Identifying Fishes

Fishes can be hard to identify. They range in size from tiny gobies less than a centimetre in length to the enormous whale shark. Not only do they come in wide variety of shapes and colours, males and females often differ, and juveniles may appear very different from adults of the same species.

Fishes have many features that aid fish identification including

· Body shape

· The number, shape and position of the fins

· Fin ray counts

· Head length

· Snout length and shape

· Eye size

· Specific markings such as spots and stripes

· Scales – yes/no, small/large?

Fishes can be identified by looking at lots of images, or you can use a variety of identification aids known as keys. 

We have developed two interactive keys to assist you with your identifications. 

The first is a simple FISH FAMILY FINDER which will enable you to work out what kind of fish you have. 

The second is a Lucid KEY TO AUSTRALIAN FRESHWATER FISHES, to help you identify native and introduced fishes found in our freshwaters above mangrove areas.

Cite this page as:

Bray, D.J. 2015. Identifying Fishes, in Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. (eds) Fishes of Australia. Museums Victoria and OzFishNet, accessed [date viewed],