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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes
Family Pomacentridae
updated Sep 2020
Where seen? Damselfishes such as the anemonefishes are sometimes seen on our intertidal shores. But most damselfishes live in deeper waters and are more frequently encountered by divers.

What are damselfishes? They belong to Family Pomacentridae. According to FishBase: the family has 28 genera and 321 species. They are mainly found in the Indo-Pacific oceans, some are found in brackish waters. Anemonefishes (made famous by the cartoon 'Nemo') are among the better known members of this family.

Features: Damselfishes vary widely in size, colour and shape. Some species can grow to 35cm, others are 1cm or smaller. Those that eat algae tend to be duller while plankton-feeders tend to be more colourful.

Clown anemonfish in a Magnificent anemone.
Terumbu Semakau, Jul 14

Juvenile damselfishes can look
very different from the adults.
Tanah Merah, Nov 10

Damselfishes can be abundant
on some of our shores!

Raffles Lighthouse, Jul 06
What do they eat? As a family, they eat a wide variety of things. Plankton-feeding damselfishes are believed to play an important role in reefs as they occur in such huge numbers that they effectively filter the currents. Damselfishes that feed on algae are often aggressively territorial, defending their feeding area from all intruders. These tiny damselfishes will vigorously harass larger fishes and even divers.

According to Jeffrey Low on the Singapore Biodiversity Records: The sergeant damselfishes commonly seen on our shores have overlapping habitat and feeding requirements. The Bengal sergeant occurs singly or in small groups in inshore and lagoon coral reefs at depths of 1-6 m. It feeds on seaweed, snails and small crabs, and is highly territorial. The Scissortail sergeant lives on coral or rocky reefs, and also in shallow reef flats or crests, at depths of 1-20 m, usually where tall soft coral or hydroid colonies are present. It often forms groups at midwater, high in the water column to feed on zooplankton and algae. The Indo-pacific sergeant lives in the upper edge of outer reef slopes and inshore rocky reefs at depths of 1-15 m. Although tending feed on the bottom, eating algae and small invertebrates, it often forms groups in midwater to feed on zooplankton.

Damsel babies: In many species, a nest site is prepared by one or both partners. The eggs are attached by adhesive threads to the site and the male usually guards them until they hatch into free-swimming larvae.

Human uses:
Many members of this family are harvested from the wild for the live aquarium trade. Harvesting tropical scorpionfishes for the live aquarium trade may involve the use of cyanide or blasting, which damage the habitat and kill many other creatures. Like other fish and creatures harvested for the live aquarium trade, most die before they can reach the retailers. Without professional care, most die soon after they are sold. Those that do survive are unlikely to breed successfully.

Status and threats: Anemonefishes of the Family Pomacentridae are listed among the threatened animals of Singapore. Like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Overcollection by hobbyists and overfishing can also have an impact on local populations.

Some Damselfishes on Singapore shores

5-7 narrow bars black (sometimes grey) across a yellowish-green body. Tail with rounded lobes, no horizontal black stripes.
4-5 broad black bars across a yellowish body. Tail fins have lobes with pointed tips and black horizontal stripes so they resemble scissors. 6 dark or grey bars on white body. A prominent black spot at the top of the tail just before the tail fin.



4 yellow bars on variably coloured body with variable other spots. Juveniles look very different from adults.    



Juvenile with 2 broad honey brown bars on a white body, one through the eyes, and another in the middle of the body, a large gold-margined black spot on the dorsal fin.    




Family Pomacentridae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
*additions from from Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore.
in red are those listed among the threatened animals of Singapore
from Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore.
**from WORMS
+Other additions (Singapore Biodiversity Records, etc)

  Family Pomacentridae

Sergeant majors
  Abudefduf bengalensis (Bengal sergeant)
Abudefduf melas=**Neoglyphidodon melas
*Abudefduf notatus
(Yellowtail sergeant)
Abudefduf plagiometopon=**Hemiglyphidodon plagiometopon
Abudefduf saxatillis

*Abudefduf sordidus (Black-spot sergeant)
Abudefduf sexfasciatus
(Scissortail sergeant)
Abudefduf vaigiensis (Indo-Pacific sergeant)

  Amphiprion spp. (Clown anemonefishes) with list of species recorded for Singapore


*Amblyglyphidodon curacao (Staghorn damsel)
*Amblyglyphidodon leucogaster

Chromis analis
Chromis atripectoralis
Chromis cinerascens
*Chromis xanthurus

+Chrysiptera parasema
(Goldtail damselfish)

+Dascyllus reticulatus
Dascyllus trimaculatus
(Threespot dascyllus)

Dischistodus chrysopoecilus
(Pale-spot damsel)
Dischistodus fasciatus
(Yellow-banded damsel)
*Dischistodus melanotus
*Dischistodus perpicillatus
(White damsel)
Dischistodus prosopotaenia
(Honey-head damsel)

Eupomacentrus apicalis=**Stegastes apicalis

Hemiglyphidodon plagiometopon

+Neoglyphidodon nigroris
(Behn’s damselfish)

+Neopomacentrus anabatoides
(Silver demoiselle)
Neopomacentrus bankieri (Chinese demoiselle)
+Neopomacentrus cyanomos
(Regal demoiselle)
Neopomacentrus filamentosus
(Brown demoiselle)
Neopomacentrus nemurus
*Neopomacentrus violascens

Paraglyphidodon nigroris=**Neoglyphidodon nigroris

Pomacentrus albimaculus
Pomacentrus alexanderae
Pomacentrus amboinensis
*Pomacentrus breviceps
*Pomacentrus brachialis
Pomacentrus cuneatus
(Wedgespot damsel)
+Pomacentrus cheraphilus
(Silty damsel)
Pomacentrus chyrysopoecilus=**Dischistodus chrysopoecilus
Pomacentrus fasciatus=**Dischistodus fasciatus
Pomacentrus grammorhynchus
Pomacentrus littoralis
(Smoky damselfish)
Pomacentrus melanopterus=**Pomacentrus brachialis
+Pomacentrus moluccensis
(Lemon damsel)
Pomacentrus notophthalmus=**Dischistodus melanotus
Pomacentrus popei=**Pomacentrus moluccensis
Pomacentrus pristiger=**Stegastes limbatus
Pomacentrus prosoptaenia=**Dischistodus prosopotaenia
Pomacentrus rhodonotus=**Pomacentrus chrysurus
*Pomacentrus richardsoni=**Pomachromis richardsoni
+Pomacentrus simsiang
Pomacentrus taeniurus=**Neopomacentrus taeniurus
Pomacentrus tripunctatus
(Threespot damsel)
Pomacentrus violascens=**Neopomacentrus violascens
Pomacentrus xanthus=**Stegastes variabilis

*Pritotis jerdoni=**Pristotis obtusirostris

*Stegastes apicalis
*Stegastes lividus
+Stegastes obreptus



  • Daisuke Taira. 30 October 2020. A goldtail damselfish, Chrysiptera parasema, at Pulau Hantu. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2020: 170. The National University of Singapore.
  • Daisuke Taira & Amanda Rouwen Hsiung. 31 August 2020. The silty damselfish, Pomacentrus cheraphilus, in Singapore. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2020: 119-120 ISSN 2345-7597
  • Daisuke Taira. 22 January 2020. The blueback damselfish, Pomacentrus simsiang, in Singapore. Jovena Chun Ling Seah & Aaron Teo, Singapore Biodiversity Records 2020: 1 ISSN 2345-7597, National University of Singapore
  • Jeffrey K. Y. Low. Staghorn damselfish in the Singapore Strait. 21 December 2018. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2018: 134 ISSN 2345-7597. National University of Singapore.
  • Daisuke Taira. White damselfish in the Singapore Strait. 31 October 2018. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2018: 118 ISSN 2345-7597. National University of Singapore.
  • Daisuke Taira. A Singapore record of the yellowtail sergeant, Abudefduf notatus. 31 October 2018. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2018: 115 ISSN 2345-7597. National University of Singapore.
  • Jeffrey K. Y. Low. Three species of sergeant damselfishes off Pulau Satumu. 30 November 2017. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2017: 167-168 ISSN 2345-7597. National University of Singapore.
  • Daisuke Taira. 30 Jun 2017. Western gregory, Stegastes obreptus, at Sultan Shoal. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2017: 75.
  • Tan Heok Hui & Kelvin K. P. Lim. 30 Jun 2017. Regal demoiselles, Neopomacentrus cyanomos, in Sisters Islands Marine Park. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2017: 76.
  • Jeffrey K. Y. Low . 30 Sep 2016. Behn’s damselfish in the Singapore Strait. Neoglyphidodon nigroris. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016: 119.
  • Jeffrey K. Y. Low. 30 June 2016. New record of reticulated dascyllus in Singapore Dascyllus reticulatus (Teleostei: Pomacentridae). Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016: 77.
  • Jeffrey K. Y. Low. 21 August 2015. Smoky damselfish off Pulau Satumu. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2015: 115
  • Kelvin K. P. Lim. 8 August 014. Silver demoiselle in the Singapore Straits, Neopomacentrus anabatoides. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 216.
  • Toh Chay Hoon. 11 April 2014. Spawn of the saddleback anemonefish. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 96
  • Toh Chay Hoon & Kelvin K. P. Lim . 14 March 2014. Aggregation of two species of demoiselle fishes at Pulau Hantu. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 7
  • Jeffrey K. Y. Low. 2013. More noteworthy fishes observed in the Singapore Straits. Nature in Singapore, 6: 31–37.
  • Jeffrey Low J.K.Y., Randall, J.E. and Chou, L.M. New localities for the wedge-spot damselfish, Pomacentrus cuneatus Allen, 1991 (Teleostei: Pomacentridae) in Southeast Asia. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 43(1):45-50.
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
  • Lim, S., P. Ng, L. Tan, & W. Y. Chin, 1994. Rhythm of the Sea: The Life and Times of Labrador Beach. Division of Biology, School of Science, Nanyang Technological University & Department of Zoology, the National University of Singapore. 160 pp.
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