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Damselfish Facts and Information

Damselfish Species Facts - 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.

Damselfish Species Habitat

Dusky Farmerfish [Stegastes nigricans]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.

Male Courtship Behavior

Male Damselfish exhibit a mesmerizing display during their courtship cycle. Males try to attract females to their nest by jetting up and down from their seabed territory. Even though the courtship displays are more common at dawn, it is not an aggressive behavior but more of a fish flirtation which is aimed towards any egg-depositing females in the area.

It is the male of the species which take on the role of egg tending once the spawn has been deposited in the nest. They tend the eggs and oxygenate them by periodically fanning them with their fins.

Sequential Hermaphroditism Facts

Damselfish exhibit a common fish behavior of sequential hermaphroditism which means they can change genders - extremely rare among vertebrates. Depending on the fish species, sequential hermaphroditism may be protandrous (males change to females) or protogynous (females change to males).

Damselfish Facts: The two-stripe damsel (Reticulated dascyllus) is a protogynous hermaphrodite and they will change their sex gender from female to male when a male is no longer available for mating.

Identifying Saltwater Damselfish

Many of the different fish families and classifications are a challenge to identify especially for those who are unfamiliar with fish traits and colorings. Fish identification of the juvenile species is easier for most learners because the young are often brilliantly colored.

They tend to become less colorful and drabber as they mature and they then exhibit sexual dimorphism - a distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes. Therefore, you need to know all the maturing stages to correctly identify damsels.

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Yellowtail Blue Damselfish [Chrysiptera parasema] Damselfishes Yellowtail damselfish

Pictures of Damselfishes: The relatively rare domino damsel and perhaps the more abundant yellowtail damselfish are not commonly found in the shallow waters around the coral islands in the northern Gulf of Thailand. The Pattaya fish species section has more facts and information about the marine you are likely to see in the Bay of Bangkok.

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