Elegant Sandburrower, Limnichthys nitidus Smith 1958

Other Names: Donaldson's Sandburrower, Sand Submarine

An Elegant Sandburrower, Limnichthys nitidus, from the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Source: Jeffrey T. Williams / Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Sandburrowers vary in colour depending on the substrate. On light sandy bottom, usually pale with about 10 broad pearly-white saddles extending part of the way down the sides, with up to 12 narrow, dark bars along the upper back, and a thin diffuse midlateral stripe (if present). Individuals living on dark sandy bottoms are blackish above with up to 8 whitish patches along the upper sides.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Limnichthys nitidus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/2582

Elegant Sandburrower, Limnichthys nitidus Smith 1958

More Info


Hibernia Reef, Western Australia, to Cartier Island, Timor Sea, and from the northern Great Barrier Reef to North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, and the Lord Howe Island region in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific, from the Red Sea and East Africa, to Hawaii and the Pitcairn Islands in the central Pacific.


Dorsal fin 21-24; Anal fin 24-26; Pectoral fin 10-12;  Lateral line scales 39-42; Vertebrae 38-41; Transverse scale rows above lateral line 3; Transverse scale rows below lateral line 2-3.


Body whitish, semi-translucent, with 7-12 narrow, brown saddles on the back, a brown midlateral stripe extending from near the pectoral-fin base to the caudal-fin base (weak or absent in some specimens); all dorsal saddles not reaching lateral stripe; a narrow brown band on interorbit passing through the eye and obliquely to the posterior end of the maxillary; fins transparent.


Species of the genus Limnichthyhs are protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning that they change sex from male to female during their life.

Similar Species

The Tommyfish, Limnichthys fasciatus differs from the Elegant Sandburrower in having some of the dark saddles along the back reaching the lateral band (vs none reaching the midline in L. nitidus).

Species Citation

Limnichthys nitidus Smith, 1958, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 13 1(4): 247 fig. 1. Type locality: Pinda, Mozambique.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Direcotry

Elegant Sandburrower, Limnichthys nitidus Smith 1958


Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Cozzi, J. & Clark, E. 1995. Darting behavior of a sandburrower fish, Limnichthys nitidus (Creediidae), in the Red Sea. Environmental Biology of Fishes 44: 327–336.

Langston, R.C. 2004. Gonad morphology and sex change in sandburrowers (Teleostei: Creediidae). Ph.D thesis, University of Hawaii

Myers, R.F. 1989. Micronesian Reef Fishes. Guam : Coral Graphics 298 pp.

Nelson, J.S. 1978. Limnichthys polyactis, a new species of blennioid fish from New Zealand with notes on the taxonomy and distribution of other Creediidae (including Limnichthyidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 5(2): 351-364 figs 1-5

Nelson, J.S. 2001. Trichonotidae, Creediidae, Percophidae. pp. 3511-3516 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Reader, S.E., Leis, J.M. & Rennis, D.M. 2000. Creediidae, pp 575–578. In: Leis, J.M. & Carson–Ewart, B.M. (eds) The larvae of Indo-Pacific coastal fishes: an identification guide to marine fish larvae. BRILL, Leiden. 

Shitamitsu, T. & Sunobe, T. 2017. Notes on protandry in the creediid fishes Limnichthys fasciatus and L. nitidus(Teleostei: Creediidae). Ichthyological Research 64: 365-367. doi:10.1007/s10228-016-0566-z

Schultz, L.P. 1960. Family Trichonotidae. 273-281, figs 107, 108 in Schultz, L.P., Chapman, W.M., Lachner, E.A. & Woods, L.P. (eds). Fishes of the Marshall and Marianas Islands. Vol. 2. Families Mullidae through Stromateidae. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 202(2): 1-438, figs 91-132, pls 75-123

Smith, J.L.B. 1958. The genus Limnichthys Waite, 1904 in African seas. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 13 1(4): 247-249.

Smith, M.M. & Heemstra, P.C. (eds) 1986. Smith's Sea Fishes. Johannesburg : Macmillan South Africa xx + 1047 pp. 144 pls.

Yoshino, T., Kon, T. & Okabe, S. 1999. Review of the genus Limnichthys (Perciformes: Creediidae) from Japan, with description of a new species. Ichthyological Research 46(1): 73-83.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37395004

Behaviour:Buries in sandy, gravelly bottoms

Biology:Able to change sex

Depth:4-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:3.5 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map