Garibaldi Fish – The Aggressive Saltwater Fish That Will Spice Up Your Tank

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Do you know your official state fish? If you live in California, we will tell you – it’s the Garibaldi Fish. This gorgeous orange fish is plump and vivacious -but it’s also known for being somewhat aggressive and territorial.

If you have a large fish tank and some experience in raising fish, this lovely omnivorous fish might be a good choice for you. Ready to learn whether you have what it takes to raise the state fish of California? If so, continue reading to learn everything you need to know about this illustrious swimmer.

Garibaldi Fish

Garibaldi Fish Background

The official state fish of California, the Garibaldi Fish is a rare species that is protected in that state. Interestingly, it is illegal to keep them in that area if you do not possess a permit to do so. This fish is native to the eastern Pacific Ocean and can be found in subtropical waters. It is most frequently found in the waters just off southern California, as well as the west coast of Baja California.

In northern California, these fish are extremely rare. They are named after an Italian politician named Giuseppe Garibaldi. This man, prominent in the 1 840, frequently wore red shirts and is considered a national hero in Italy.

These fish are named as such because they have bright orange-red colors. They can be very territorial, particularly to their own kind. One of many fish in the Damselfish family, this fish generally grows well over a foot in size! As a result, it is one of the largest known species of Damselfish.

When you purchase your Garibaldi Fish, make sure you do so from a reputable breeder. You cannot fish for Garibaldi Fish in the wild, unless you have a permit. Only a few places can stock them legally, so you should ask to see the store’s license to do so in order to ensure that this species remains protected in the wild.

Garibaldi Fish Appearance And Behavior

Garibaldi Fish 1
Photo by coba

Garibaldi fish are quite gorgeous to look at. They are round and somewhat heavyset, with reddish-orange scales and yellow eyes. These fish have tiny mouths with single rows of teeth. Although they can grow to well over a foot in length, they are more commonly found at lengths of around eleven or twelve inches in the aquarium,

Juvenile Garibaldis are a darker orange shade, and they also have blue spots all over their caudal fins, dorsal fins, and other areas of their bodies. These spots begin to fade, becoming more or less invisible, as the Garibaldi Fish ages.

Fully grown males are larger than females. These males also each have a prominent lobe on the front of their heads.

Garibaldi fish are hardy, resilient fish, but because they are so large, it is recommended that only expert fishkeepers raise these stubborn, aggressive species. You will need a large tank and some experience in dealing with territorial fish in order to be successful.

Garibaldi fish are very curious, often exploring new sections of the tank and trying to protect their territory from other exploratory fish. They do not like to be disturbed, all will give off a thumping sound if approached.

These solitary fish tend to live in small ranges, becoming territorial to defend that turf as they age. Females are also territorial, but they do not guard their home areas as fiercely as their male counterparts do.

Garibaldi Fish will often gather in shallow waters near reeds, but this kind of aggressive, territorial behavior for whatever reason only occurs in reef areas. You can easily keep a juvenile Garibaldi Fish in an aquarium, but as they get older they will become more aggressive.

These Active, hardy fish don’t require much special care, but it’s advised that newcomers stay away from them because they need so much space to raise. This can make keeping Garibaldi fish a particular challenge for novice fishkeeper.

Garibaldi Fish Tank And Water Requirements

Garibaldi Fish 4
Photo by Nathan Rupert

These orange jewels are generally found in kelp forests and rocky reefs. They like to stay close to shore, usually staying in shallow waters that are less than fifteen meters in depth. However, they will venture out deeper and have been found in waters twice that deep, too.

They are solitary fish and like to keep to themselves – but they can also be extremely territorial. Once they have established their territories, they tend to remain there in peace, not bothering others as long as no one else dares to cross the perimeter that the fish has established.

In the fish tank, you will need to keep your fish in a large aquarium of no less than 100 gallons. If you keep other fish, both of the same or different species, you will need an even larger tank. These fish do well in reef and fish-only tanks, but you should always make sure you have lots of corals and rocks to help your fish feel at home.

This kind of structure in your tank will not only help your fish feel at home, but it will give them hiding spots so that they feel safe. This is especially important for juvenile fish. You must also set up a good filtration system so that water can slowly be circulated around the tank, which will aerate it and help keep it clean.

Garibaldis are Damselfish, but they are unique in that they prefer water temperatures that are cooler than those enjoyed by other species of Damselfish. You will want to keep your waters between 68 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit at all times (about ten degrees cooler than you would with other Damselfish) and you should maintain a pH of about 8.0 to 8.4.

Try to change the water by ten percent every two weeks. Alternatively, you can change it less frequently, about once a month, but remove twenty percent of the water. If you keep your fish in a reef tank, you should age the water and ensure it is stable. Then, you will only need to change about twenty-five percent of the water every six weeks or so.

What Do Garibaldi Fish Eat?

Garibaldi Fish 2
Photo by Nebulifer

Garibaldi fish, like many saltwater fish species, are omnivores. They eat both meat and plant matter, in the wild preferred to feed on invertebrates found at the very bottom of the water column, like tubeworms, nudibranchs, and bryozoans. They also love to eat shrimp, crabs, and small shellfish, so you can feed them these foods in your fish tank as well.

Garibaldi fish will also nibble on sponges, anemones, and algae, as long as they are small. These are generally found in rocky environments. In fact, many people live that Garibaldi fish get their bright color from their sponge-heavy diet, as this lends itself well to pigment production.

Obviously, in captivity, you don’t have to feed your Garibaldi fish all of these unique foods. You should aim to feed a varied, nutritious diet, but you don’t have to feed the identical foods that they would eat in the wild.

Instead, feed your fish twice a day. Their diet should be comprised evenly of meat and vegetable foods. If you feed them twice a day, with relatively even spacing in between feedings, you may be able to cut down on some aggressive behavior within your tank. This will reduce competition for food and make it less likely that your Garibaldi fish will fight.

Some good options for foods include brine or mysis shrimp. You can also feed them pellet foods or flakes, which will provide a good source of nutrients. Some people make their own food for their Garibaldi fish; while this is not necessary, it can be much less expensive and also a better way to ensure your fish get all the nutrients they need.

Garibaldi Fish Tank Mates

Garibaldi Fish 5
Photo by Allthingsbklyn

You should only keep one Garibaldi Fish per aquarium. They can be extremely aggressive toward members of their own species, something that you don’t see often in the aquarium hobbyist world. They usually don’t behave aggressively as juveniles, but become aggressive toward their own kind as they reach adulthood.

You can safely keep Garibaldi Fish with other semi-aggressive saltwater species, as long as they are large. Some good options include lionfish, soapfish, groupers, tangs, large Angelfish, large Wrasses, parrotfish, rays, and sharks. Do not, under any circumstances keep non-aggressive or tiny fish in the tank, as they will be harassed and/or killed by your Garibaldi fish.

Common Garibaldi Fish Diseases

Garibaldi Fish 3
Photo by Nate2b

Garibaldi Fish may be difficult to raise, but certainly not in regards to their disease susceptibility. These fish can contract any diseases that may typically affect saltwater species, but they are much more likely to be affected if they are stressed, have poor nutrition, or are living in dirty conditions.

As with all species of damselfish, Garibaldi Fish are prone to Marine Ich, also known as White Spot Disease. This parasitic disease is easy to treat, particularly if you are able to catch it relatively early on. Another common parasite is Marine Velvet. This is very common and infects the gills of the fish. The most dangerous saltwater disease is Uronema disease, which is deadly and can attack quickly, originally causing symptoms like lack of appetite.

This disease is typically contracted with the salinity of the water drops. Often, salinity can be reduced to treat other type of sickness, but if you don’t lower it far enough, you can create the conditions that allow other parasites to thrive.

To prevent disease, make sure you clean your tank regularly and stay on top of the water parameters to which saltwater fish are sensitive, such as gravity, salinity, hardness, and temperature. Make sure you clean anything you add to the tank thoroughly and quarantine any new fish you might choose to add, too.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Garibaldi Fish

If you are interested in breeding Garibaldi Fish, you should first know that they have never been bred in captivity with any level of success. It’s not recommended that hobby fishkeepers, particularly newcomers to the hobby, give this a try.

That being said, here are some of the basics about the Garibaldi Fish’s reproductive system. These fish reach sexual maturity at age five or six, when they are about eight or nine inches long. Once the male fish reaches adulthood, he will select his territory and make this his forever home. The male will build a nest, protect the eggs, and provide most of the care to the young Garibaldi Fish.

The male will ready his territory by cleaning up and removing any unwanted animals or debris. He will use red algae to build a nest, creating a spot for the eggs after trimming each piece to about an inch long. After he has prepared his nest – usually in March to late July – he will begin approaching females to lure them into his nesting site.

In order to convince the females to come with him, the male Garibaldi will swim over with his fin propped up in the air. He will swim in loops around her, making a loud noise somewhat like clucking as he attempts to drive her back to the nest. This doesn’t always work, as females tend to be extremely selective in choosing their mates. Often, a single female will visit dozens of nests while she is trying to make up her mind.

She is looking for a nest that is not empty, as she will be reluctant to lay her eggs in a nest that has not yet been occupied. When she finally settles on a nest, she will lay up to 80,000 vibrant yellow eggs. These are then fertilized by her male.

Once the female lays the eggs, the male will chase her from the nesting site. This reduces the likelihood that she will be able to eat the eggs, and also encourages more females to lay their eggs. A single nest often contains the eggs of multiple females.

The male will defend the nesting area during the incubation window, which takes about two or three weeks. He will fan the eggs, caring for them, and will occasionally eat a few eggs to encourage more females to lay eggs in his nest.

Interestingly, females will be more likely to lay eggs next to other eggs, particularly if they have just been laid. They do not like laying eggs near eggs that are off-color or about to hatch. It can take some time for the eggs to hatch, but they usually do so in the first two hours after the sun has set. Then, the larvae will leave to live among the plankton until they develop into juvenile fish.

Although Garibaldi Fish aren’t exactly possible to breed, there are plenty of other fantastic reasons for raising this bright-colored fish. For example, did you know that a Garibaldi Fish can live up to 25 years in the wild? However, 15 years in the wild is farm more common, with the average captive lifespan around 12 years.

Is A Garibaldi Fish For You?

Are you looking for a large, challenging fish to raise in your saltwater aquarium? Do you have a tank that is more or less devoid of other fish species? If so, you might want to consider the Garibaldi Fish. This unique fish is not a great option for beginners, but if you have some experience in raising fish, you might want to give it a try.

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