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Apogonidae
CARDINALFISHES
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Overview
Main identification features
  • compressed elongate body
  • 2 ds
  • reddish
  • large eye; mouth large at front
  • preopercle: ridge before border
FAMILY APOGONIDAE

CARDINALFISHES

These are small (usually under 10 cm), laterally compressed, often brightly coloured fishes. They have two separate dorsal fins (the first with VI-VIII spines); II anal spines; large eyes; a moderately large oblique mouth; and preopercle with a ridge in front the margin.

Apogonidae is one of the largest tropical reef fish families. They are represented in all tropical and warm temperate seas, but the majority are distributed in the Indo-Pacific region. Worldwide there are an estimated 250 species in 23 genera; only six shallow-water species, all in the genus Apogon, are known from the tropical Eastern Pacific, as endemics.

The common name is derived from the red coloration displayed by many of the species. Cardinalfishes occur in a diversity of habitats, but individual species are restricted to relatively narrow ecological zones. Most prefer caves and crevices of rock or coral reefs. At dusk they emerge from these retreats for nocturnal feeding. Most species are seen as solitary individuals, in pairs, or in small aggregations. However, some eastern Pacific species form dense aggregations near the reef's surface. Cardinalfishes are one of few marine fish families in which oral brooding is found. During spawning the female releases a large gelatinous egg mass containing up to several hundred eggs. The mass is summarily fertilised by the male who then engulfs it with his mouth. Egg brooding males are easily distinguished by their swollen throats and the eggs can clearly be seen when the mouth is partially opened. Incubation lasts several days, during which time the male is unable to feed. Its main activity consists of periodically juggling the position of the egg mass. The larvae, measuring 2-4 mm, are planktonic for up to several weeks before settlement and subsequent transformation to the juvenile stage. Diet is variable according to species, but most consume some form of zooplankton (often copepods), and small benthic invertebrates such as crabs and shrimps are also eaten.


References
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Acknowledgements

I thank Ashley MacDonald and John Pickering, University of Georgia, for technical support in building this page.


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