Sergeant Major

Family: Pomacentridae Picture of a Sergeant Major, Abudefduf saxatilisAbudefduf saxatilis
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in the course of 2 weeks, the sergeant major has devoured 8 super crocea clams and stressed out 4 more. this species is hard to catch and loves to dine on... (more)  Susan

   One of the Sergeant Major's natural habitats are the beds of Turtle Grass (Thalassia), found in the inshore zones of the Florida Keys!

   Abundant throughout the atlantic ocean in many regions, the Sergeant Major is a damselfish that is readily available, inexpensive, and hardy. Though they are cute little fish when purchased as juveniles, they can turn into very territorial adults. Make sure you have plenty of room and lots of decor for them, so they can claim a space of their own.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Abudefduf saxatilis
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  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacentridae
  • Genus: Abudefduf
  • Species: saxatilis
Juvenile Sergeant Major Damsel (abudefduf saxatilis)
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Juvenile Sergeant Major Damsels in the wild

A very interesting behavioral display is shown with this small group of juvenile Sergeant Major Damsels. As juveniles they form loose, smaller groups and dart quickly and erratically. They may be cute, but grow up to be nasty!

Adult Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis)
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Brief yet good video of adult & kiddies in captivity.

This video is very brief, but shows what looks like a parent and several offspring that someone successfully bred in their tank! While it is not suggested to put this many in one tank, this may be the case of family, which may be why the adult is not attacking the young! Typically a pair or one Sergeant Major can be kept in a 75 gallon tank.

Habitat: Natural geographic location: Atlantic Ocean: Rhode Island, USA to Uruguay in the western Atlantic. They are abundant on Caribbean reefs; around islands of the mid-Atlantic, Cape Verde, and along the tropical coast of western Africa south to Angola. Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis) is strictly an Atlantic species. The point map data in the Indo-Pacific region and Indian Ocean is the closely related species Abudefduf vaigiensis.

Status:    These fish are not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Maintenance difficulty:    The Sergeant Major is among the easiest of all marine fish to keep.

Maintenance:    This fish will readily eat all kinds of live, frozen, and flake foods and algae. Finely chopped meaty foods (like brine shrimp) can be fed regularly. It is best to feed small amounts several times a day. In a reef situation they don't really need to be fed very often at all.

Foods:    All kinds. See "maintenance" above.

Social Behaviors:    Like all damselfish, they can be territorial and aggressive, especially as they get older. Should not be kept with others of the same species. Can be kept with other larger fish but watch them closely to be sure their aggression doesn't become destructive. Inhabits inshore and offshore coral reefs, usually found at depths between 1 and 12 meters.

Sex: Sexual differences:    Not known.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Some of the damselfish have been bred in captivity. See general breeding techniques under Clownfish on the marine breeding page.

Temperature:    No special requirements.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Sergeant Major adults can grow to 15.0 cm ( 5.9 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 20 gallon aquarium is recommended if this is the only fish to be kept in it.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    Swims at all levels of the aquarium.

Availability:    This fish is readily available.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
Lastest Animal Stories on Sergeant Major

Susan - 2004-07-08
in the course of 2 weeks, the sergeant major has devoured 8 super crocea clams and stressed out 4 more. this species is hard to catch and loves to dine on unsuspecting anemones, snails, clams, and small fish. i was sold this fish by mistake.

Valerie Jean - 2010-06-24
I was swimming yesterday in the coast and was wearing a colorful brown and orange dress. While swimming, I noticed a tiny little fish swimming around me and following me because he liked the colors on my dress. I decided to catch him and I took him home. Now I'm trying to research on this cute Sergeant Major Damsel. I love him && he seems to love me! (since he followed me home. lol.)

  • Michele - 2010-08-22
    Hi Valerie

    I love these fish too. They captured my heart while snorkeling in Bermuda. They are very friendly and like to swim along with you. I am concerned that your fish should be in his natural habitat rather than in a contained environment.
Lee - 2007-08-23
My sergeant major is the second biggest fish in my tank. He has grown more than any other fish in my tank since i got him. At first he was bullied and chased around by my royal dottyback, but after two months the tables slowly turned as he grew. I also have an electric blue damselfish which i added a few months after the sergeant major. The sergeant major is friendly with every other fish in the tank except the electric blue damsel.

He could rival my porcupine pufferfish with the amount of food he consumes.

Ginger - 2007-04-04
I love this fish! I have a Sergeant Major damsel, a yellow tail damsel a 3 stripe damsel and a coral angel. The sergeant Major is special. Yes he eats like a pig and will never refuse food. He will eat anything you give him but he is also very intellegent will bond with the owner. I come home and he is at the glass begging for food. After i feed him he will swim around then return to get eye contact with me. He will often stare at me with his big eyes. (so cute). He has figured out how to make the flake food fall down from the top of the water by swimming rapidly up and hitting the food with his tail. Then he swims back and forth grabbing all the food as it falls. He also taught my other fish to eat from the top. Very adorable... love him/her to death! Easy maintence, very inexpensive, very intelligent and loveable!