Purple Coral Crab, room-mate of Mr Assholefish

The Purple Coral Crab, (Trapezia serenei).

The last few days I have been spending several hours diving in the same place freezing my ass off looking for this stupid fish, that I have named the asshole fish.  The asshole fish lives in Seriatopora Corals from 1m to 10m depth and I hate him.
He gets his name because he has some kind of attention deficit disorder and he cant sit still.  Everytime you get him in focus he moves to a slightly different position where he ends up with a piece of the beautiful coral getting in the way of an important detail, so then you have to wait for him to come back to that spot again – or try repositioning the camera to get him in his new location.  Or as inevitably happens you decide not to reposition and wait.  And wait.  Keep waiting. Notice that he’s in a great position so its worth moving.  You move to the other side of the coral.  He promptly moves back to where you were.  Asshole fish.

You go back to your original place and decide to wait for him to move around his mini territory, hopefully returning to his sitting place that is sharply in focus whilst you’re just waiting

The Redhead Coral Goby cannot sit still and is very annoying to photograph.

for him to pop in, you make a deal with him in your head ‘just come here little fishy, i’ll get the shot i want and i’ll leave you alone, we’ll all be happy then,  pleaaaaaasssssseeeee‘  Of course he jumps back into the prime position you want him in, but just for long enough to seemingly laugh… then go off again chasing his mate.   Yes there are two asshole fish in one piece of coral.  It’s taken you 30mins to realise this.

So now you have Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch (she’s German) sitting in the other side of the piece of coral, laughing at you.  You hold your nerve and wait. maybe pee a little to alleviate the boredom.

As your mind wanders you start to notice the other denziens that share the coral with Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch. There are the beautiful Coral Crabs (Trapezia sp.) which occasionally pinch Mr Asshole fish when he gets too close.  They also protect the corals from Crown of Thorns Starfish, such is their commensal relationship.  There also seemed to be some kind of snapping shrimp, who also didn’t like Mr Assholefish and Mrs Assholefisch.

As your eyes begin to strain through the viewfinder,  you look up to observe the coral as a whole – you notice 4 or 5 pairs of orange eyes looking at you.  The Assholefish family have babies.  Baby Assholefish are generally bullied by the adult fish if they go anywhere near the safety provided by the centre of the coral, so they are forced to live out on the tips, where it is coincidentally easier to take pictures.  But do not forget they are assholefish and it is in their DNA to be, well, assholefish.

Baby Assholefish!
Juvenile Redhead Coral Gobies choosing to look away at the exact moment you pull the trigger.

These juveniles will dart back and forth and generally infuriate you, this time because they are too small for he 100mm prime, but if you put the dioptre on there then you are too close and you scare them away. Grrrr!

So, if you want to see the assholefish and friends they are on most divesites, but please be careful with the corals – choose a coral head that has been damaged in the past and has a ‘window’ to the inside. Just in case you are staying elsewhere, the Assholefish normally goes by the name: Redhead Coral Goby (Page 325 in the Reef Fish ID book).


Chris J. · November 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm


Bent C · November 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Been there, done that! They are seriously evil fish, probably waiting for you to drown of boredom and frustration, before they have a feast on your carcass! You managed to avoid the blown out white tips of the Seriatopora which, in case one of the little f****rs actually show up long enough for one to get a decent shot at, inevitably will ruin the shot anyway. Let them go extinct!

nadlembehresort · November 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I got lots of shots like that too, Bent. I’m going to keep trying, they are so close that i hope i can make a nice video of their behaviour if they get used to me.

Yuen Trisha Thow · November 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Love the Video! Writing style is cute too… not sure if you were aiming for that… When my eardrums recover, I think a trip to Lembeh is due…

Daniele · November 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Hahahaha!!! Great post Simon!!!

mikeveitch · November 17, 2012 at 1:49 am


Kai Squires · November 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm

We feel your pain, but that’s why they invented video.

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