Physical Description

  • Juvenile garibaldi are deeper orange than their parents (#20).
  • Only juveniles have neon blue spots and blue-trimmed fins.


  • California coast, from Monterey to northern Baja California, Mexico.
  • Very abundant in Channel Islands.


  • Unlike most of their damselfish relatives, they live in cool temperate waters.
  • From shallow subtidal waters to 100 feet depth.
  • Found in shallow rocky reefs between intertidal and subtidal zones.
  • Found in kelp forests.


  • Upon reaching maturity, male picks out nesting area where he will live rest of life.
  • Mating season occurs every March, where males remove any detritus or sea stars and bite back plants in their nesting areas except for red algae, which they trim to a short height.
  • The females look for good nests from April through the fall, swimming with their fins sticking straight up.
  • Males swim in loops and chomp their teeth to entice the females.
  • Females often visit 15 nests or more before choosing one.
  • Females like to lay their eggs in a nest that already has eggs from another female in it. Some can have 20 females’ eggs in them!
  • Females also like to lay their eggs near other fresh eggs, and garibaldi males will sometimes eat the older eggs in their nest to seem more appealing.
  • Garibaldi eggs hatch in 2-3 weeks.


  • Bottom-dwelling invertebrates, such as worms, small anemones, sponges, bryozoans, crabs, shrimp, small shellfish, and sea stars.


  • Larger fish, seals, sea lions, sharks.
  • On Santa Catalina Island, they are eaten by bald eagles. 

Interesting Facts

  • The garibaldi is the California state marine fish. As such, its possession is illegal.
  • The name garibaldi comes from the 1800s Italian leader Giuseppe Garibaldi whose troops wore flashy red/orange colors into battle.
  • Garibaldi are very territorial, and are known to chase divers away from their nesting areas. But two male garibaldis can graze peacefully within two feet of each other if they don’t cross territory lines. 

Sources: National Park Service; Aquarium of the Pacific

Photo: Kevin Lee

See if you can spot the bright orange fish on Birch Aquarium’s Kelp Cam