Pajama Cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera (Bleeker 1856)

Other Names: Coral Cardinalfish, Pyjama Cardinal

A Pajama Cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera, at Forbes Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, July 2015. Source: Ian Shaw / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A striking cardinalfish with a yellowish head, a broad dark brown bar on the body, dark first dorsal and pelvic fins, purple spots on the rear of the body and a red bar through the iris.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Sphaeramia nematoptera in Fishes of Australia, accessed 01 Mar 2024,

Pajama Cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera (Bleeker 1856)

More Info


Northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, west Pacific. Groups hover near branching corals in sheltered bays and lagoons.


This popular aquarium fish has been reared in captivity.


The specific name nematophora is from the Greek nemos (thread) and pteron (fin or wing).

Species Citation

Apogon nematopterus Bleeker, 1856, Acta Soc. Scient. Indo-Neerland. 1: 35. Type locality: Sulawesi, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Pajama Cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera (Bleeker 1856)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. 1999. Apogonidae. pp. 2602-2610 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. 4 pp. 2069-2790.

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

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21.

Bleeker, P. 1856. Beschrijvengen van nieuwe of weinig bekende vischsoorten van Menado en Makassar grootendeels verzameld op eene reis naar den Molukschen Archipel in het gevolg van den Gouverneur-Generaal Duymaer van Twist. Acta Societatis Scientiarum Indo-Neerlandicae 1: 1-80

Fraser, T.H. 1972. Comparative osteology of the shallow water cardinal fishes (Perciformes : Apogonidae) with reference to the systematics and evolution of the family. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 34: 1-105 44 pls

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical Reef-Fishes of the Western Pacific, Indonesia and Adjacent Waters. Jakarta : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama 314 pp. pls.

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.

Mabuchi, K., Fraser, T.H., Song, H., Azuma, Y. & Nishida, M. 2014. Revision of the systematics of the cardinalfishes (Percomorpha: Apogonidae) based on molecular analyses and comparative reevaluation of morphological characters. Zootaxa 3846(2): 151–203.

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.

Rueger, T., Gardiner, N.M. & Jones, G.P. 2018. Site fidelity facilitates pair formation in aggregations of coral reef cardinalfish. Oecologia 186(2): 425-434.

Rueger, T., Harrison, H.B., Jones, G.P., Mansour, H. & Berumen, M.L. 2014. Resolving genealogical relationships in the Pyjama cardinalfish, Sphaeramia nematoptera (Apogonidae) with 23 novel microsatellite markers. Conservation Genetics Resources DOI 10.1007/s12686-015-0461-3.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37327119

Biology:Mouth brooder (males)

Depth:1-14 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:9 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map