Spotted Flagtail, Kuhlia marginata (Cuvier 1829)

Other Names: Darkmargin Flagtail, Orange-finned Flagtail

A Spotted Flagtail, Kuhlia marginata, in Namosi road stream, Viti Levu, Fiji. Source: Paddy Ryan / License: All rights reserved


A silvery flagtail usually with dark spots on the upper rear of the body that merge to form a band anteriorly, caudal fin with a black posterior margin broadening on lobe tips, and a very broad pale submarginal area, small blackish spots on case of caudal fin; soft dorsal and anal fins with a narrow white margin and a broad dark submarginal band. 

Cite this page as:
Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray, Kuhlia marginata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024,

Spotted Flagtail, Kuhlia marginata (Cuvier 1829)

More Info


Occurs from Cape Tribulation to Russell River, QLD, and throughout the western-central Pacific, east to the Caroline Islands; a tropcial species inhabiting freshwater coastal streams and rivers. The species is widespread in the Indo-Pacific and locally abundant in parts of its range.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin X, 10-12; Anal fin III, 11-12; Pectoral fin 13-14; Pelvic fin I, 5 ; Lateral line scales 39-42; Gill rakers 7-9 + 16-19; Branchiostegal rays 6; Vertebrae 25.
Body moderately deep, depth 2.7-3.05  in SL; compressed. Head moderately pointed, length 3.0-3.6 in SL. Orbit diameter 2.75–3.3 in head length. Mouth protractile, oblique with lower jaw projecting, and mod¬erately large, maxilla extending to or slightly beyond a vertical at front edge of pupil; supramaxilla absent; teeth villiform in jaws, on vomer, palatines, entopterygoids, and ectopterygoids; gill rakers long and slender; gill membranes not joined across isthmus. Opercle with two spines; rounded corner and lower edge of preopercle finely serrate. Edge of preorbital more coarsely serrate, preorbital serrae 18-28, a few fine serrae sometimes on suborbital.
Scales ctenoid, present on cheek and opercle, none on inter-orbital, snout, or maxilla. Lateral line complete. Dorsal and anal fins with a basal scaly sheath; no scaly pelvic axillary process.
Dorsal fin deeply notched. Caudal fin forked with pointed lobes, the caudal concavity 2.5-3.1 in head length.


Reaches 18 cm SL


Silvery, usually with blackish spots posteriorly on dorsal part of body, tending to merge to form bands anteriorly, or with dark pigment concentrated on scale margins; most of snout and tip of chin blackish, caudal fin pale with black posterior margin broadening on lobe tips, and very broad submarginal pale zone, often preceded by chevron-shaped blackish band or row of blackish spots parallel with posterior margin; base of caudal fin with small blackish spots; narrow white margin on soft portion of dorsal and anal fins with broad blackish submarginal zone anteriorly that narrows posteriorly, margin broader in dorsal fin than anal.


Omnivore - feeds on small fishes, insects, crustaceans and some plant material.


Likely to migrate downstream to spawn in estuaries.

Species Citation

Dules marginatus Cuvier, G.L. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1829. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 3 500 pp. pls 41–71 [116, pl. 52]. Java, Indonesia.


Martin F. Gomon & Dianne J. Bray

Spotted Flagtail, Kuhlia marginata (Cuvier 1829)


Allen, G.R. 1991. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of New Guinea. Madang : Christensen Research Institute 268 pp.

Carpenter, K.E. 2001. Family Kuhliidae. pp. 3317-3320 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. 5 2791-3379 pp.

Cuvier, G.L. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1829. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 3 500 pp., pls 41-71.

Herbett, B. & J. Peeters. 1995. Freshwater Fishes of far north Queensland. Department of Primary Industries , Queensland. 74 pp.

Hoese, D. & Mailautoka, K. 2012. Kuhlia marginata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 03 October 2014.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. A comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia. Guam : Coral Graphics vi 330 pp. 192 pls.

Oka, S. & Tachihara, K. 2008. Migratory history of the spotted flagtail, Kuhlia marginata. Environmental Biology of Fishes 81(1): 321-327.

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. & Randall, H.A. 2001. Review of the fishes of the genus Kuhlia (Perciformes: Kuhliidae) of the Central Pacific. Pacific Science 55(3): 227-256.

Thuesen, P.A., Ebner, B.C., Larson, H.K., Keith, P., Silcock, R.M., Prince, J. & Russell, D.J. 2011. Amphidromy links a newly documented fish community of continental Australian streams, to oceanic islands of the west Pacific. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26685 (11 pages) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026685

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37323010

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Coastal FW streams, estuaries

Max Size:18 cm SL

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CAAB distribution map