PReef fishes were compared between artificial reefs with (n = 20) and without (n = 20) epibenthic communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Artificial reefs were built in June 2003; half were coated with copper-based paint to prevent epibenthic community development. Reefs were surveyed by SCUBA divers to estimate fish abundance in the autumn and winter 2003 and spring 2004. Total fish abundance and abundance of red snapper, Lutjanus campechanus (Poey), and gray triggerfish, Balistes capriscus Gmelin, were significantly (P 0.05) higher on reefs with epibenthic communities. In the spring 2004, the abundance of belted sandfish, Serranus subligarius (Cope), the size of red snapper and community measures of diversity and evenness were significantly (P 0.05) greater on unpainted reefs. These significant differences provide evidence that reef fishes were positively affected by the presence of epibenthic organisms that probably provided increased food resources.