White-ear, Parma microlepis Günther 1862

Other Names: White Ear, White Ear Scalyfin, White-ear Scalyfin

A White-ear, Parma microlepis, in Bushrangers Bay, Bass Point, New South Wales, June 2017. Source: Erik Schlogl / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


Like many damselfishes, White-ears change colour as they grow. The brightly coloured juveniles are orange with neon-blue lines and spots, a black ocellus ringed with neon-blue on the dorsal fin, and a white patch on the gill cover.

With growth, the body becomes brownish, and the neon blue markings and ocellus gradually disappear. Large individuals are yellowish-brown to black. Like the juveniles, they have a distinct white "ear-like" marking on the gill cover that is visible at all growth stages.

White ears are abundant on coastal reefs along much of the New South Wales coast. Divers are very familiar with these small territorial fishes, especially during the breeding season when males aggressively protect their eggs.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Parma microlepis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Nov 2020,

White-ear, Parma microlepis Günther 1862

More Info


Known in Australia from northern New South Wales to north-eastern Tasmania and westwards to Port Phillip, Victoria, in depths to 30 m.

The White Ear is one of the most abundant rocky reef fishes in the Sydney region, but is very rare in Port Phillip Bay.


Dorsal fin XIII, 16-18; Anal fin II, 14-16; Caudal fin 15; Pectoral fin 20-21; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 23-28; Gill rakers 19-23.

Body deep, somewhat oval, with a rounded head, a small terminal mouth, and a single long-based dorsal fin. Scales large, bases of dorsal and anal fins with scaly sheath of smaller scales. Colour highly variable from juvenile to adult.


To 20 cm.


Large individuals are yellowish-brown to black with a distinct white "ear-like" marking on the gill cover. Small juveniles are bright orange with neon-blue lines, spots and a black ocellus ringed with neon-blue on dorsal fin.

With growth, the body becomes brown and the blue colour and ocellus gradually disappear. The white "ear" marking is visible at all stages.




During the breeding season, individuals form breeding pairs. Males prepare 'nests' on rocky substrates by removing algae, detritus and encrusting organisms.

Females lay their adherent eggs onto this 'nest' site, and her male partner aerates and aggressively protects the eggs from all-comers, including divers who stray to close. The larvae are pelagic.

Studies have shown that P. microlepis grows rapidly durng the first 8 years of life, and can live to at least 37 years, and can reproduce for more than 30 years.


Of no interest to fisheries.


Like many other damselfishes, white ears are very territorial and males aggressively guard their eggs against predators.

Similar Species

Differs from the similar Parma victoriae in having a white patch on the gill cover at all stages throughout the life cycle.

Species Citation

Parma microlepis Günther, 1862, Cat. Fish. Brit. Mus. 4: 57. Type locality: Port Jackson, New South Wales.


Dianne J. Bray

White-ear, Parma microlepis Günther 1862


Allen, G.R. 1991. Damselfishes of the world. Mergus Publishers, Melle, Germany. 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., Cross, N.J. & Allen, C.J. 2006. Pomacentridae. pp. 1439-1471 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Pomacentridae. pp. 634-638 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Hoese, D.F. 1975. A review of the pomacentrid fish genus Parma, with descriptions of two new species. Records of the Western Australian Museum 3(4): 261-294 figs 1-18

Edgar, G.J., Last, P.R. & Wells, M.W. 1982. Coastal Fishes of Tasmania and Bass Strait. Hobart : Cat & Fiddle Press 175 pp.

Günther, A. 1862. Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the Acanthopterygii Pharyngognathi and Anacanthini in the collection of the British Museum. London : British Museum Vol. 4 534 pp.

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. 180 pp.

Kuiter, R.H.1994. Labridae, in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. 992 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. 433 pp.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37372005

Behaviour:Males guard the eggs

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:20 cm


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CAAB distribution map