Rainbow Cale

Odax Acroptilus
Rainbow Cale - Marinewise © 2023 MarineWise

Quick Facts

Scientific name Odax Acroptilus
Other names Marine Rainbowfish, Rainbowfish
Size Up to 30 cm (12 in)
Weight Up to .50 kg (1.1 lb)


Habitat & AU Distribution Coastal waters amongst algae covered rocky reefs & broad leaf seagrasses
Depth Range 5 - 30 m (98 ft)
Rainbow Cale Distribution

Interesting Info

  • The Rainbow Cale is endemic to Australia and is found along the southern coast of the country. It can be observed in regions like Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and parts of Western Australia.
  • The Rainbow Cale is a strikingly beautiful fish with a vibrant mix of colours. It features a predominantly orangish, yellow body with bluish-green accents along its fins and head. The bright colours not only add to its allure but also serve as a warning to potential predators about its toxic flesh.
  • They are herbivores, primarily feeding on algae and kelp. Their specialised teeth are adapted to scrape algae from rocks, making them important grazers in their ecosystem.
  • When threatened, Rainbow Cales release a toxic substance from their skin and scales. This toxin, while not deadly to humans, acts as a deterrent to predators, making them less likely to be attacked.
  • Rainbow Cales are highly territorial, especially during the breeding season. They will vigorously defend their chosen territory against intruding fish, sometimes engaging in confrontations to maintain their space.
  • During the mating season, male Rainbow Cales perform intricate courtship displays to attract females. These displays involve colourful body movements and fin displays, showcasing their fitness as potential mates.
  • Rainbow Cales form monogamous pairs. They establish territories and defend them against intruders. This behaviour ensures the successful incubation of their eggs and increases the chances of their offspring’s survival.
  • They engage in oviparous reproduction, where females release eggs that are fertilised externally by males. They typically breed during the warmer months, which is typically from late spring to early autumn in Australia.
  • Their estimated average lifespan is between 7 – 10 years.
Species Interaction

Snorkeling & Diving

Rainbow Cales are relatively common along the Australian coast, making them accessible for snorkelers and divers. Their vibrant colours and intriguing behaviour make them a delight to observe. However, they can be somewhat shy and may retreat into crevices when approached too closely.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Perciformes

Family: Odacidae

Genus: Odax

Species: Odax Acroptilus

Conservation Status

The Rainbow Cale is not currently listed as a species of concern in Australia. Its population appears to be stable, and it is not considered endangered or threatened at this time.

Recreational Viewing
- Snorkeling & Scuba

Finding: Easy

Temperament: Peaceful

Location: Inner Reef, Lagoon, Seagrass Beds

Danger: Poisonous

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