Three-Spot Damselfish Identification

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The three-spot damselfish is one of the most aggressive fish on the coral reef. Distinguish the three-spot damselfish by the dark saddle on the base of its tail with help from a scuba diving instructor in this free video on fish identification and marine life.

Part of the Video Series: Caribbean Fish
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Video Transcript

The marine organism we're going to identify now is the threespot damselfish. One of the most aggressive fish on the coral reef is the damselfish. The threespot damselfish is one of the more common damselfish species. A relatively large damselfish, usually three to four inches long, although they can reach a maximum size of five inches, the threespot damselfish will defend its territory very aggressively. Their territory generally only covers a small area, for example, a small coral head in the sand, but they will attack anything that gets too close to it including fish and divers much larger than itself. Threespot damselfish are somewhat challenging to identify, since they sometimes have a coloration that is similar to that of the bi-colored damselfish. The characteristics that distinguish the two species are the presence of a dark saddle on the base of the tail of the threespot, and a dark spot on the base of the pectoral fins. Threespot damselfish also have a yellow gold present over their eyes, but this can be very difficult to see on many fish. Juvenile threespot damselfish are yellow in color and have an additional dark spot on their mid-back extended into the dorsal fin. This is the third spot that gives the threespot damselfish its name. The coloration of the adult threespot varies from light yellow to bright yellow on the forward portion of the body and across its belly with a darker gray to brown mid and upper body. Threespot damselfish can be found throughout the Caribbean and Florida Keys. They can be found on the shallowest reefs to depths of 130 feet. They have a relatively small territory they patrol and rarely rise more than a few inches above the safety of their patch reef or coral head. If they feel threatened, they will quickly duck into a hole in the reef, but will reemerge fairly quickly. They're a very shy fish, making them difficult to observe. Threespot damselfish, like all damselfish, feed primarily on algae and they tend to maintain their own personal algae patch in their territory. Threespot damselfish also reportedly feed on various worms, hydroids, zoe plankton and tunakits. Threespot damselfish exist as separate male and female specimens, although their color patterns do not differ. Eggs are laid by the female on the bottom of the reef, and then the male swims over them to fertilize them. Once fertilized, the male threespot damselfish guards the eggs until they hatch and will be more aggressive than normal in protecting the area around the eggs. Once hatched, the fry are on their own. That's the threespot damselfish.


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