Common name: Hardyheads, silversides


Small, slender schooling fishes found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. Hardyheads live in freshwater, estuarine and marine environments and feed mostly on zooplankton. They have two widely separated dorsal fins, pectoral fins high on the body, a forked tail, cycloid scales and a broad silvery stripe along the side.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Hardyheads, ATHERINIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Nine genera and 36 described species are known from Australian waters. More than half the Australian species live in freshwater.

Family Distribution

Primarily marine pelagic fishes found in tropical and temperate coastal waters and estuaries. Freshwater species are known from Australia, Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, and particularly South America, where an extensive radiation has taken place.

Family Description

Hardyheads are mostly small, elongate silvery fishes with small, usually cycloid scales, no lateral line, and usually a small mouth. The two dorsal fins are widely separated.

Family Size

To 60 cm, although most are less than 20 cm.

Family Colour

Hardyheads are counter-shaded, and are usually a darker bluish or greenish above and whitish below, with a silvery midlateral stripe.

Family Feeding

Feed mostly on planktonic invertebrates.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external.

Family Commercial

Some species are of minor commercial importance in other parts of the world. Atherinids are also used as bait by recreational fishers.

Family Remarks

Fossil atherinids are known from the beginning of the Eocene Epoch - 56 million years ago.


Bray, D.J. 2017


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