Hypsypops rubicundusGaribaldi

Geographic Range

Hypsypops rubicundus (common name: garibaldi) are primarily found off the coast of California. They have a home range from Monterey Bay down to the Baja California peninsula, and around the Channel Islands (Eschmeyer et al., 1983). (Eschmeyer, et al., 1983)


Unlike most other members of the damselfish family (Pomacentridae), H. rubicundus lives in cooler temperate waters as opposed to tropical reefs. Their habitats range from the shallow subtidal regions down to depths of approximately 100 feet. H. rubicundus occupies shallow rocky reefs near where the intertidal and subtidal zones meet. Here they swim in and around the kelp forests that are prevalent in this habitat. These kelp forests are a critical habitat element as they provide potential protection from predators, are a source of food for H. rubicundus, and are important for reproductive success (Allen and Robertson, 1994; Nelson, 1994). (Allen and Robertson, 1994)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef
  • Range depth
    35 (high) m
    114.83 (high) ft

Physical Description

H. rubicundus is one of the brightest colored fishes off the southern California coast. Adults are bright orange and the fish gets its common name, garibaldi, from the 19th century Italian leader by the same name whose famous army wore flashy red/orange colors into battle. Juvenile H. rubicundus are distinctivly colored with iridescent blue colored spots along their pectoral and tail fins as well as their lateral lines. This coloration gradually fades as the young reach full maturity at around six inches (Allen, 1991; Sikkel, 1989; Neal, 1993).

Adults grow to a size of approximately 12-14 inches (28-34 cm). H. rubicundus is the largest member of the Pomacentridae (Allen and Robertson, 1994). (Allen and Robertson, 1994; Allen, 1991; Neal, 1993; Sikkel, 1989)

  • Average length
    30 cm
    11.81 in


H. rubicundus spawn from mid-March through July. Like other members of the Pomacentridae, it is the male’s responsibility to build and tend the nest. Unlike other members of the family however, the male H. rubicundus spends an inordinate amount of time and energy (approximately an entire month) cleaning and preparing an inviting algal mat more than an inch thick and as large as a tire in circumference. These algal mats are critical to breeding success as research has shown that females prefer to mate with those males which have done the best job of “farming” their mats.

Once a male is successful in attracting a female, he deposits his spermatozoa over her huge clutch of eggs (15,000-80,000). By depositing his sperm over such a large clutch of eggs, the male is able to somewhat conserve his energy expenditures when producing these sperm and is thus able to expend that energy in attracting females and protecting his offspring (Nelson, 1994; Sikkel, 1989). (Sikkel, 1989)

  • Breeding season
    mid-March through July
  • Range number of offspring
    15,000 to 80,000

The male tends the nest and aggressively protects the offspring from predation.


Individuals live to upwards of 15 years in their natural environment. This lifespan is much reduced in a captive aquarium environment (Allen, 1991).


One of the most interesting behaviors of H. rubicundus is its premating behavior. Once the male has created an inviting nest it must next attract a female with which to breed. The male will swim loops in and around its nest in a behavior called “dipping” in order to attract the female. This dipping behavior is often accompanied by a loud “thumping” noise. This noise is a function of the H. rubicundus grinding its pharyngeal teeth. These activities serve to both attract the female as well as highlight the male’s potential defensive prowess. The male’s energy expenditure also serves to ensure the female that he will expend a comparable amount of energy protecting the young brood.

There have been instances where divers have been bitten by male H. rubicundus aggressively defending their algal mats. No potential predator is too large when it comes to this fish's willingness to protect its eggs (Allen and Robertson, 1994; Sikkel, 1989).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

H. rubicundus feeds primarily on small sessile sponges, bryozoans, and plankton that are found in and around the kelp forests that serve as its home (Allen, 1991; Eschmeyer et al., 1983). (Allen, 1991; Eschmeyer, et al., 1983)

Conservation Status

There has never been any significant sport fishing for H. rubicundus. However, recently there has been increasing pressure on the population from the commercial salt water aquarium trade.

Largely in response to these pressures, in 1995 H. rubicundus was adopted as the official marine fish of California. California law now protects the fish and prohibits taking for either sport or commercial purposes (Allen, 1991, Geobop, 2002).


William Fink (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Brian Cooper (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats plankton


having more than one female as a mate at one time


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Allen, G. 1991. Damselfishes of the world. Melle, Germany: Mergus Publishers.

Allen, G., D. Robertson. 1994. Fishes of the tropical eastern Pacific. Bathurst: Crawford House Press.

Author unknown, 2002. "California Geobopolocial Survey" (On-line). Accessed November 8, 2002 at http://www.geobop.com/World/NA/US/ca/Fish2.htm.

Eschmeyer, W., E. McFarland, J. Chess. 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Neal, T. 1993. A test of the function of juvenile color patterns in the promacentrid fish *Hypsypops rubicundus*. Pac Sci., 47: 240-247.

Sikkel, P. 1989. Egg presence and development stage influence on spawning choice by female garibaldi. Animal Behavior, 38: 447-456.