The Garibaldi fish damselfish is California’s state fish. It is only found in the Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California to Baja California. Garibaldis live in kelp forests and rocky coastal reefs down to 100 ft (31 m) deep.
They are solitary fish so they are usually found milling around kelp forests alone. Garibaldi fish spend much of their time searching for food like worms, sponges, and shrimp. Male garibaldi fish are very territorial. In the spring, a male Garibaldi fish will build a nest consisting of red algae, in order to attract females to lay their eggs.
The male will consistently clean the nest and carry away small animals. It may take a month to fully prepare the nesting area. Females choose the best looking nests. A female will lay 10s of thousands of eggs onto the nest and the male will fertilize them. The male has to drive the female away from his nest as soon as she deposits her eggs to make sure she doesn’t eat the eggs.
Several females might deposit eggs in the same nest. The male will guard his nest and fan the eggs for the two to three weeks it takes for them to hatch. Males might even chase away divers from approaching their nesting area. Eggs hatch at night and the larvae begin to drift with the current. Juvenile Garibaldis can be identified by their bright blue spots.
Adults can reach around 15 inches (.4 m) long. They become reproductively mature at five to six years of age. Garibaldis used to be exploited by the aquarium trade until it became illegal to remove them from their habitat. A special permit is required to collect these fish.