Yellowhead Jawfish

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Opistognathus aurifrons - (Jordan & Thompson, 1905)
Yellowhead Jawfish

A luminously beautiful Caribbean fish with a full repertoire of social displays. Scott W. Michael


These comical fish are luminously beautiful and put on a constant show of interesting behaviors, especially if kept in colonies.

Family: Opistognathidae

Other common name(s):

  • Pearly Jawfish

Native range:

Habitat: Sand and rubble. Provide a 4-inch (10 cm) deep bed of mixed substrate consisting of sand, coral or rocky rubble, and bits of shell to facilitate burrow construction. Jawfishes will often dig under a flat rock placed on the sand, using it as a roof for their burrow chamber. Provide plenty of open sand bottom.

Maximum length: 10 cm (4 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 76 L (20 gal)

Water: Marine 24 °C (75 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: Near substrate.


Carnivore. Feed meaty foods at least twice daily.

Aquarium Compatibility

Jawfishes are best housed with more passive fish species, especially in a smaller tank. They perform best in groups, and it is advisable to add all the individuals at once. A good rule of thumb is approximately 2 to 2.5 square feet per individual. This species will chase smaller fishes away from its burrow, but rarely harms tankmates. Aggressive fishes (dottybacks, some of the pygmy angelfishes, triggerfishes) may pester jawfishes. Many predatory fishes (eels, frogfishes, groupers) will eat these fish.


Mouthbrooders - demersal (on or near the bottom) spawners that protect their eggs and, in some cases, their fry, in the buccal cavity of one parent, often the male.


This species is a burrow builder, digging by taking mouthfuls of substrate and spitting the debris at the burrow entrance. The jawfish will hover near its lair or rest in its entrance waiting for food items to pass. It is also a jumper and an expert at finding small holes in the aquarium cover from which to leap.

Reference: 101 Best Saltwater Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM