as they capture the light around them. They are a valuable part of the food chain in coral seas, eating shrimp, fish eggs and larvae and in turn becoming food for leatherback and other sea turtles. Unfortunately, marine animals often mistake plastic bags for moon jellies. Harlequin tuskfish Photo: Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock Bright and colorful on the outside, the harlequin tusk has sharp, blue teeth that enable it to easily eat crustaceans, yet it leaves the coral alone. Moorish idol Photo: aquapix/Shutterstock The Moorish idol is so named from the Moors of Africa, who were said to believe that the fish brought happiness. They mate for life. (And yes, this fish was the inspiration for Gill in "Finding Nemo.") Palette surgeonfish Photo: Yakov Oskanov/Shutterstock Speaking of "Finding Nemo," another gorgeous fish from the coral reef is the palette surgeonfish, better known as "Dory" — who will be getting her very own movie! These fish, also known as blue tang, rely on the coral reef to feel safe when they are alarmed.