Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus

 The Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, whose common Spanish name is juqueta garibaldi, is the largest member of the Damselfish or Pomacentridae Family, known collectively as castañetas and jaquetas in Mexico. The Garibaldi is the State Marine Fish of California and was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian military and political figure of the 19th century, who wore a bright red shirt as his trademark. There is only one global member of the genus Hypsypops, and it is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific.

The Garibaldis have deep oblong thick compressed bodies with a depth that is 49 to 53% of standard length. They are the most distinctive fish on the California Coast with juveniles being reddish-orange in color with numerous blue spots scattered across their body and fins. As the juveniles mature, they transition to bright orange and lose their blue spots. Adult females and males are similarly colored. All their fins have faint blue margins and their eyes are yellow. Their caudal and pectoral fins are long and flowing. They have a small mouth with a single row of chisel-like teeth, large lips, and a steeply sloping head featuring an enlarged crest in mature males. Their anal fin has two spines and 12 to 15 rays; their caudal fin is deeply notched with both lobes being large and rounded; and their dorsal fin is singular and continuous with 11 to 13 spines and 15 to 17 rays. They have 15 gill rakers. Their lateral line is incomplete ending under their dorsal fin base. They are covered with large scales.

The Garibaldis are generally a solitary non-schooling non-migratory species found in clear water environments around rocky inshore reefs, rocky bottoms, and within kelp forests intertidally to depths up to 130 feet. They are different from most tropical Damselfish requiring water temperatures between 20oC (68oF) and 26oC (79oF). They reach a maximum length of 38 cm (15 inches) and weight of 1 kg (2 pounds) with males being larger than females; larger fish are found in the wild (versus in captivity). They are active diurnally feeding on invertebrates such as bryozoans, nudibranchs, and tubeworms, but also consume sponges and algae that grow among rocky substrates. Their sponge diet is believed to contribute to their bright colors. In turn they are preyed upon by larger fish, sea lions, seals, and sharks as well as bald eagles. Reproduction is oviparous. Males build nests and provide care for young fish. They select sites within their home range in close proximity to algae food sources with nest building taking up to 30 days. Males then try to attract females using audible sounds and behavioral displays. Females are highly selective preferring sites that have fresh eggs recently deposited. Each female will deposit between 15,000 and 80,000 bright yellow eggs which are then fertilized by the male. The male then immediately excuses the female (who has a tendency to eat the eggs) and tries to attract another female. Several females may deposit eggs in the same nest and a female may deposit eggs in several different nests. The male grooms and fiercely defends the eggs from intruders for two to three weeks until they hatch and the larvae are pelagic. Adults maintain small home territories. As males mature, they can become highly territorial and aggressive attacking intruders with their exposed teeth. They are intolerant of all other Damselfish. They have a lifespan of up to seventeen years in the wild and twenty-five years in captivity.

In Mexican waters the Garibaldis have a limited distribution being found only along the entire west coast of Baja but are exceedingly rare in the southern portion of this range. There is also an isolated population around Tres Maria Islands off the coastal mainland. They are very common in the coastal waters off Southern California.

Due to its uniform bright orange-red coloration, the Garibaldi cannot be confused with any other species.

The Garibaldis are caught on rare occasions by recreational anglers and are easy prey for divers and spearfishermen as they will approach divers. They are fully protected in the State of California and in some Marine Protected Areas in Mexico. Although juveniles have been historically very popular in the aquarium trade, it is currently illegal to possess Garibaldis without a permit. They can be found in most of the large licensed public aquariums in the United States. They are currently sold illegally, on a limited basis, via the internet with most fish being shipped from Mexico.

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus. An accidental catch and release with fish caught out of coastal waters off Long Beach, California, October 2015. Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Loreto, Baja California Sur.Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus. An accidental catch and release with fish caught out of coastal waters off La Bocana, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 26 cm (10 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundusAn accidental catch and release with fish caught out of coastal waters off Newport Beach, California, October 2015. Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundusUnderwater photo taken in coastal waters off La Jolla, CA, October 2014. Length: 25 cm (10 inches). Also pictured is a Señorita, Oxyjulis californicaPhoto and identification courtesy of Bob Hillis, Ivins, UT.