Common name: Trumpetfishes


Trumpetfishes are voracious marine predators with a small mouth at the end of a long tubular snout, and a series of isolated dorsal-fin spines along the back. These solitary fishes often hide amongst schools of other fishes or in a head-down position amongst gorgonian corals.

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Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Trumpetfishes, AULOSTOMIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

Small family with a single genus, Aulostomus, and three recognised species. A single species, Aulostomus chinensis occurs in Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters. They live on protected coral or rocky reefs, including silty inshore reefs to clear outer reefs. Juveniles often inhabit seagrass and soft coral areas; typically found on shallow reefs, between depths of 3-122 m.

Family Description

Meristics: D VIII–XII, 22–27; A 23–28; P 15–16; V 6; C 20; Vert 59–64 (24-26 abdominal + 35-38 caudal); BR 4.

Head and body: Body long, slender, compressed; snout very long, tubular; mouth small, terminal, oblique; teeth minute; caudal peduncle elongate; symphysis of the lower jaw (chin) with a small fleshy barbel; anus far behind pelvic fins.

Fins: Dorsal fin a series of isolated spines preceding a normal, short-based soft dorsal fin; soft dorsal and anal fins opposite, similar in shape; pectoral fins small, short-based, ventrally on side of body; pelvic fins small, abdominal, about midway along body; caudal fin rounded.

Skin, scales, lateral line: Body covered in small ctenoid (rough) scales, head and anterior part of dorsal surface usually naked; lateral line well developed.

Family Size

Although trumpetfishes reach a total length of 80 cm TL, most individuals grow to about 40 cm in length.

Family Colour

Trumpetfishes can change colour to blend into their surroundings.

Family Feeding

These swift ambush predators feed on small fishes and shrimps. Trumpetfishes swim slowly, relying on stealth and camouflage to approach their prey. They may remain motionless, often in a head-down position, until prey itmes approach. Alternatively, they often swim alongside, behind or below larger fishes, or even swim in shadows and hide in fish schools. To appear smaller, they may approach their prey head-on.

Family Reproduction

The sexes are separate, and fertilisation is external. Trumpetfishes are pelagic spawners, and the eggs and larvae have been described.

Family Commercial

Although trumpetfishes are of no commercial importance, they are taken as incidental bycatch in small artisinal fisheries and are eaten occasionally by local populations. They are also sought for sale in the aquarium industry.

Family Remarks

Males seem to be territorial and have been seen chasing other males away.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson


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