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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Garden Eel Habitat (Tropical Diver)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in tropical marine environments in the Western Pacific Ocean from Palau through the Caroline, Marshall and Fanning Islands.
  • Found on coral reefs at depths from 13-98 feet (4-30 m).
  • Lives in large groups with few males and several dozen females and juveniles. Groups appear in areas of branching corals where the fish are able to find shelter.
  • Active during the day and spends most of its time swimming above the coral reef and feeding on plankton.

Physical Characteristics

  • Can reach a maximum size of about 3.5 inches (9 cm). 
  • Appears in a variety of colors including purples, reds and oranges. Male has different coloration from female; colors are more vivid for males than females.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists of zooplankton.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Forms huge schools that are actually made up of small coexisting social harems.
  • Each harem is usually led by the largest, most colorful male; several smaller, less dominant males; a group of females; and juvenile fish.
    • The dominant male constantly defends its place in the group’s hierarchy by challenging the lesser males as well as other males from neighboring harems. 
    • At dusk, the dominant male from each harem participates in “courtship dances” that entail frenzied, zig-zag swimming patterns that attract the females from their group and lead to coinciding spawning in the aggregation.
  • Sequential hermaphrodites; individual can change gender from female to male. All begin life as females.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Due to environmental or social factors, such as the male dying, some females can become males. Sex-change ensures there will always be a male and a female to reproduce. The replacement is capable of changing her sex to male in a period of 2 to 3 weeks. The change cannot be reversed.

Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific.  Allen, G.; Steene, R.; Humann, P. and Deloach, N., pg. 138