Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-likes)
Family: Stichaeidae (Pricklebacks)

Genus/species: Cebidichthys violaceus


The body is long and eel-like, a body shape that allows the animal to back into crevices with only the head visible, protected from predators and watchful for a passing morsel. The fish is territorial, and rarely ventures out from its favored crevice more than 5 m (16 ft). Adults are usually uniformly colored black, olive or gray, except for black streaks across eyes. The dorsal and anal fins are edged with red. A fleshy hump above eyes is pronounced in reproductive males.


C. violaceus can be found along the Pacific coast from southern Oregon to north-central Baja California, though is rare south of Point Conception. Its preferred habitat is in tide pools or shallow rocky areas from the intertidal zone to a depth of 24 m (78 ft).  C. violaceus is territorial, and rarely ventures out from its favored crevice more than 5 m (16 ft).


Juveniles eat mostly crustaceans and algae. Mature fish are mostly herbivorous.


Juveniles are preyed upon by birds such as great egrets and great blue herons. Other known predators include cabezon and some rockfishes.



They spawn in nearshore habitats, laying egg masses on subtidal, rocky surfaces. The adults are known to guard the eggs. Monkeyface eels grow up to 76 cm (30 in) long and can live to at least 18 years.



  • A good-tasting fish by human standards, the monkeyface eel is taken by sustenance and recreational fishermen and is also popular in the aquarium trade.
  • The fish, despite its common name, does not belong to the family of true eels, but rather to the prickleback family (Stichaeidae). However, the genus name, Cebidichthys violaceus or “violet monkey fish,” is a delightfully accurate description.
  • It is able to breathe air, an excellent adaptation in an environment where exposure at extreme low tides is a threat to many other animals. If in a moist environment, it can remain out of water for 35 hours or more.

 Tidepool,  Wave Crash Exhibit


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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