Common name: Razorfishes, Shrimpfishes



These small razor-thin fishes often seek refuge amongst sea urchin spines, swimming head-down in small synchronized schools.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Razorfishes, CENTRISCIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family with four recognised species in two genera. Three species in two genera are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific, inhabiting coral reefs, seagrass, sandy, estuarine or muddy environments and occasionally trawled in shallow shelf waters; recorded in depths of 1–100 metres.

Family Description

Meristics: D III,10–12; A 11–12; P 10–12; V I+4; C 11; Vert 20; BR 3–5. Body extremely compressed, razor-like with a sharp ventral edge, dorsal surface almost straight; snout elongate, jaws long, pincer-like, mouth tiny, teeth absent; circumorbital bones 1(+2?). Spinous dorsal at far posterior end of body, comprised of a single long sharp spine, followed by 2 shorter spines; soft dorsal fin and caudal fin displaced ventrally below posterior end of body; pectoral fins well developed; pelvic fins small, about midbody. Body almost entirely encased in thin, almost transparent bony plates that are expansions of the vertebrae; lateral line absent.

Family Size

Grow to a total length of 150 mm.

Family Feeding

Razorfishes feed on planktonic animals, such as copepods, gammaridean amphipods and tiny fishes.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate and fertilizatin is external. Centriscids spawn large, speherical pelagic egg with a thick gelatinous coating; eggs 1.1-1.3 mm in diameter. The larvae are pelagic and hatch at a length of 1.9 mm; preflexion stage larvae have not been described; flexion and postflexion stage larvae have been described. Juveniles settle to the substrate at around 20 mm, often within the spines of crinoids or Diadema sea urchins. Groups of juveniles often congregate in surface waters along beach edges in protected bays.

Family Commercial

Of little commercial importance, although sometimes used in fishmeal.

Family Conservation

IUCN: Not evaluated.

Australia: Not listed.

Family Remarks

Often seen swimming in groups in a characteristic head-down position among the long spines of Diadema sea urchins.


Dianne J. Bray


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