A fiercely territorial fish, the male garibaldi will protect its home territory year around.
  • Size

    12-14 inches (31–36 cm)
  • Diet

  • Range

    Eastern Pacific Ocean
  • Habitat

    Clear water, often near crevices, small caves, and occasionally in kelp

Physical Characteristics

  • Common size is about 12-14 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.

Animal Fact

Garibaldi damselfish can make an audible thumping sound when disturbed.

Diet / Feeding

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

Range / Habitat

  • 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).

Reproduction & Growth

  • A fiercely territorial fish, and will attack larger animals that threaten its eggs.
  • Males will select a home territory that includes a feeding area, a protective hole, and a nesting site. They will protect its territory year-round.
  • Females also will establish a home range but do not defend it with the same vigor as males.
  • One of the most interesting things about the garibaldi is its courtship and mating behavior:
  • In the early spring, males 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, they will work hard to attract females with swimming displays.
  • If a 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

  • The garibaldi is the official marine fish of the state of California.
  • They are solitary in nature and do not school. They are most active during the day and generally retreat 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.


  • www.fishbase.com
  • Passport to the Pacific. Aquarium of the Pacific, pgs. 10 – 11.
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