Lovely Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus aculeatus Valenciennes 1849

Other Names: Hatchet Fish, Lovely Hatchet-fish, Silver Hatchetfish

Lovely Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus aculeatus, from the Gulf of Mexico. Source: Danté Fenolio, DEEPEND Consortium / License: All rights reserved

A relatively large hatchetfish, found mostly at 200-600 m during the day, migrating to feed mostly in depths of 80-200 m at night. 
The silver sides and bioluminescence camouflages the Lovely Hatchetfish, enabling it to hide from predators and prey in the down-welling light of the twilight zone.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Argyropelecus aculeatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 May 2024,

Lovely Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus aculeatus Valenciennes 1849

More Info


Recorded from Cape York, Queensland, around the south to west of Cape Cuvier, Western Australia; also off Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species is circumglobal in tropical and temperate waters (except the eastern North Pacific).


Dorsal fin 9; Anal fin 12; Pectoral fin 10–11; Total gill rakers 15–17; Vertebrae 34–36. 
A large species, often exceeding 70 mm SL; body very deep, depth at end of dorsal less than 1.4 into SL: dorsal spine quite high, its height about equal to its length; post-temporal spines present; dorsal surface of post-temporal with distinct serrations: postabdominal spines well developed, the posterior much larger than anterior; ventral keel extends well below body margin near postabdominal spines; preopercle spines short, both pointing ventrally; jaws large, teeth long, recurved, with two enlarged canines in lower jaw; spines present below and in front of subcaudal photophores; gill rakers medium to short, with dentate inner surfaces; pigment diffuse on trunk, no marked pigment on midline, pigment concentration above subcaudals present, pigmentless bar anterior to caudal peduncle in young. (Chris Kenaley


Feeds on small planktonic crustaceans such as ostracods, copepods, decapod larvae, and also on larval fishes.

Species Citation

Argyropelecus aculeatus Valenciennes, 1849, Hist. Nat. Poiss. 22: 406. Type locality: Azores.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Lovely Hatchetfish, Argyropelecus aculeatus Valenciennes 1849


Baird, R.C. 1971. The systematics, distribution, and zoogeography of the marine hatchetfishes (family Sternoptychidae). Bulletin of The Museum of Comparative Zoology 142: 1–128.

Borodulina, O.D. 1978. Materials on the systematics and distribution of the oceanic hatchet-fishes genera Argyropelecus and Sternoptyx (Sternoptychidae, Osteichthyes). Trudy Instituta Okeanologii. Akademiya Nauk SSSR. Moskva 111: 28-60 figs 1-16 [in Russian]

Harold, A.S. 1999. Families Gonostomatidae, Sternoptychidae, Phosichthyidae, Astronesthidae, Stomiidae, Chauliodontidae, Melanostomiidae, Idiacanthidae, Malacosteidae. pp. 1896-1917 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.

Harold, A.S. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Sternoptychidae, in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Harold, A.S., Stewart, A.L. & Roberts, C.D. 2015. 67 Family Sternoptychidae, pp. 446-468, in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 2 pp. 1-576.

Hopkins, T.L. & Baird, R.C. 1985. Feeding ecology of four hatchetfishes (Sternoptychidae) in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Bulletin of Marine Science 36(2): 260–277.

Ogilby, J.D. 1888. Description of a new genus and species of deep sea fish from Lord Howe Island. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 3(3): 1313 (as Sternoptychides amabilis)

Valenciennes, A. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1849. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 22 532 pp. pls 634-650.

Whitley, G.P. 1940. Illustrations of some Australian fishes. The Australian Zoologist 9(4): 397-428 figs 1-45 pls 30-31 (as Argyropelecus amabilis)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37107001

Behaviour:Vertically migrates


Depth:80-1000+ m


Max Size:8.3 cm SL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map