APRIL 2024


The California State Marine Fish

Our state fish is a bright orange goldfish with lots of attitude.

One of the more striking species along the California coastline is the Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, also known as Catalina goldfish, marine goldfish or Garibaldi damselfish. Averaging around 12 inches long when full grown, Garibaldi are one of the largest within the Damselfish family.

Named after the prominent Italian political figure Giuseppe Garibaldi, whose supporters wore red, Garibaldi fish are commonly spotted south of Anacapa Island, where they inhabit the rocky reef environments. Some hot spots where they gather include the coastal reefs of Malibu, Palos Verdes, Laguna Beach, and La Jolla Cove.

If you've spent time underwater with these memorable beauties, then you might have seen them aggressively challenge you when you get too close to their nest. As is the case in all damselfish, male Garibaldis aggressively defend their young.

Unlike their camera-friendly parents, juveniles are cautious and protected by their parents, hovering deep under rock cover and thus are seldomly seen. Juveniles also look different; their color is more reddish, and they have many small iridescent blue spots, showing their colorful tropical ancestry.

Garibaldi share their crevices with a myriad of other life: spiny lobsters, red octopus, purple sea urchins, green moray eels, sheepshead, calico bass, sea stars and other invertebrates. Their environment is literally brimming with living organisms, some of which are food for the garibaldi, others which consider them a potential meal.

Their diet is diverse and mostly carnivorous, consisting of sponges, marine worms, coelenterates, bryozoans, algae, and other small shellfish. Garibaldi predators include sharks, moray eels, seals and sea lions and sea birds.

When an El Nino occurs, Garibaldi occasionally move northward towards Monterey, which is the furthest North location in their range. They are common in Northern Baja and out to Guadalupe Island, from there South the water becomes too warm and tropical for their preferred kelp-filled habitats.

Their limited range and their bold and ever-present nature here in Southern California waters make Garibaldi an obvious choice to be the beloved and protected California State Marine fish.

In addition to the marine mammal protection act, which makes all marine mammals protected in the US, there are six protected ocean species varieties in California, sharing this status with great white sharks, black sea bass, broomtail grouper, bronze-spotted rockfish/yelloweye rockfish/cowcod rockfish, and abalone.

Garibaldi fish
Garibaldi are a species of bright orange fish in the damselfish family.

Garibaldi juvenile
Juvenile Garibaldis have bright blue spots.