Physical Description

  • Fish with a short and compressed body and short thick dorsal (back) fin spines.
  • Yellowish to olive coloration on body with thick black vertical stripes on sides.
  • Pink, red, or orange lips and two black bands radiating from the eyes.
  • Juvenile treefish have white-edged fins.


  • San Francisco to central Baja California, Mexico.
  • Rare north of Santa Barbara.


  • They are primarily shallow water fish, but can be down to 100 feet in depth.
  • Adults live in crevices, rocky areas, and caves.
  • Juveniles are found in drifting mats of kelp and in areas of high rocky relief.


  • Treefish are thought to spawn once annually in late winter.
  • Each female releases 50,000-100,000 pelagic eggs annually.


  • Shrimp, spider crabs, cancer crabs, small fish, octopus.


  • Juveniles are eaten by rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, salmon, birds, porpoises, and least terns.
  • Adults are eaten by sharks, dolphins, and seals.

Interesting Facts

  • Treefish are also called convict fish, lipstick fish, lipstick bass, and barber pole, all due to their distinctive coloration..
  • They rarely travel far from home and are highly territorial. Their pink lips may be to warn off other fish.
  • Like all rockfish, they have venomous spines.
  • Treefish can live for 25 years.

Sources:; Milton Love; California Department of Fish and Game; AquaFind;

Photo: Rocio Gajon Bunker