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Damselfish Facts and Information

Damselfishes are small colourful marine fishes found predominantly in warm tropical seas. Thus, damselfish thrive best in the shallow waters of the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Marine biologists believe there are more than 250 different saltwater damselfish species. But, the majority of the species fall under the scientific classification of Pomacentridae.

In fact, the damselfish family has a subspecies. It includes clownfish or anemonefishes from the subfamily genus Amphiprioninae and Premnas. All these fishes are conspicuous by their bright colouring.

Damselfishes are deep-bodied lively schooling fish. They can grow to a whopping 36 cm long (14 inches) darting around in their wild habitat. Damsels are territorial in nature. They often 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. Most have forked tails like their cichlid relatives. 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. Agreed, some damselfishes are a little drab in pigmentation.

But, 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, brilliant colored tropical marine fishes are 'notoriously' pugnacious. They are extremely territorial and protect their home turf with vigor on the sandy seabed.

They are often seen lunging at much larger fishes. Demselfish have even been known to '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. They defend their small circular gardens of hue from other fishes. Somewhat interestingly though, the algae cannot actually survive without the presence of these dusky damselfish.

Male Damselfish 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. It is more of a fish flirtation 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 gets 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. This 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. 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. This is especially so for those who are unfamiliar with fish traits and colorings. Fish identification of the juvenile species is easier for most learners. This is because the young are often brilliant in coloration.

In fact, damselfish tend to become less colorful and more drab as they mature. They then exhibit sexual dimorphism - a distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes. Thus, you need to know all the maturing stages to be correct in identifying damsels.

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Yellowtail Blue Damselfish [Chrysiptera parasema] Damselfishes Yellowtail damselfish

Pictures of Damselfishes: The relatively rare domino damsel and the abundant yellowtail damselfish are some of the fish life 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. Check out the marine you are likely to see in the Bay of Bangkok.

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