Common name: Flashlight fishes



Bioluminescent fishes with a light organ containing luminescent bacteria beneath the eye. Flashlight fishes are nocturnal and use the light to attract prey and also to keep in contact with other flashlight fishes.

The symbiotic bacteria constantly produce light, so in order to turn it off, flashlight fishes have a rotational shutter-like mechanism or skin-fold below the light organ.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Flashlight fishes, ANOMALOPIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

The family contains eight species in six genera, with two species in two genera known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found in the Indo-Pacific and Western Atlantic oceans. Inhabit coral reefs, sheltering in deep caves and crevices during the day, and moving to feed in shallower waters at night.

Family Description

Meristic features; Dorsal fin II-VI, 14-19; Anal fin II-III, 10-13; Pelvic fin I, 5-6.

Small to moderate-sized fishes with a short, blunt snout, a continuous or deeply-notched dorsal fin, a deeply forked tail, a very large eye, and broad skin-covered ridges the top of the head separating sensory canals.

Body covered in small spiny scales and a row of scutes along the belly; some species have enlarged scales along the lateral line and along the bases of the dorsal and anal fins.

Family Size

Range in size from less than 10cm to about 30cm, although most are small.

Family Colour

Black, light organ whitish.

Family Feeding

Carnivores - nocturnal fishes that attract their prey by flashing the light on and off.

Family Reproduction

The light organ is made up of a series of tubes that contain luminescent bacteria.

Family Commercial

Of no interest to fisheries.

Family Remarks

The name Anomalopidae derives from teh Greek Greek, anomalos meaning 'rare', and lopos meaning 'skin'.


Dianne J. Bray


Johnson, G.D. & Rosenblatt, R.H. 1988. Mechanisms of light organ occlusion in flashlightfishes, family Anomalopidae (Teleostei: Beryciformes), and the evolution of the group. Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology 94: 65-96

Johnson, G.D., Seeto, J. & Rosenblatt, R.H. 2001. Parmops echinatus, a new species of flashlight fish (Beryciformes: Anomalopidae) from Fiji. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 114(2): 497-500

McCosker, J.E. 1977. Flashlight fishes. Scientific American 263(3): 106-114 12 figs

McCosker, J.E. & Rosenblatt, R.H. 1987. Notes on the biology, taxonomy, and distribution of the flashlight fishes (Beryciformes: Anomalopidae). Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 34(2): 157-164

Paxton, J.R. & Johnson, G.D. 1999. Family Anomalopidae. pp. 2212-2213 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 2069-2790 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs [498]

Rosenblatt, R.H. & Montgomery, W.L. 1976. Kryptophaneron harveyi, a new anomalopid fish from the eastern tropical Pacific and the evolution of the Anomalopidae. Copeia 1976(3): 510-515 figs 1-2