News & DepartmentsLocal

Fast Facts: Orange You Glad it’s the Garibaldi?

CALIFORNIA— In 1995, California adopted the garibaldi as its state fish and made its possession officially illegal. The Legislature acted to protect the garibaldi by placing a moratorium on the commercial collection and designating the garibaldi as the official State Marine Fish of California.


In 1840, an Italian named Giuseppe Garibaldi decided to start wearing bright red shirts as part of his personal style. He fought for the reunification of Italy, became a general, and died a national hero. As a result, when biologists discovered a brilliant red-orange fish cruising the rocky reefs of California- one that will grind his teeth at any intruder- they knew exactly what to name it.


The golden orange fish is about 14 inches long and has a heart-shaped tail. Garibaldis are most commonly found in shallow waters off the coast of Southern California. They are widely recognized around Avalon Harbor by tourists visiting Catalina Island, hence its nickname, the Catalina goldfish. Young garibaldis are even more colorful than adults, as they are splattered with tiny electric blue dots. The garibaldi loves to hang out in dark kelp forests, just like their cousin, the clownfish, who likes to hang out in anemones. They love to eat sponges, algae, worms, and small shellfish.


The male Garibaldi will protect his nest by charging and challenging any of his kind. His challenge consists of a loud thumping noise made by grinding together his teeth far back in his throat called pharyngeal teeth. The thump is loud enough to be heard by divers in close proximity.


The Garibaldi is not an endangered species; however, there is concern that the commercial collection by the saltwater aquarium industry has reduced their numbers.


A garibaldi has a clear idea of where its territory ends, and two males may be seen peacefully grazing less than two feet apart, as long as each remains on his own turf. Female garibaldis tend to be less protective of their territory because it contains no eggs. The male does the majority of the work raising the eggs. Garibaldi males build their nests, and the female enters several different ones before deciding. The garibaldi is one of the few fish to use the same nesting site every year. Once they become an adult, a male garibaldi picks a good stretch of reef, a sheltering nook, and a smooth expanse of rock wall, where he will live for the rest of his life.


California also has a state freshwater fish, and it is the golden trout adopted in 1947.

Share This:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *