Common name: Flutemouths, Cornetfishes



Medium-sized fishes with a long slender body, a small mouth at the end of a long tubular snout and small sickle-shaped dorsal and anal fins positioned far back on the body. The pelvic fins are abdominal, and the caudal fin is forked with a long filament; fin spines are absent.

These voracious predators rapidly change colour to blend into their surroundings.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Flutemouths, FISTULARIIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

A small family comprising a single genus Fistularia and four to five species. Two species live in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found worldwide in shallow tropical and subtropical waters, from East Africa and the Red Sea to the Gulf of Panama, north to southern Japan and south to Australia. Adults live in coastal and continental shelf habitats ranging from sandy substrates, seagrass beds, coral reefs lagoons and outer reefs, in 0-200 m.

Juveniles often live in estuaries and muddy environments.

Family Description

Meristic features: Dorsal fin rays 14–20; Anal fin rays 14–19; Pectoral fin rays13–18; Pelvic fin rays 5–6; Caudal fin rays 22–24; Vertebrae 76–87; Branchiostegal rays 5.

Body very long, slender, tubular and somewhat depressed; snout tubular, mouth small, terminal, oblique; teeth small; barbel absent from chin; circumorbital bones absent.

Fin spines absent; soft dorsal and anal fins opposite, well posterior on body; pectoral fins relatively small; pelvic fins abdominal, in anterior half to midway along body; caudal fin forked with middle two rays prolonged to form an elongate caudal filament.

Scales absent, body naked or with minute prickles, sometimes with row of scutes on dorsal midline; lateral line arched anteriorly, continuing onto caudal filament.

Family Size

Although flutemouths reach a total length of 200 cm, most grow up to 1 metre in length; maximum recorded weight is 4.65kg.

Family Feeding

Voracious ambush predators that rely on stealth and camouflage to hunt small fishes, crustaceans and squids. They feed by repidly sucking prey items in through their long tubular snouts.

Like trumpetfishes (family Aulostomidae), they often swim alongside, behind or below larger fishes, or even swim in shadows and hide in fish schools.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate and flutemouths are pelagic spawners. The pelagic eggs and larvae have been described. Settlement stage larvae have not been described.

Family Commercial

Of no major commercial importance, although flutemouths are often taken in trawls by subsistence fisheries. They are sometimes sold at local markets, either salted, dried or smoked, but are usually reduced to fishmeal.

Family Remarks

Flutemouths are sometimes seen in small schools, although they are generally solitary.


Dianne J. Bray


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