Common name: Milkfish


Large, somewhat compressed fishes with large eyes, adipose eyelids, a pointed snout, a small terminal mouth, a single short-based dorsal fin at midbody, abdominal pelvic fins and a large forked tail. 
Milkfish lack fin spines and jaw teeth, and are covered in small smooth scales with the lateral line running along above the midline.

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Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Milkfish, CHANIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Apr 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Family with a single widely-distributed species Chanos chanos, found throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Family Distribution

Widespread throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific' occurs in coastal waters, where it enters brackish and occasionally fresh waters.

Family Description

Meristic features:
Single short-based dorsal fin in middle of back, gill rakers long, numerous; pelvic fins abdominal; fin spine slacking; no jaw teeth; adipose eyelids extending from behind the snout to the operculum, covering the eyes.

Family Size

The species attains a length of 1.8 m.

Family Feeding

Adults apparently feed on algae, detritus and associated animals. 

Family Reproduction

In a study around Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Leis & Reader (1991) suggested that milkfish larvae hatched from eggs offshore in the Coral Sea, and subsequently moved inshore towards the reefs.

Family Commercial

Milkfish are of considerable commercial importance, and are widely aquacultured in ponds for food in southeast Asia.


Dianne J. Bray


Chang, C.-H., C.-C. Chiao & H.Y. Yan. 2009. The structure and possible functions of the milkfish Chanos chanos adipose eyelid. Journal of Fish Biology 75: 87–99.

Larson, H.K. 1980. Family Chanidae.  pp. 51–52 1 fig in McDowall, R.M. (ed.) Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia.  Sydney : A.H. & A.W. Reed 208 pp. figs 32 pls

Leis, JM & SE Reader. 1991. 1991. Distributional ecology of milkfish, Chanos chanos, larvae in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea near Lizard Island, Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 30: 395-405.

Taki, Y., H. Kohno & S. Hara. 1987. Morphological aspects of the development of swimming and feeding functions in the milkfish Chanos chanos. Jap. J. Ichthyol. 34: 198-208.