Opistognathus aurifrons

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Latin name Opistognathus aurifrons - (Jordan & Thompson, 1905)
Local name Yellowhead Jawfish
Family Opistognathidae - Opistognathus
Origin The Mexican Golf, West Atlantic
Max length 10 cm (3,9")
As aquarium fish
Minimum volume 200 cm (53 gal)
Hardiness Hardy
Suitable for aquarium Suitable with care
Reef safe Always reef safe
Aggressiveness Docile but might be aggressive towards similar species
Recommended Zooplankton (Cyclops, pods...)
Small crustaceans (Krill, mysis, artemia...)
Beware of
Jumps out of open aquaria

This species is known to jump out of open aquaria.

Keep in mind

These fish prefer a substrate which allows it to burrow.
A substrate consisting of sand, coral pieces, shells and small pieces of broken up shells is ideal for them to dig holes in.

One can also arrange rocks to enable the fish to create a hole underneath, making certain they are secure and cannot fall over.

There should be space to enable them to make a hole which is at least 1½ inch (3 cm) longer than their own body.
Other animals digging in the sand, can stress this species, if the aquarium is not spacious enough. Be therefore aware of, for example of Wrasses which burrow at night.

Mouth incubating

The male incubates the eggs in its mouth.


This species often has a fun and interesting personality.

Any number of specimens

This species can function in large numbers down to just one.


This species is very shy and docile, so one should be careful when keeping it with more aggressive fish.

Bred in captivity

This species can be bred in captivity, one can therefore consider asking your local fish store for a captive bred specimen.

Descriptions and further reading

There should be a minimum of 2 inch (5 cm) between each Jawfish's cave if one wishes to keep more than one.

A Jawfish couple will sometimes "dance" when mating.

Family description (Opistognathidae)

Jawfish (Opistognathidae) live in a small hole, and therefore require a deep sand substrate.

When given the right conditions, one has a good chance for success with keeping them, as Jawfish are fairly easy and hardy. One should not however add them to an aquarium with aggressive fish or others which dig in the sand, unless there is enough space.

Jawfish are known for hopping out of the aquarium, even through the smallest holes. This occurs when they do not have enough time to find a hole before the lights are turned off, so one should try to make a hiding place for them, when newly introduced.

Jawfish will sometimes gasp for air at the surface until they have made a hole. If this behaviour continues, it could indicate that the surroundings are not suitable or that the Jawfish is being disturbed by the other fish, this must be solved in order for the fish to survive.

Aquarium trade Yes
Distribution Western Central Atlantic: southern Florida, USA and Bahamas to Barbados and northern South America.
English common names Yellowhead jawfish
Danish common names Gulhovedet kæbefisk
References and further reading

About references

Scott W. Michael. 2001. Basslets, Dottybacks & Hawkfishes: v. 2 (Reef Fishes) - TFH Publications / Microcosm Ltd. - (English)
Henry C. Schultz. 2002. Let's Jaw About Jawfish - Reefkeeping Magazine - (English)
Bob Fenner. Jawfishes, Family Opistognathidae - Wet Web Media - (English)