Common name: Mullets



Mullets are medium to large-sized silvery-grey fishes with a moderately long body, two short-based, widely separated dorsal fins, pectoral fins set high on the body and a concave to slightly forked tail. The head is broad and flattened, with a small mouth and eyes partly covered by an adipose eyelid. Body covered in large rough scales, lateral line absent.

A diverse family of pelagic nearshore fishes found worldwide in tropical to temperate marine, estuarine and freshwaters. Mullets are ecologically, recreationally and commercially important throughout their range.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Douglass F. Hoese, Mullets, MUGILIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The Mugilidae comprises 72 described species in 20 genera worldwide (Eschmeyer & Fong 2012). Ten genera and 22 species are currently recognised from Australian waters. Additional species may occur here as much of the Australian material in museum collections has not been fully studied from either a morphological or a molecular perspective.

Family Distribution

Mullets are widespread in coastal waters of all tropical and temperate seas and estuaries. They typically forage in schools in estuaries, bays and on coral reefs.

Family Description

Body moderately elongate, head broad, flattened; eyes partly covered by an adipose eyelid; mouth small, terminal or slightly subterminal, lips this; teeth small or absent.

Two short-based widely separated dorsal fins, pectoral fins set high on the body, pelvic fin origin behind pectoral-fin base; caudal fin concave to weakly forked. 

Body covered in moderate to large ctenoid scales, with large modified scales at pectoral, pelvic and dorsal fin bases; lateral line absent.

Family Size

Medium to large-sized fishes reaching about 160 cm in length.

Family Colour

Usually silvery-grey, paler below.

Family Feeding

Mullet are filter feeders, with a specially adapted branchial mechanism (Harrison & Howes 1991). Although they feed mostly on detritus and algae, they also eat insects, zooplankton and fish eggs.

Family Reproduction

Because mullets are commercially, some species have been well-studied. The sexes are separate, fertilisation is external and females produce many small pelagic eggs. 

Family Commercial

Mullets are recreationally and commercially important in many areas throughout their range. They are also aquacultured in many parts of the world, both for food and to enhance fish stocks. In Southeast Asia, mullets are often cultured in ponds. They are considered to be excellent eating.


Dianne J. Bray & Douglass F. Hoese


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