Common name: Bellowfishes, Snipefishes


Bellowsfishes have a laterally compressed body, a long tubular snout with a small terminal mouth, and a large robust first dorsal-fin spine. Some species are gregarious and form large schools above the seafloor.

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Bellowfishes, MACRORAMPHOSIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family with 3 described genera, 2 of which are restricted to the Southern Hemisphere. Although there are 9 described species, the family may comprise more species than are currently recognised. Five species in 3 genera occur in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Circumglobal in temperate and tropical waters on the continental shelf and slope. Bellowsfishes are benthic or bentho-pelagic over rocky, sandy, muddy or detritus bottoms, at depths between 46–1000 m. Some species form schools above the seafloor. Juveniles are pelagic.

Family Description

Meristics: D IV-VII, 9-11; A 19-20; P 15; V I, 4 C 23; Vert 24; BR 4-5 Circumorbital bones 1 Head and body highly compressed, moderately deep to very deep, almost circular in shape. Snout slender, elongate, mouth tiny, teeth absent. First or second dorsal-fin spine long, stout, pointed; soft dorsal fin and caudal fin displaced ventrally on body; pelvic fins small. Sides of body covered in granular scales resulting in a sandpaper-like texture; bony body plates present. Lateral line absent.

Family Size

Bellowfishes grow to more than 30 cm in length.

Family Colour

Bellowsfishes are usually orange, red or brownish in colour, and some species are banded.

Family Feeding

Bellowsfishes are carnivores and feed on zooplankton, benthic fauna including crustaceans and echinoderms, and small fishes. Prey items are sucked in through the long snout.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate, and fertilisation is external. The eggs are spherical with a single oil droplet and rose-violet coloured yolk. Larvae and small juveniles are pelagic. They are lightly pigmented, and develop body spinules at a length of 6 mm. Small juveniles are pelagic.

Family Commercial

Although of no real commercial importance, some species are taken in large numbers as bycatch in commercial bottom trawls. Some species are sold in the aquarium industry.

Family Conservation

Not evaluated.


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