Short, blunt snout with a barely noticeable mouth. Opercles (bony covering protecting the gills) and preopercles (foremost opercular bone) are scaleless. The spiny dorsal fin has 9 or 10 spines and the soft dorsal fin has 11 to 13 rays. The tail fin has two spines.
The back is colored with six to eight indistinct dark cross-bars. Head and body are thickly sprinkled with fine black specks. A narrow dark vertical bar is visible beneath the eye.
Breeding males show bright orange color along the belly surface and the gills. Females are dark tan with brown-black on the back. Both sexes have 12 to 14 dark bars along the midside, a dark wedge-shaped spot below the eye and the underside is covered with very tiny dark spots.