Rough Flutemouth, Fistularia petimba Lacépède 1803

Other Names: Cornetfish, Deep-sea Flute-mouth, Flutemouth, Lacepedes Cornetfish, Red Cornetfish, Rough Flute-mouth, Serrate Cornetfish

A pair of Rough Flutemouths, Fistularia petimba, in Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


A reddish to brownish-orange flutemouth with a row of bony plates along the middle of the back. Individuals are often distinctly banded at night, and juveniles have a mottled pattern. The long tubular snout of the Rough Flutemouth is a very efficient device for sucking in small fishes, a major food source.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Fistularia petimba in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Oct 2023,

Rough Flutemouth, Fistularia petimba Lacépède 1803

More Info


Known in Australia from the South Australian gulfs, west and around the tropical north and east coast to Port Phillip, Victoria - including offshore reefs and islands. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical Atlantic and Indo-West Pacific oceans, rarely found in temperate waters. Occurs in inshore coastal and estuarine habitats, usually over hard-bottomed areas, often with extensive soft corals, at 1-200m, although mostly at 10-30 m or deeper. Usually solitary or in small groups; juveniles common in muddy estuarine environments, moving to coastal bays as young adults.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin 13-16; Anal fin 14-15; Pectoral fin 15-17; Pelvic fin 6.

Body extremely long, slender, head and snout with serrated ridges, posttemporal and lateral snout serrations directed forward; upper pair of snout ridges parallel; large eye with round pupil;

Tail forked, middle fin rays modified into long filament; pelvic fin small, well back from head.

Elongate bony plates embedded on dorsal midline near dorsal fin and on ventral midline in front of anal fin; posterior lateral-line ossifications with posteriorly directed spines.


Although reported to reach 2 m, the Rough Flutemouth may only grow to about 1 m.


Colour varies with depth: usually overall red to orange-brown above at deeper depths, greenish- brown in shallow water; silvery below; dorsal, anal and caudal fins with orange tint; distinct banding at night; juveniles mottled with diffused spots dorsally.


These carnivorous predators feed by sucking prey items in through the long tubular snout. Rough Flutemouths feed near the bottom, preying mostly on small fishes, but also on crustaceans and squid.


Oviparous, sexes separate; eggs large, pelagic, 1.5-2.1 mm in diameter; larvae hatch with yolk sac at 6-7 mm. 


Of minor commercial importance and of minor interest for the aquarium industry.


The Rough Flutemouth is a stealth predator, using its slender appearance to stalk shoals of fishes, approaching slowly until close enough to dart forward and seize unsuspecting prey.

Similar Species

The Smooth Flutemouth (Fistularia commersonii) and the Rough Flutemouth, F. petimba are often confused as both are known from Australian waters. The Rough Flutemouth has a row of bony plates along the dorsal midline and parallel ridges along the top of the snout. The Smooth Flutemouth has no bony plates along the dorsal midline, and the ridges along the top of the snout bulge outwards rather than being parallel.


Fistularia is from the Latin, fistula meaning pipe or pipeline.

Species Citation

Fistularia petimba Lacepède 1803, Hist. Nat. Poiss. 5: 349-350, New Britain, Réunion and equatorial Pacific.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Rough Flutemouth, Fistularia petimba Lacépède 1803


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Francis, M.P. 1993 Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2):136-170.

Fritzsche R.A. 1976. A review of the cornetfishes genus Fistularia (Fistulariidae) with a discussion of intrageneric relationships and zoogeography. Bulletin of Marine Science 26(2): 196-204 figs 1-4.

Fritzsche R.A. 1983 Gasterosteiformes: Development and relationships. In Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologicts International Symposium August 15-18 1983. La Jolla, California.

Fritzsche R.A. & Thiesfeld K.G. 1999. Families Aulostomidae, Fistulariidae, Macrorhamphosidae, Centriscidae pp 2277-2282 in Carpenter KE & Niem VH (eds) The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO species identification guide for fisheries purposes. Rome: FAO Vol. 4 pp. 2069-2790

Heemstra P.C. 1986. Fistularidae in Smith M.M. & Heemstra P.C. (eds) Smiths’ Sea Fishes. Macmillian South Africa Pty Ltd.

Hoese D.F., Bray D.J., Paxton J.R. & Allen G.R. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley PL & Wells A (eds) Zoological catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia Part 1, pp xxiv 1-670; Part 2, pp xxi 671-1472; Part 3 pp xxi 1473-2178.

Kuiter R.H. 1993 Coastal fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press Pty Ltd Bathurst NSW Australia.

Kuiter R.H. 2000. Seahorses, Pipefishes and their Relatives. Chorleywood, UK: TMC Publishing 240 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37278002

Depth:1-200 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:200 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map