Physical Description

  • Long perch-shaped fish.
  • Back is dark blue, almost black in color; sides are bluish-gray.
  • Have a long and undivided dorsal (back) fin.
  • Scales from mid-body to tail, as well as dorsal and tail fins, have black spots on them.
  • Often have a light blue border visible around the fins.
  • Adult males guarding eggs change to be almost white in color with dark band around each eye.
  • Juvenile blacksmiths are brighter, with blue-black coloration with a light-brown or orange tail.


  • Monterey Bay, California to Punta San Pablo, Baja California, Mexico.
  • Most common south of Point Conception, California.


  • Found in inshore waters.
  • Prefer rocky reefs and manmade structures like oil rigs.
  • Often gather at night in small crevices, caves, under ledges, or other protected spaces.
  • Young fish are often in kelp beds.
  • Found at depths of 270 feet, but more common from surface to 147.5 feet.


  • Believed to be sexually mature around 2 years old and 5 inches long.
  • Spawning mainly in the summer.
  • Male prepares a nesting area, female lays salmon-colored eggs.
  • Male guards the eggs until they hatch and join plankton as larvae.
  • Male guarding eggs changes color to be almost white in color with dark band around each eye.


  • Zooplankton: copepods, eggs, larvae of other animals.


  • Least terns, cormorants, bald eagles, California sea lions, harbor seals, and larger fish.

Interesting Facts

  • Blacksmith often school in large numbers in open water.
  • Blacksmith let señorita fish and some surfperch clean them, and juvenile blacksmith sometimes clean other fish.

Sources: Aquarium of the Pacific; Oregon Coast Aquarium;

Photo: Derek Tarr