The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Dascyllus aruanus
Dascyllus aruanus
(whitetail damselfish)
Marine Fishes

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Dascyllus aruanus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name: whitetail damselfish

Synonyms and Other Names: humbug damselfish, banded humbug, black and white damselfish, threestripe damselfish, white-tailed damselfish; original combination Chaetodon aruanus

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The species is distinctly colored; white with black bars and solid black pelvic fin.  Large white spot between eyes.  Dorsal fin XII (11-13), anal fin II (11-13), pectoral rays 17-19.  From Allen et al. (2003) and Randall (2005).

A key to the Dascyllus is given in Randall and Allen (1977).

Have you seen me ?  Version 1

Have you seen me ?  Version 2

Size: to 10 cm TL.

Native Range: Throughout most of the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea and east coast of Africa to French Polynesia, and Ryuku Islands to New South Wales and Lord Howe Island.  From Randall (2005).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Florida, one individual was observed off Riviera Beach (Palm Beach County) in April, 2009.  This fish was removed alive by REEF the next day and sent to the National Aquarium (Baltimore, MD). Two specimens were seen at the Miami Beach Marina in 2017.

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Dascyllus aruanus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200920171Florida Southeast Coast

Table last updated 7/14/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The species lives in groups of up to about 30 individuals that shelters among branching corals at depths of one to 12 meters.  Individuals leave their coral shelter to forage in the water column on zooplankton.  Home territories are small and guarded fiercely.  Mating occurs among fish that either form pairs or small groups of three to six that operate as a harem with a dominant male and several females.  Female rank in the harem system is based on body size, with the largest female having the highest rank.  Males create a nest by clearing algae and detritus from the site, usually at the base of a coral colony.  Females are then enticed to spawn with the male when he performs a characteristic courtship dance composed of a series of rapid up and down swimming movements about one meter above the nest.  One male may spawn with several females, each depositing up to 2,000 eggs into the nest.  Eggs are elliptical and 0.7 to 0.8 mm in length.  Males aggressively guard the eggs while in the nest, fanning them with his pectoral fins and keeping the site clean of debris.  Eggs hatch after about 44-51 hours into larvae that are approximately 2 mm total length.  The species is known to live for at least nine years in captivity.  From Randall and Allen (1977), Allen et al. (2003) and Randall (1983 and 2005).

For more information on the ecology of the whitetail damselfish, see Fricke and Holzberg (1974), Sale (1970, 1971a, 1971b,1972a, 1972b), Coates (1980), Sweatman (1983 and 1988), Forrester (1991) and Planes et al. (1993).

Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.

Status: Unknown.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

References: (click for full references)

Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann and N. Deloach.  2003.  Reef Fish Identification.  Tropical Pacific.  New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, California

Catala-Stucki, R.  1971.  Longevité d’ organismes marins a l’ aquarium de Noumea.  Revista, Bulletin du Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris, 42: 1311-1314.

Coates, D.  1980.  Prey-size intake in humbug damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus (Pisces, Pomacentridae) living within social groups.  Journal of Animal Ecology 49: 335-340.

Fishelson, L.  1964.  Observations on the biology and behaviour of Red Sea coral fishes.  Bulletin of the Sea Fishes Research Station, Haifa 37: 11-26.

Forrester, G. E.  1991.  Social rank, individual size and group composition as determinants of food consumption by humbug damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus.  Animal Behaviour 42: 701-711.

Fricke, H. W. and S. Holzberg.  1974.  Social units and hermaphroditism in pomacentrid fish.  Naturwissensch 8: 1 un-numbered page.

Planes, S., F. Bonhomme and R. Galzin.  1993.  Genetic structure of Dascyllus aruanus populations in French Polynesia.  Marine Biology 117: 665-674.

Randall, J. E.  1983.  Red Sea Fishes.  IMMEL Publishing, London.

Randall, J. E.  2005.  Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific.  New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands.  University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Randall, H. A. and G. R. Allen 1977 A revision of the damselfish genus Dascyllus (Pomacentridae) with description of a new species. Records of the Australian Museum 31: 349-385.

Sale, P. F.  1970.  Behaviour of the humbug fish.  Australian Natural History, Sept. 1970: 362-366.

Sale, P. F.  1971a.  Extremely limited home range in a coral reef fish, Dascyllus aruanus (Pisces: Pomacentridae).  Copeia 1971: 324-327.

Sale, P. F.  1971b.  Apparent effect of prior experience on a habitat preference exhibited by the reef fish, Dascyllus aruanus (Pisces: Pomacentridae).  Animal Behaviour 19: 251-256.

Sale, P. F.  1972a.  Influence of corals in the dispersion of the pomacentrid fish, Dascyllus aruanus.  Ecology 53: 741-744.

Sale, P. F. 1972b.  Effect of cover on agonistic behaviour of a reef fish: a possible spacing mechanism.  Ecology 53: 733-758.

Sweatman, H. P. A.  1983.  Influence of conspecifics on choice of settlement sites by larvae of two pomacentrid fishes (Dascyllus aruanus and D. reticulatus ) on coral reefs. Marine biology 75: 225-229.

Sweatman, H. 1988.  Field evidence that settling coral reef fish larvae detect resident fishes using dissolved chemical cues.  Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 124: 163-174.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 4/26/2018

Peer Review Date: 4/29/2009

Citation Information:
Schofield, P.J., 2024, Dascyllus aruanus (Linnaeus, 1758): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2805, Revision Date: 4/26/2018, Peer Review Date: 4/29/2009, Access Date: 7/14/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/14/2024].

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