Dusky Dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus Müller & Troschel 1849

Other Names: Brown Dottyback

A Dusky Dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus, on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: Graham Edgar / Reef Life Survey. License: CC By Attribution

A highly variable dottyback ranging in colour from uniformly bright yellow, to pinkish or greyish, reddish-brown to almost black, with blue dots on the scales, and often a yellow dorsal fin.

Video of research on Dusky Dottyback mimicry systems at Lizard Island Research Station, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.
Video of a Dusky Dottyback at Cebu Island in the Philippines.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Pseudochromis fuscus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 Apr 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/Home/species/3456

Dusky Dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus Müller & Troschel 1849

More Info


Occurs in Australia from North West Cape and offshore reefs of north Western Australia, and from the Cobourg Peninsula, Northern Territory, and the Great Barrier Reef to Moreton Bay, Queensland. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical, east-Indo-west Pacific, from Sir Lanka to Australia.

Inhabits reef flats and reef slopes on rocky and coral reefs in depths to 30 m.


Dorsal fin III, 25-29; Anal fin III, 13-15; Pectoral fin 16-20; Lateral line scales (anterior) 17-35; Predorsal scales 20-35.


Carnivore - preys on small reef fishes and crustaceans. Cortesi et al. (2015) found that dusky dottybacks aggressively mimic similarly-coloured damselfishes to enable them to prey on juvenile fishes.


Dottybacks are protogynous hermaphrodites, and form small harems with a dominant male and several females.


Researchers working at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, found that although two colour morphs (yellow and brown) of the Dusky Dottyback co-occur, they usually live in different areas. Yellow individuals live mostly amongst live coral (usually with similar-looking yellow damselfishes of the genus Pomacentrus. Brown individuals, however, mostly occur in coral rubble areas usually with similar-looking brown damselfishes (Cortes et al. 2015)


The specific name fuscus is Latin meaning "dark" or "dusky".

Species Citation

Pseudochromis fuscus Müller & Troschel, 1849, Horae Ichthyol.: 23, pl. 4, fig. 2. Type locality: Sulawesi, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Dusky Dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus Müller & Troschel 1849


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

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

Cortesi, F., Feeney, W.E., Ferrari, M.C.O., Waldie, P.A., Phillips, G.A.C.,McClure, E.C., Sköld, H.N., Salzburger, W., Marshall, N.J.& Cheney, K.L. 2015. Phenotypic plasticity confers multiple fitness benefits to a mimic. Current Biology (2015) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.013

De Vis, C.W. 1885. New fishes in the Queensland Museum. No. 5. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 9(4): 869-887 (as Onar nebulosum)

Gardner, T.R. 1997. Commercial breeding of the dottybacks. Seascope 14: 1-2.

Gill, A.C. 1999. Family Pseudochromidae. pp. 2557-2577 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. 4 2069-2790 pp.

Gill, A.C. 2004. Revision of the Indo-Pacific dottyback fish subfamily Pseudochrominae (Perciformes: Pseudochromidae). Smithiana, Publication in Aquatic Biodiversity, Monographs 1: 1-213.

Hall, A.E. & Clark, T.D. 2016. Seeing is believing: metabolism provides insight into threat perception for a prey species of coral reef fish. Animal Behaviour 115: 117-126 Abstract http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.03.008.

Holmes, T.H. & McCormick, M.I. 2009. Influence of prey body characteristics and performance on predator selection. Oecologia 159: 401-413. 

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & Tonozuka, T. 2001. Indonesian Reef Fishes. Part 1. Eels- Snappers, Muraenidae - Lutjanidae. Australia : Zoonetics pp. 1-302.

Messmer, V., Jones, G.P., van Herwerden, L. & Munday, P.L. 2005. Genetic and ecological characterisation of colour dimorphism in a coral reef fish. Environmental Biology of Fishes 74: 175-183.

Messmer, V., van Herwerden, L., Munday, P.L. & Jones, G.P. 2005. Phylogeography of colour polymorphism in the coral reef fish Pseudochromis fuscus, from Papua New Guinea and the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 24: 392-402.

Müller, J. & Troschel, F.H. 1849. Horae Ichthyologicae. Beschreibung und Abbildung neuer Fische. Berlin : Kleit & Co. Vol. 3 28 pp. 5 pls.

McCormick, M.I. & Hoey, A.S. 2004. Larval growth history determines juvenile growth and survival in a tropical marine fish. Oikos 106: 225-242. 

Munday, P.L., Eyre, P.J. & Jones, G.P. 2003. Ecological mechanisms for coexistence of colour polymorphism in a coral-reef fish: an experimental evaluation. Oecologia 137: 519-526.

Ogilby, J.D. 1908. New or little known fishes in the Queensland Museum. Annals of the Queensland Museum 9(1): 3-41 (as Pseudochromis wildii)

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 2016. Pseudochromis fuscus (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T69583417A115465861. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T69583417A69583529.en. Downloaded on 17 June 2018.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37313006

Behaviour:Damselfish mimic


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-30 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:9 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map