The garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus ), the state marine fish of California, is hard to miss. Bright orange, and quite belligerent, these fish patrol the reefs off the coast of North America from Monterey Bay, California south to Guadalupe Island off Baja California.
Reaching a maximum length of 15 inches (38 cm), males and females are indistinguishable until mating season rolls around. In preparation for this, males begin cultivating nests on rocks by selectively pruning all but a few species of small red algae. When the nest is ready and females prepared to lay eggs, the males begin posturing and posing to entice the females. When this happens, the female swims slowly back and forth over the nest depositing her eggs, while the male swims next to her gently stroking her with his pectoral fins. At some point the desire to defend his nest overcomes his desire to have eggs deposited and the male chases the female away.
This scene is repeated multiple times as more females come to deposit their eggs. Between visits by females, the males keep busy by fanning the eggs with their pectoral fins, removing debris and dead eggs, and chasing possible egg thieves away from the nest.
The inclination to defend the nest is so powerful in male garibaldi that they will even attempt to chase away people who come near the nest while diving. It is an amusing sight to see a bright orange fish, sometimes not much larger than a human hand, all up in the face of a diver who came too near. During such encounters, the garibaldi makes a distinct thumping sound by grinding together teeth in their throat.
In this week's photo you can see a male garibaldi tending his oval-shaped nest of red algae. The yellow color within the red algae are the eggs laid by females. This photo was taken at Eagle Reef at Santa Catalina Island approximately 25 miles off the California coast near Los Angeles.
This week's photo was taken with a Canon 5D MkIII dSLR and an EF 8-15 mm
f/4L Fisheye lens zoomed to 15 mm. Exposure was for 1/45 sec at f/6.7 with an ISO of 400. The camera and lens were housed in an Ikelite housing and lighting provided by twin Ikelite DS-161 strobes set to ETTL.