The yellowhead jawfish is a burrowing species of fish that make their home in the sand of reefs all over the Caribbean. They make their burrows in the sand using small rocks as support to keep the sand from caving back in. Jawfish are known as ‘mouthbrooders’ where the female will lay the eggs while the male will proceed to gather them all in his mouth and incubate them, keeping them in the safety of his mouth until they are ready to hatch. Every so often the males will come out of their burrow, never more than a few inches away from the entrance, and aerate the eggs by spitting them out of his mouth exposing them to the oxygen-rich water. This is known to many underwater macro photographer enthusiasts as the ‘money shot.’ Known as “chumming,” the whole aeration process is over in less than a second so a high shutter speed (1/200-1/250) is essential to get the eyes of the eggs sharp and in focus.

It was quite the process to get this end result photo. It took three dives, two of which were spent looking for a jawfish that actually had eggs and ones that were far enough developed to where you could see the eyes. The third dive was spent inching my way as close as I could get while holding my breath so I would not produce bubbles that could scare him away back down into his burrow. I find it odd how some fish are afraid of bubbles and others aren’t and will actually investigate them. Unfortunately, this jawfish was especially wary of the bubbles which made this shot that much more difficult to get. When jawfish have eggs, they grow especially cautious which is understandable. But all in all, I am happy with the result and to check this one off my bucket list. Totally worth it.

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