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Damselfish - Pomacentridae


Everybody has heard of Nemo, but not many know that this species is a member of the Damselfish family - a large family that includes many of the smaller fish that make up the numbers on Asia's reefs.

Damselfish are one of the most successful tropical fish families. As well as Anemonefish, the family also includes Sergeant Majors, Humbugs, Fork-tailed Chromis and many other commonly encountered species.

Damselfish Damselfish Damselfish Damselfish Clown Anemone are damselfish, members of of one the most successful reef fish families.
Identification Identification
Family Variety  Family Variety
A large family with over 300 species, most Damselfish are small have a broadly similar body shape. There is lots of variety in their patterns and markings, with yellow, black, white and blue being the most common colours.

Size  Size
The Lined Chromis (chromis lineate) is the smallest member of the Damselfish family at around 5cm, while the largest found in Asian Pacific waters is the Indo-pacific Sergeant Major (Abudefduf vaigiensis) at up to 19cm.
Behaviour Behaviour Damselfish
Damselfish include alot of the small reef fish seen in clouds over healthy reefs

Damselfish often live in groups on the reef, either drifting above the water column feeding on passing plankton, or on the reef itself feeding on algae growing on the coral.

Despite their small size they can be very aggressive when protecting feeding territory or their nests. They are not scared of attacking much larger fish or even unsuspecting divers.

Distribution  Distribution
Found in all tropical and some temperate waters worldwide.

Distribution  Habitat
Most species are reef dwelling, living in or very close to the shelter that the reef provides for small fish. Anemonefish live their whole lives within the protection of a sea anemoneís stinging tentacles, to which they have developed an immunity.

Distribution  Diet
Damselfish can be either plankton feeding, filtering passing microscopic life from the water column, or feed on the the reef itself, nibbling on the layer of algae that coats the reef.

Distribution  Reproduction
Damselfish lay eggs in patches on the reef which are then protected by the breeding couple until they hatch. In some areas where species breed in unison, the reef can turn purple from the patches of purple eggs everywhere.

Distribution  Defences
Damselfish are generally shy, quickly retreating to the safety of the reef if they feel threatened. Some species however defend their feeding territory with fierce aggression. Anemonefish use their hostís poisonous tentacles to deter would be predators. The fish themselves are coated in special mucus that protects them against the anemoneís deadly sting.

Distribution  Threats
Damselfish are not fished as eating fish, a few species are targeted by the aquarium trade but their largest threat is the destruction of their habitat with the decline of coral reefs.

Distribution  Did you know?

  Damselfish clownfish clarks anemonefish Damselfish
Popular Species Popular Species
  • Western Clownfish
  • Sergeant Major
  • Clark's Anemonefish
  • Three-spot Humbug

DamselfishWestern Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)
Made famous as the star of 'Finding Nemo', these little orange and white fish spend their time dancing among the tentacles of their host anemone.





DamselfishSergeant Major (Abudefduf vaigiensis)
Often found in large numbers on reefs throughout the region, they school in open shallow water well above the reef, filtering the water for tasty plankton.





DamselfishClark's Anemonefish(Amphiprion clarkii)
One of the larger anemonefish species, can be very aggressive for their size. They show little fear of larger fish or divers and will protect their territory courageously.





Three-spot Humbug (Dascyllus trimaculatus)
Commonly observed on Indo-Pacific reefs living in groups hovering above hard branching corals. They quickly retreat into the safety of the coral if threatened. The species is named after their juveniles, which are black with three white spots.





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