Blacktail Humbug, Dascyllus melanurus Bleeker 1854

Other Names: Blacktail Damselfish, Black-tail Humbug, Black-tailed Dascyllus, Black-tailed Humbug, Four Stripe Damselfish, Humbug Damselfish

A Blacktail Humbug, Dascyllus melanurus, in Dompu, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia, May 2014. Source: Mark Rosenstein / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A white humbug with three black bars on the body, black pelvic fins, and a black area over the outer two-thirds of the tail.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Dascyllus melanurus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 Nov 2022,

Blacktail Humbug, Dascyllus melanurus Bleeker 1854

More Info


Offshore reefs of north Western Australia, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the northern Great Barrier Reef and Ashmore Reef in the Coral Sea, to at least Moreton Bay, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical east-Indo-west-Pacific: central Indonesia east to the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu, north to the Philippines, south Australia and New Caledonia.
Inhabits sheltered lagoons, harbours, and coastal inlets, usually in depths of 1-10 m. Aggregations of 20-30 individuals are usually seen in association with isolated Acropora coral heads.


Dorsal fin XII,12; Anal fin  II, 13; Pectoral fin 18; Tubed lateral-line scales 16 -17; Gill rakers on first arch 6-7 + 17-19.
Greatest body depth 1.5 to 1.7 in SL; head length 2.7 to 3.1 in SL; snout length 3.4 to 4.3, eye diameter 2.3 to 3.2, interorbital width 2.7 to 3.3, least depth of caudal peduncle 1.8 to 2.1, length of caudal peduncle 2.3 to 2.7, of pectoral fin 1.0 to 1.2, of pelvic fin 0.8 to 1.1., of caudal fin 1.0 to 1.2, caudal concavity 3.5 to 6.0, all in head length. 


Ground colour white with three highly contrasted black bars; dorsal fin largely covered by continuation of black body bars, except middle portion white and posterior edge of soft dorsal transparent; caudal fin mostly black except basal V3 white; anal fin mostly covered by continuation of third black body bar except base of anterior portion white and posterior edge transparent; pelvic fins black; pectoral fins transparent (Randall & Allen 1977). 


Feeds on a variety of planktonic items including larval shrimps, crabs, ostracods, amphipods, pelagic tunicates, copepods, and fish eggs. Some algae is also taken (Randall & Allen 1997).


Species of the genus Dascyllus are obligate coral dwellers. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, with females having the ability to change sex during their life cycle. One or two dominant males defend a single branching coral head with a harem of juveniles and females. In return for the shelter provided by the coral, the fish remove unwanted algal growth from the coral. Females spawn demersal adhesive eggs that are guarded by the male parent until the larvae hatch.

Species Citation

Dascyllus melanurus Bleeker, 1854,  Natuur. Tijdschr. Neder Indië 6: 100. Type locality: Neira and Banda, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Blacktail Humbug, Dascyllus melanurus Bleeker 1854


Allen, G.R. 1975. Damselfishes of the South Seas. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 237 pp. 251 figs.

Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91.

Allen, G.R. 1991. Damselfishes of the World. Melle, Germany : Mergus Verlag 271 pp.

Allen, G. R. 2001. Family Pomacentridae. pp. in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Bleeker, P. 1854. Derde bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van de Banda-eilanden (1).  Natuurwetenschappelijk Tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch Indië 6: 89-114. See ref at BHL

Brandl, S.J. & Bellwood, D.R. 2014. Pair-formation in coral reef fishes: an ecological perspective. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 52: 1-80.

Erisman, B.E., Petersen, C.W., Hastings, P.A. & Warner, R.R. 2013. Phylogenetic perspectives on the evolution of functional hermaphroditism in teleost fishes. Integrative and Comparative Biology 53(4): 736–754,

Fishelson, L. 1998. Behaviour, socio‐ecology and sexuality in damselfishes (Pomacentridae). Italian Journal of Zoology 65(S1): 387-398

Godwin, J. 1995. Phylogenetic and habitat influences on mating system structure in the humbug damselfishes (Dascyllus, Pomacentridae). Bulletin of Marine Science 57: 637–52.

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Kuwamura, T., Sunobe, T., Sakai, Y. et al. 2020. Hermaphroditism in fishes: an annotated list of species, phylogeny, and mating system. Ichthyological Research 67: 341–360.

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical reef-fishes of the western Pacific Indonesia and adjacent waters. Gramedia Pustaka Utama, Jakarta. 314 p.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. 2001. Pictorial guide to Indonesian reef fishes. Part 2. Fusiliers - Dragonets, Caesionidae - Callionymidae. Zoonetics, Australia. 304-622 pp.

McCafferty, S., Bermingham, E., Quenouille, B., Planes, S., Hoelzer, G. & Asoh, K. 2002. Historical biogeography and molecular systematics of the Indo-Pacific genus Dascyllus (Teleostei: Pomacentridae). Molecular Ecology 11: 1377–1392.

Randall, H.A. & Allen, G.R. 1977. A revision of the damselfish genus Dascyllus (Pomacentridae) with the description of a new species. Records of The Australian Museum 31(9): 349-385. DOI: 10.3853/j.0067-1975.31.1977.217

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Shpigel M. & Fishelson L. 1986. Behaviour and physiology of coexistence in two species of Dascyllus (Pomacentridae, Teleostei). Environmental Biology of Fishes 17: 253-265.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37372009


Depth:1-65 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:8 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map