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168. Red Reef Lobster (Enoplometopus occidentalis)


The Red Reef Lobster (Enoplometopus occidentalis) is a fascinating species that has captured the attention of many underwater videographers due to its elusive nature. The Red Reef Lobster is a relatively small lobster (12 cm/5 in) and is a nocturnal scavenger that spends its days in caves, reef holes, and crevices, and therefore is seldom seen by divers despite having a wide distribution.

They inhabit rocky and coral reefs or the deeper parts of reef slopes to a depth of 300m/1000ft or so in the Indo-Pacific, with a range from the east African coast in the Indian Ocean to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean and from Japan to Australia in the south.

These little lobsters are brightly coloured, usually in different hues of red with white spots (sometimes, on rare occasions, they might have white lines covering their body) and are covered in hairs, hence their other common name Hairy Reef Lobster. Although not fully understood, these hairs may have a sensory function.

The genus Enoplometopus is characterised by having only one pair of claws, in comparison with all other members of the Nephropidae family, who are equipped with claws on the first three pereiopods. All these lobsters have a lot of resemblance regarding size and appearance with different freshwater crayfish species.

Like all other crustaceans, the Red Reef Lobster moults several times in its life. To be able to grow crustaceans must shed their carapace and form a new, larger one. During this process, the lobster is vulnerable to predators and must find a safe place to hide until its new shell hardens.

The Red Reef Lobster is a scavenger, but besides feeding on dead material and leftovers, they also feed on a variety of mollusks, small crustaceans, marine worms, and urchins.

Unfortunately, habitat loss and the aquarium trade, where they fetch high prices, are responsible for the decline of this beautiful little lobster species.


The little lobster disappears into a little crack in the reef, only to reemerge a split-second later. Normally, I would have stopped the recording the moment the animal disappears, but experience has taught me to keep recording for at least another 4 seconds or so. When I was a novice underwater videographer, I made the mistake of pressing the button way too soon and way too often, which resulted in a lot of missed or incomplete shots. While it is so easy to cut off a few seconds during the editing process. So let the camera roll for a few extra seconds.

Underwater videographers and photographers who want to capture footage of these elusive creatures need to go out on night dives, as this crustacean only ventures out from dusk till dawn. They also need to be patient and observant, as well as careful with video lights, as the Red Reef Lobster is a light-shy master of disappearance and can disappear into the smallest cracks in the reef when illuminated by underwater lights or strobes.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

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How to use your video lights correctly is explained extensively in our online Marine Wildlife Videography course. The course also dives deeper into how to film on night dives.


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