No one ever talks about the poor old damsel fish.
Damselfishes are small colourful marine fishes which are found predominantly in warm tropical seas and some shallow waters of the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Ocean.
There are thought to be more than 250 different saltwater damselfish species. Most comprise the scientific classification Pomacentridae.
In fact, the damselfish family has a subspecies which mostly includes clownfish or anemonefishes from the subfamily genus Amphiprioninae and Premnas – also conspicuous by their bright colouring.
Damselfishes are deep-bodied lively schooling fish which may grow to a whopping 36 cm long (14 inches) darting around in their wild habitat. They are territorial in nature and display a surprisingly aggressive, angry behaviour for a relatively small tropical marine fish.
Some of the most brightly-colored species are shaded orange-yellow, red, and blue, usually with forked tails similar to their cichlid relatives. Perhaps one of the most surprising damselfish facts, is that despite being broadly marine animals, a select few of the damsel fish family actually inhabit lower stretches of fresh water rivers.
Saltwater damselfish – also called Demoiselle – are often overlooked and ignored by coral reef divers and snorkelers. But in fact, even though some damselfishes are a little drab in pigmentation, if you spend time observing and studying this feisty and fastidious vertebrate, you are likely to find the darting damselfish species much more interesting and entertaining than you might expect.
The tiny species of small brilliantly colored tropical marine fishes are notoriously pugnacious and territorial when they are protecting their home turf on the sandy seabed.
They are often seen lunging at much larger fishes and they have been known to ‘tamely’ attack scuba divers when they feel threatened.
This belligerent behavior is how most of the small reef fish guard and defend their personal patch of algae or anemone, where its eggs are sheltered.
Damselfish Facts: The Indo-Pacific’s Dusky Farmerfish – pictured – selectively filter their chosen habitat. They grow and graze on only one particular species of algae, ferociously defending their small circular gardens of hue from other fishes. Somewhat interestingly though, in fact the algae cannot actually survive without the presence of these dusky damselfish.
Interesting Facts about Damselfish
-Juveniles are coloured differently (sometimes with spots) from mature adult fishes
-Many of the species mature around three years and some grow to 30 cm although most are around 15 cm long
-They thrive best in shallow coral reefs, sea grass, and sheltered mangroves where they can feed on algae and zooplankton
-Some genus make a strange clicking noise – almost purring – during the courtship season from spring to summer
-Females lay around 20,000 tiny oval eggs and they vigorously defend their sandy seabed territory during the spawning season