Common name: Blue Devils, Hulas, Longfins, Prettyfins, Roundhead, Roundheads, Dottybacks, Longfins, Rockfishes, Spiny Basslets



Small fishes, most with a long slender body, a rather blunt, rounded head and a long-based dorsal fin. The pelvic fins have one spine and 2-4 rays, and may be elongate. The lateral line is in two parts, with the long anterior part positioned immediately below the dorsal‑fin base.

Most species hide in crevices, caves and amongst coral on reefs, and except for plankton feeders of the genera Assessor and Trachinops, rarely venture from shelter during the day. The nocturnal species feed at at night mostly on small invertebrates, but also on fishes.

Parents care for the eggs, either brooding them in their mouths, or guarding the egg mass that is attached to rocks in small holes, caves or crevices.


Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Prettyfins, PLESIOPIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

The family comprises two subfamilies, the Acanthoclininae and the Plesiopinae, with about 12 genera and 49 species. Ten genera and 23 species are recognised from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Plesiopids are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region, mostly in tropical waters.

Family Feeding

Carnivores - feed mostly on small invertebrates, but also prey on small fishes.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate, and fertilisation is external. Plesiopids either attach the egg mass to the substrate, or brooded the eggs in their mouths. Egg masses laid on rocky reefs are guarded until the larvae hatch.

The eggs have unusual surface structures and long filaments that keep them together as an egg mass. The larvae are planktonic.

Family Commercial

Although of no interest to fisheries, some species are popular aquarium fishes.

Family Conservation

IUCN Red List Status: Not evaluated.


Dianne J. Bray


Allen, G.R. 1977. A revision of the fish genus Trachinops, with the description of a new species from Western Australia.  Records of the Western Australian Museum  5(1): 59-72.

Allen, G.R. & Kuiter, R.H. 1976. A review of the plesiopid fish genus Assessor, with descriptions of two new species.  Records of the Western Australian Museum 4(3): 201-215.

Allen, G.R. 1987. New Australian fishes. Part. 4. A new species of Steeneichthys (Plesiopidae). Memoirs of Museum Victoria 48(1): 13-14.

Gill, A.C. & Mooi, R.D. 1993. Monophyly of the Grammatidae and of the Notograptidae, with evidence for their phylogenetic positions among perciforms. Bulletin of Marine Science 52(1): 327-350 figs 1-15

Hardy, G.S. 1985. Revision of the Acanthoclinidae (Pisces: Perciformes), with descriptions of a new genus and five new species. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 11(4): 357-393 figs 1-14.

Hoese, D.F. & Kuiter, R.H. 1984. A revision of the Australian plesiopid fish genus Paraplesiops, with notes on other Australian genera. Records of the Australian Museum 36: 7-18.

Hutchins, J.B. 1987. Description of a new plesiopid fish from south-western Australia, with a discussion of the zoogeography of Paraplesiops. Records of the Western Australian Museum 13(2): 231-240.

Kuiter, R.H. 2004. Basslets, Hamlets and their relatives. A comprehensive guide to selected Serranidae and Plesiopidae. Chorleywood, UK : TMC Publishing Edn 1, 216 pp.

Hutchins,B. & Swainston,R. 1986. Sea fishes of southern Australia – complete field guide for anglers and divers.   Swainston Publishing, Perth. Pp 180.

Leis, J.M. & Trnski, T. 1989. The Larvae of Indo-Pacific Shorefishes. New South Wales University Press, Kensington. 372p

McCosker, J.E. 1978. Synonymy and distribution of Calloplesiops (Pisces : Plesiopidae). Copeia 1978(4): 707-710.

Mito, S. 1955. Breeding habits of a percoid fish, Plesiops semeion. Scientific Bulletin of the Faculty of Agriculture Kyushu University 15(1): 95-99. (In Japanese, English summary).

Mooi, R.D. 1993. Phylogeny of the Plesiopidae (Pisces: Perciformes) with evidence for the inclusion of the Acanthoclinidae. Bulletin of Marine Science 52(1): 284-326.

Mooi, R.D. 1999. Families Plesiopidae, Notograptidae. pp. 2586-2587 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. 4 2069-2790pp. [2578]

Mooi, R.D. 1995. Revision, phylogeny, and discussion of biology and biogeography of the fish genus Plesiops (Perciformes: Plesiopidae). Royal Ontario Museum Life Sciences Contributions 159: 1-107.

Mooi, R.D. 2008. Family Plesiopidae. pp.550-556 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Mooi, R.D. & Gill, A.C. 2004. Notograptidae, sister to Acanthoplesiops Regan (Teleostei: Plesiopidae: Acanthoclininae), with comments on biogeography, diet and morphological convergence with Congrogadinae (Teleostei: Pseudochromidae). Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology 141: 179-205.

Mooi, R.D. & Randall, J.E. 1991. Three new species of the genus Plesiops (Teleostei : Plesiopidae) from tropical Australian and adjacent seas. Copeia 1991(2): 373-386

Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. & Trnski, T. 1998. The Larvae of Temperate Australian Fishes: a laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University of Western Australia Press, Perth. 474 pp.

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. & Johnson, G.D. 1990. Two new species of Acanthoclininae (Pisces: Plesiopidae) with a synopsis and phylogeny of the subfamily. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 142: 211-260.

Yerman, M.N. & Leis, J.M. 2011. Larvae of Belonepterygion fasciolatum (Plesiopidae: Acanthoclininae). Records of the Australian Museum 63: 79-83.