Pink Cardinalfish

Pink Cardinalfish, Apogon pacificus

The Pink Cardinalfish, Apogon pacificus, whose common Spanish name is cardenal morro listado, is a species in the Cardinalfish or Apogonidae Family, known collectively as cardenales in Mexico. Globally there are one hundred ninety species in the genus Apogon, seventeen of which are found in Mexican waters, twelve in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.

The Pink Cardinalfish have small laterally compressed oblong bodies. They are overall reddish-pink in color with yellow on their head, breast, and body. They have a distinguishing black bar that runs from their snout through the eyes and a short black bar on their upper back below the origin of their second dorsal fin (a key to identification). The upper and lower portions of their eyes are yellow. Their head is large with a short pointed snout, large eyes, and a large oblique mouth equipped with small teeth located on the roof of the mouth. Their anal fin has two spines and 8 rays; their caudal fin is concave; their first dorsal fin has 6 spines; their second dorsal fin is well separated with one spine and 9 rays; and their pectoral fins are exceedingly long. They have 15 to 17 gill rakers on the first arch. Their lateral line is complete and extends into the tail base. They are covered with rough scales.

The Pink Cardinalfish are found in coral and rocky reefs at depths up to 315 feet. They reach a maximum length of 10.0 cm (3.9 inches). They are nocturnal predators emerging at night and remaining secluded during the day. They consume zooplankton and small invertebrates including crab and shrimp and are often found mixed in with other Cardinalfish. They are one of the rare marine species exhibiting oral brooding; males incubate the fertilized eggs in their mouths for several days before releasing hundreds of 2 to 4 mm larvae into the ocean which remain in planktonic form for several weeks before developing into juveniles.

In Mexican waters the Pink Cardinalfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from the extreme northeast portion of the Sea of Cortez.

From personal experience, I do not believe that the Pink Cardinalfish can be caught by hook and line, however, I see them fairly frequently. For example, in April 2015, I had nine sitting on the panga floor that had been regurgitated by one 12-inch Flag Cabrilla. They are generally too small and inaccessible to be of interest to most.

Pink Cardinalfish, Apogon pacificus.  Fish “caught” off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur having been regurgitated by a 12-inch Flag Cabrilla, April 2015. Length: 3.8 cm (1.5 inches).