Common name: Batfishes


A small family of deep-bodied fishes found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. Adult batfishes have very deep, almost circular bodies, whereas juveniles have very elongate dorsal and anal fins, and often resemble leaves or detritus.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Batfishes, EPHIPPIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 27 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The family Ephippidae as recognised here includes genera previously assigned to the Platacidae, Drepanidae and Rhinoprenidae. The family contains about 15 species in eight genera. Eight species in four genera are found in Australia.

Family Distribution

Widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Batfishes inhabit inshore waters, and sometimes enter estuaries. Some species are confined mainly to coral reefs, others are found on coastal reefs in relatively turbid waters, and at least one species (Drepane punctatus) is often trawled from sand or mud bottoms. Some species of Platax form large, conspicuous aggregations which may contain up to 30 or more individuals.

Family Description

Meristic features: Dorsal fin IX, 21-28; Anal fin III, 16-24; Lateral line scales 40-50

Deep-bodied fishes with an oval compressed body, a small terminal mouth, a single long-based dorsal fin consisting of a low spinous part followed soft rays, long pelvic fins inserted below the small pectoral fins and a slightly concave tail. The dorsal-fin spines are low, and the anterior dorsal and anal-fin rays are long. The head and body are covered in small scales, and lateral line runs from the gill cover to the tail base.

Family Size

Maximum length 50–60 cm.

Family Feeding

Batfishes feed on algae and a wide variety of benthic invertebrates and zooplankton, including sponges, tunicates, polychaete worms and gorgonian corals.

Family Commercial


Dianne J. Bray


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Heemstra, P.C. 2001. Ephippidae. pp. 3611-3622 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

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Nelson, J.S. 1994. Fishes of the World. New York : John Wiley & Sons 600 pp.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 601 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Taylor, W.R. 1964. Fishes of Arnhem Land. Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land 4: 44-307 figs 1-68