These Tiny Reef Fish Are Like The Fairies Of The Sea

Yellowhead Jawfish are a tiny, but very remarkable fish. Scuba divers look for them among the coral and patiently wait for them to emerge from their holes in the ocean bottom. They are territorial fish that make a burrow and then sit inside it, peeking out and emerging to eat tiny fish or krill that float near its lair. They slip back into their hole tail first and rarely venture far from the opening so they can make a hasty retreat inside if anything larger than itself comes near.

One of the most amazing things about this fish is that it is a mouth brooder. Thee male of the species actually holds the fertilized eggs inside his open mouth until they hatch. This task takes 7-9 days.

During the time that the male Yellowhead Jawfish is protecting the young, he will be unable to eat. He will not venture out of the hole but his head can be seen peeking out, holding the clutch in his open mouth.

Scuba diving photographers will wait motionless in front of the male's home until he pops his head out far enough for a picture. During other times, the males and females will occasionally drift out of the hole and above it in search of food. A slow and careful approach over a nesting site with reveal dozens of these wispy little creatures hovering a few inches off the bottom. Their white color and waving fins and tails create an appearance of little fairies dancing over the bottom.

This little fellow can be seen going in and out of his hole and peeking around in all directions. His bulging eyes give him an adorable concerned look as he gazes around for possible danger in all directions.

Yellowhead Jawfish will excavate their burrows by carrying rubble out in their jaws, one piece at a time. This little collection of pebbles and sand around a small hole is often a clue that a Jawfish lurks inside.