Cardinal Fish – Apogon imberbis

The Cardinal Fish, also known as Mediterranean Cardinalfish or King of the Mullets, is a species in the large clade of Percomorpha and thus belongs to the superclass of the bony fish.

Apogon imberbis is the only representative in the family of the Cardinalfishes in European waters.

Cardinal Fish  Apogon imberbis Osteichthyes bony fish diving canary islands species atlantic ocean
Cardinal Fish – Apogon imberbis


The colour of Apogon imberbis is light red. Its black eyes are extremely large and have a white stripe above and below the pupil. The Cardinal Fish reaches a maximum size of 15cm.

Habitat and Distribution

Apogon imberbis can be found in columns, cave entrances, under archways and stones to depths of more than 200m. It stays, so to speak, in shady reef areas.

When diving in the Canaries he is often encountered.

Furthermore, the Cardinal Fish is found in the eastern Atlantic from the coast of Portugal to the Gulf of Guinea, including Madeira and the Azores. It is also widely spread in the Mediterranean Sea.


During the day Apogon imberbis lives in loose swarms at protected reef spots. At night they go hunting. Their diet consists of zooplankton, fish larvae, spawn and small crustaceans.


The spawning season of Apogon imberbis ranges from June to September. They are mouthbreeders. The male keeps the eggs in the mouth, where they are provided with fresh respiratory water. When the larvae hatch after one week, they first consume their yolk before they leave the mouth. During this time the male Cardinal Fish does not eat any food.
Up to 22,000 eggs from different females can be taken by a single male in its mouth.

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