Oxyjulis californica

Physical Description

  • Long, slender fish
  • Metallic yellow-bronze color on sides, silver belly
  • Large black spot on their tail
  • Protruding teeth, ideal for picking off hydroids and bryozoans
  • Up to 10 inches long


  • Sonoma County, California to central Baja California, Mexico


  • Rocky reefs
  • Kelp beds
  • Depths of 5-240 feet


  • Small invertebrates, such as hydroids, bryozoans, and amphipods
  • Often they eat parasitic copepods and isopods off of the scales and fins of other animals


  • Brandt’s cormorants, California sea lions, yellowtail, white seabass, kelp bass, other large fishes

Interesting Facts

  • They are fast swimmers and will often dart to the bottom and bury themselves in the sand whenever they are approached.
  • Fishermen consider them nuisances because they are very good at stealing bait off a hook
  • They are cleaner fish, cleaning parasites off of other fish. Once they start cleaning, other fish gather to be cleaned as well. But once they are full, they swim away, leaving the uncleaned fish to fend for themselves. 

Sources: Oregon Coast Aquarium; Monterey Bay Aquarium; Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Photo: Derek Tarr

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