Common name: Anchovies



Small silvery, herring-like fishes with a conical snout extending beyond the lower jaw, a large mouth reaching well beyond the eye, a single short-based dorsal fin at about mid-body, pectoral fins low on the sides, pelvic fins abdominal, originating before or below the dorsal-fin base, a forked tail and a wide silvery stripe along the mid-sides. The body is covered in smooth, often weakly attached scales. 

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & John R. Paxton, Anchovies, ENGRAULIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The Engraulidae include more than 145 species in 16 genera worldwide. In Australia, 23 species in six genera have been recorded.

Family Distribution

Widespread in tropical to cold temperate seas worldwide. Most species inhabit shallow water marine waters, although some can ascend rivers and a few are purely freshwater.

Family Description

Most species have a characteristic long snout over a subterminal mouth which extends far behind the level of the eye. Some species have striking posterior extensions to the upper jaw and one non-Australian species has photophores. Most Indo-Pacific species have scutes on the belly. The body is usually elongate and variously compressed.

Family Size

Maximum size for the family is about 300 mm.

Family Colour

Most species have a characteristic silver stripe along the side.

Family Feeding

Anchovies feed by opening their mouths wide to filter plankton from the water column with their numerous elongate gill rakers.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Anchovies produce pelagic eggs and the larvae are pelagic.

Family Commercial

Anchovies are commercially important in most areas of the world including Australia, where relatively small numbers are marketed. 


Dianne J. Bray & John R. Paxton


Hildebrand, S.F. (1963). Family Engraulidae. in Olsen, Y.H. (ed.) Fishes of the western North Atlantic. Mem. Sears Fndn. Mar. Res. 1(3): 152–249 figs 25–59

Nelson, G.J. (1970). The hypobranchial apparatus of teleostean fishes of the families Engraulidae and Chirocentridae. Am. Mus. Novit. 2410: 1–30 figs 1–11

Nelson, J.S. (1994). Fishes of the World.  New York : John Wiley & Sons 3rd Edn  600 pp.

Whitehead, P.J.P. (1973). A synopsis of the clupeoid fishes of India. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. India 14(1): 160–256 figs 1–68

Whitehead, P.J.P., Boeseman, M. & Wheeler, A.C. (1966). The types of Bleeker's Indo-Pacific elopoid and clupeoid fishes. Zool. Verh. 84: 1–159 pls 1–19

Whitehead, P.J.P., Nelson, G.J., & Wongratana, T. (1988). FAO species catalogue.  Clupeoid fishes of the world (Suborder Clupeoidei).  An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the herrings, sardines, pilchards, sprats, anchovies and wolf-herrings.  Part 2.  Engraulididae. FAO Fish. Synop., No. 125, volume 1, part 2 pp. 305–579

Wongratana, T., Munroe, T.A. & Nizinski, M.S. (1999). Family Engraulidae.  pp. 1698–1753 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes.  Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397–2068