Beautiful Banggai Cardinalfish – Resident Now in Lembeh Straits

The Banggai Cardinalfish a small tropical fish found originally in a limited geographical range of about 65,000 sq km in the shallow waters of around 27 islands of the Banggai Archipelago are now readily found in Lembeh Straits in north Sulawesi, Indonesia.

A beautiful group of Banggai Cardinalfish swimming among corals and rocks at a shallow depth of 1.5 m to 3.0m.

This tropical fish belongs to the Apogonidae family and the genus Pterapogon. It was identified and described in 1933. It has a small population and previously it was only found in Banggai Islands, located on the eastern end of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Now it is evident that another population is found to have established some  400 km away from its original home in Lembeh Straits. This was due to the introduction of this fish by fish traders sometime in 2000.

Banggai Cardinalfish form stable groups of 9 individuals or more and their habitat is mainly in shallow reef areas in waters from 1.5m to 2.5m in depth among corals, seagrass beds and open sandy bottom areas.

The Banggai Cardinalfish is associated with sea urchins, sea anemone, branching corals, sea stars, and mangrove tree roots . It co-exists with various anemone fish and  anemone shrimp when taking shelter among anemone and corals.

The Banggai Cardinalfish is a paternal mouth brooder. Large brood of eggs are found in the mouth of the male Cardinalfish and the young ones remain in the mouth of the male Cardinalfish for an undetermined period. This is especially interesting for underwater photographers and divers.

This is a very popular fish among divers and underwater photographers for their beautiful stripes and colours when found in large groups among corals and anemone. The eggs and young Cardinalfish appearing in the open mouth of the paternal fish is also a very attractive sight!


Banggai Cardinalfish population is now established in Lembeh Straists since it was introduced in 2000 by fish retailers. It is reported that so far it is co-existing with various anemone fish and anemone shrimp when seeking shelter in anemone. This amicable situation is being monitored.

I plan and hope to take a few good images of the male Banggai Cardinalfish with its brood in its mouth for my next dive trip in Lembeh.

Enjoy your dive and dive safe !


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