Small to moderate fishes, up to 45 cm. Body moderately elongate and compressed. Mouth moderate, weakly protrusible; maxilla not extending beyond posterior margin of orbit. Branchiostegal rays 6, with a single ray articulating with posterior ceratohyal. Dorsal fin with IV or fewer spines and 21-74 soft rays; base of fin long. Lateral line modified, disjunct, posteriorly truncated or multiple. Color: highly variable with stripes, spots, blotches or nearly plain in each species; colorful in most species; sexually dichromatic in some species.|
Similar families occurring in the area. Opistognathidae and Plesiopidae: posterior marigin of maxilla extending well beyond a vertical through posterior margin of orbit; dorsal fin with IX or more spines. Serranidae: opercle usually with 3 spines; dorsal fin with VII or more spines.
Remarks. Occurs in shallow intertidal areas to depths of about 100 m; preferring coral and rocky reefs. Feeds on fishes, crustaceans, molluscs, and worms. Sequental hermaphrodite in some species. Of commercial importance in aquarium trade in colorful species.