SeaFocus - scuba diving reviews, images and information


Underwater photography: images cardinalfish taken while scuba diving
Banggai cardinalfish | Pyjama cardinalfish | Goldbelly cardinalfish | Tiny cardinalfish | Blackstripe cardinalfis
Family: Apogonidae - Cardinalfishes Order: Perciformes Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Cardinalfish include some 330 species in 24 genera but are something of an unknown creature in diver terms as they tend to be small and shy, often hiding on the reef.

Cardinalfish are mainly marine fish although a few species are found in brackish and freshwater environments. They are small fish, usually under 10 centimetres long and can be recognized by their big eyes, large mouth and the division of the dorsal fin into two separate fins.

Cardinalfish tend to be homebodies, picking a nice looking patch or spot on the reef and then sticking to it. They are often described as nocturnal but this really means that during the day they shelter in small caves or dark crevices on the reef. A few species live in a more exposed position, but often on a darker dive site like a muck site with dark sand. Many cardinafish will take refuge with other animals – in the spines of an urchin or the tentacles of a coral.

Many males in this family are mouthbrooders meaning they hold and brood their eggs inside their mouth until they are ready to hatch.

image gallery

click any image to enlarge
Int. = intermediate stage
Juv.= juvenile

Cardinals are not regarded as threatened although many habitats are at risk. The exception is the Banggai cardinalfish.
An illegal cargo
Lembeh Straits, Indonesia
Police Pier
12 metres
Pterapogon kauderni
Banggai Cardinalfish


The story goes that a fishing boat travelling up the Lembeh Straits was carrying an illegal cargo of tropical fish bound for the aquarium trade. When the region’s marine patrol squad heard the rumour they signalled the ship to pull over to the police jetty. But by the time they boarded the cargo was gone – the Captain had dumped his freight of Banggai Cardinalfish but hadn’t realised that these are actually indigenous to the Banggai Islands. The evidence was swimming all around the pier and it was off to jail for the Captain and his crew! The Banggais are adaptable creatures though and now live happily on Police Pier dive site where they were dumped.

french angelfish in Grenada
SPECIES NAMES | Many fish can be hard to identify as they are so similar. Common names vary and even scientists disagree on what is what. If you can name anything we can't, please get in touch.

ORDER | Images on this page are available to buy as prints. Take a note of the name then go to the
order form...

SEARCH SeaFocus | Looking for something on this site? Type in a few words below...