The blacksmith is often a "customer" of cleaner fish, allowing the fish to clean their skin and scales of parasites. In return, the cleaner fish are provided with food and protection from predators.
  • Size

    10 inches (25 cm)
  • Diet

  • Range

    Eastern Pacific Ocean
  • Habitat

    Near shore waters, around reefs and kelp beds

Physical Characteristics

  • The blacksmith’s body is gray-blue on the sides with black spots toward the rear.
  • A male guarding its nest is very light-colored, almost white, with a dark bar through each eye.
  • Juveniles are blue-gray in the front of the body and brassy orange at the rear.
  • Can reach up to 10 inches (25 cm) in length.

Animal Fact

During the day, large schools with hundreds of individual blacksmith fish can be found over most reefs.

Diet / Feeding

  • Adult blacksmith feeds in mid-water during the day on zooplankton, such as copepods, crustacean eggs and larvae.
  • Young obtains some of its food by “cleaning” or picking parasites from other fish.

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Eastern Pacific from Monterey Bay to Central Baja California.
  • This is a very abundant mid-water fish that is found over structures (such as rocky reefs and oil platforms) in near-shore waters, around reefs and kelp beds.
  • Can be found at depths from near-surface to about 150 feet (46 m).

Reproduction & Growth

  • During the breeding season, the male cleans a nest site (under overhangs or in small caves in rocky reefs) and guards the eggs until they hatch.

Conservation Status

  • “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Blacksmiths are major “customers” of cleaner fish, especially females.
  • During the day, large schools with hundreds of individuals can be found over most reefs.
  • Adults tend to hang out at the incurrent side of the reefs, waiting for zooplankton, while the young are usually found near the bottom, close to places of refuge.
  • At night, most blacksmiths find shelter in crevices or on the sand near the crevices.  It is a gregarious species: many individuals will gather in a small cave.


  • Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast. Love, M., pgs. 278 – 279
  • Pacific Coast Inshore Fishes. Gotshall, D. W., pg. 85
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