Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Gobiesocidae

Genus/species: Gobiesox maeandricus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Like all clingfish, the northern clingfish possesses an adhesive disc, partially developed from the pelvic fins, that allows it to cling tightly to rocks or blades of kelp even in strong currents or crashing waves. The tapering, tadpole-shaped body, about 17 cm (6.5 in) long, has a single, posteriorly located dorsal fin, a fanlike caudal fin, no spines, and a flattened head. The skin is smooth and scaleless, with a thick layer of protective mucus. Its cryptic coloration makes the animal difficult to see among rocks or kelp.

DISTRIBUTION/ HABITAT: The family totals about 150 species worldwide; only 2 – the northern kelpfish (Gobiesox maeandricus) and the kelp clingfish (Rimicola muscarum) are found in northern California. They are bottom-dwelling fishes, typically found on or under rocks or high up in the kelp.

DIET IN THE WILD: Worms, molluscs, small crabs and other crustaceans.

PREDATORS: The clingfish is preyed upon by various aquatic animals that hunt among the rocks at high tide, and terrestrial predators such as snakes and raccoons that hunt at low tide.

REPRODUCTION: The male nudges the female’s belly. If she accepts him, the male moves parallel to her and quivers, stimulating egg laying. Fertilized eggs are deposited on stones, algae, or other bottom material, and are usually guarded by the male. Larvae are planktonic. Life span is about two years.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List Status Not Evaluated 

REMARKS: Like a number of other bottom-dwelling fishes, clingfish lack swim bladders, an internal sac used by the majority of fish species to control their position in the water. Clingfish can adhere so tightly to a surface that a rock might be moved some distance by strong currents with the fish still attached! Its suction cup also holds water from which the fish can extract oxygen even when exposed by a low tide.


California Academy of Sciences Tidepool Docent Guide 2015


Eschmeyer, W.N., E.S. Herald and H. Hammann, 1983. A field guide to Pacific coast fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, U.S.A. 336 p.

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