Super Awesome Fish: Garibaldi Edition

There’s almost a guarantee that divers will see Garibaldis in California. In fact, we see them so often they almost seem like a running joke. But let us not forget what a cool fish they are; read on for some awesome facts about Gary Baldy.

Garibaldis are bright orange in color, and adults can grow as large as 15 inches.


They get their name, most likely, from Giuseppe Garibaldi (an Italian general and politician in the 1800’s), who’s followers wore bright red shirts.

Garibaldis are damselfish, which are known for being territorial.  Male garibaldis choose a plot and make a yard,  removing all pebbles and debris, and farming red algae, keeping the same yard for the rest of their lives.

Garibaldis are the official state marine fish of California, they are protected and it is illegal to fish them. I’m like 99% sure no one even knows what they taste like that. That is a scientific fact* (not actual science).

Garibaldi/Kelp Scene, Empire Landing, CATALINA CA!
Garibaldi/Kelp Scene, Empire Landing, CATALINA CA!

After the male Baldis have cleaned and weeded their yards, and after an elaborate courting sesh that involves swimming in loops and jumping through hoops (*figuratively speaking)  females deposit their eggs  in the red algae, and the males guard the nest until the eggs hatch…19-21 days.

Juvenile baldis are orange with bright, blue spots

beautiful juvenile garibaldi
beautiful juvenile garibaldi

Garibaldis are known for being aggressive and territorial, protecting their yards and eggs.  They are so aggressive, they often attack creatures MUCH larger than them to protect their yummy eggs, including scuba divers!! They are definitely not afraid to bite a scuba diver on the head as a warning.

Look at that mean side eye.
Look at that mean side eye.

Who has been bopped in the head by a Garibaldi in California?


PS Do you love the pictures in this post? Check out Michael Zeigler’s Sea in Focus to check out the amazing work he’s amassed of the underwater world.

PPS: I remember, in my pre scuba diving days, seeing Garibaldis at Catalina, just standing on the edge of the landing for the ferry and looking down into the water.  Their bright orange color makes them easy to spot, and they like to hang out in pretty shallow waters sometime.  They are definitely a great symbol for California waters: bright, bold, memorable, and fierce.  Welcome to the Pacific!

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