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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • California Kelp Forest Habitat (Cold Water Quest)

Range / Habitat

  • Garibaldi damselfish occurs in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, from Monterey Bay in California to Southern Baja California and Guadalupe in Mexico. 
  • A reef-associated fish, found in clear water, often near crevices, small caves, and occasionally in kelp at depths to 98 feet (30 m).

Physical Characteristics

  • Garibaldi is about 12 to 14 inches (31–36 cm) in length. It is the largest of the damselfish.
  • The most distinguishing feature is the bright orange color of the adult. A juvenile is red-orange with bright iridescent blue spots on the body and blue edges on the fins.
  • This species has a small, narrow mouth and an oval shaped body.

Diet / Feeding

  • Feeds on a wide range of invertebrates including worms, anemones, sea stars, shrimp, sponge and small shellfish.

Reproduction / Growth

  • A fiercely territorial fish, and will attack larger animals that threaten its eggs. 
  • The male will select a home territory that includes a feeding area, a protective hole, and a nesting site. It will protect its territory year round.
  • The female also will establish a home range but does not defend it with the same vigor as the male.
  • One of the most interesting things about the garibaldi is its courtship and mating behavior:
    • In the early spring, the male will prepare a nest by removing small animals and cleaning out the debris from a small area of a red algae bed.
    • When the nest is ready, he will work hard to attract females with swimming displays.
    • If the female is enticed to stay, she will release a trail of eggs, which stick to the algae nest.  The male then fertilizes the eggs and chases away the female so that she won’t eat the eggs. 
    • He will continue to clean and guard the eggs until they hatch with no assistance from the female. A female can lay between 50 to 1000 eggs, which incubate for 2 to 7 days until they emerge into transparent, 1/6-inch hatchlings. Several females may spawn in the same nest and each female may lay eggs in several nests.

Conservation Status

  • “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.
  • In 1995, the California Legislature placed a moratorium on Garibaldi collecting for either sport or commercial purposes. 

Additional Information

  • Garibaldi is the official marine fish of the state of California.
  • Garibaldi is solitary in nature and does not school. It is most active during the day and generally retreats to a protected spot at night.
  • When disturbed, a Garibaldi can emit an audible thumping sound.
  • Life span may be up to 17 years, but closer to 12 years is more common.

Passport to the Pacific. Aquarium of the Pacific, pgs. 10 - 11.