Foxfish, Bodianus frenchii (Klunzinger 1879)

Other Names: Fox Wrasse, Western Foxfish

A Foxfish, Bodianus frenchii, at Shark Point, Cronulla, Sydney, New South Wales. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

Adults are deep pinkish to reddish or dark orange with a whitish underside, prominent pale blotches on the upper sides, pink to reddish fins, and a conspicuous black margin anteriorly on dorsal fin of large adults. Juveniles are blackish with several prominent pale bands or spots on the sides, and a large black spot on the dorsal and anal fins, and around the pectoral-fin base.

For many years the Foxfish mistakenly took the scientific name Bodianus vulpinus, a name which properly applies to the Western Pigfish. This cool water species occurs on both the eastern and western coasts of Australia with a gap in distribution from St Vincent Gulf, South Australia to eastern Bass Strait.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020, Bodianus frenchii in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024,

Foxfish, Bodianus frenchii (Klunzinger 1879)

More Info


Confined to the temperate waters of southern Australia, with confirmed records from east of Mooloolaba, Queensland to northeastern Tasmania in eastern Australia, and from the York Peninsula, South Australia, to about Port Denison, Western Australia. 
Commonly inhabits deeper offshore reefs, often near cave entrances or beneath ledges, at depths to 82 m.


Dorsal fin XII, 10; Anal fin  III, 11; Pectoral fin 16-17; Lateral line 34-38.

Body moderately deep, of moderate length, compressed, caudal peduncle moderately deep. Head of moderate size, dorsal profile with slight convex curve;  eyes of moderate size; mouth of moderate size, angled slightly obliquely, reaching below anterior portion of eye; teeth distinctly pointed, single row in each jaw, anterior two pairs enlarged, upper jaw with enlarged curved canine at rear. 

Scales moderately large, cycloid, firmly attached, covering body and rear portion of head, including cheeks, extending onto bases of dorsal and anal fins;  lateral line smoothly curved.  

Single dorsal fin with elongate base and uniform height;  anal fin similar to and opposite rear half of dorsal fin; caudal fin squared off.  Pectoral fins of moderate size, upper rays longest. Pelvic fins of moderate size, arising below pectoral fin base, reaching to or near anus.


Reaches a length of 48 cm TL.


Juveniles blackish with several prominent yellowish bands or spots on  sides and large white edged, black spots on dorsal and anal fins and pectoral fin base; large juveniles greyish with a yellowish spot dorsally on side below centre of dorsal fin and on caudal peduncle, black spots, fading first on vertical fins, caudal fin yellow. Adults generally reddish above, white below with prominent yellow blotches on sides as positioned in large juveniles; fins pink to red; large adults have a conspicuous black margin anteriorly on dorsal fin.


A very long lived species, living to more than 60 years. A protogynous hermaphrodite, and spawns multiple times in late spring and summer.


Taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries in New South Wales and Western Australia. Also taken by recreational anglers in Western Australia, where bag limits apply.
The Foxfish is also collected for the aquarium industry and is highly valued in the US.


The widely used common name for this species "foxfish" was probably adopted from the scientific name vulpinus that was long misapplied to it.  The physical features of this species do not appear to provide a basis for such a reference. The populations from the eastern and western coasts differ somewhat in certain details of their colouration and fin structure and may eventually be recognized as different species.


The species is named frenchii after Herr French, an assistant of Dr V. Müller, who collected many Australian fishes described by Klunzinger.

Species Citation

Cossyphus frenchii Klunzinger, 1880, Sitzungsber. Akad. Wiss. Wien 80(1): 400, King Georges Sound, Western Australia


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020


Australian Faunal Directory

Foxfish, Bodianus frenchii (Klunzinger 1879)


Cossington, S., Hesp, S.A., Hall, N.G. & Potter, I.C. 2010. Growth and reproductive biology of the foxfish Bodianus frenchii, a very long-lived and monandric protogynous hermaphroditic labrid. Journal of Fish Biology 77(3): 600-626. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2010.02706.x.

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp.

Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. 544 pp.

Gomon, M.F. 2001. Descriptions of two new species of Bodianus (Perciformes: Labridae) from Australasian waters. N.Z. J. Zool. 28: 407-416.

Gomon, M.F. 2006. A revision of the labrid fish genus Bodianus with descriptions of eight new species. Records of the Australian Museum, Supplement 30: 1-133. 

Gomon, M.F. &. Russell, B.C. 1994. Family Labridae. pp. 675-699 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds) The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth: Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. 180 pp.

Klunzinger, C.B. 1879. Die v. Müller'sche Sammlung Australischer Fische. Anzeiger der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, Wien 16(22): 254-261.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2010. Labridae fishes: wrasses. Seaford, Victoria, Australia : Aquatic Photographics pp. 398.

Macleay, W.J. 1878. Descriptions of some new fishes from Port Jackson and King George's Sound. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 3(1): 33-37 pls 2-5 (as Trochocopus rufus)

Russell, B., Choat, H., Pollard, D. & Fairclough, D. 2010. Bodianus frenchii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T187506A8553413. Downloaded on 04 March 2019.

Ryan, S. & Clarke, K. 2005. Ecological assessment of the Queensland marine aquarium fish fishery. A report to the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage on the ecologically sustainable management of the Queensland marine aquarium harvest fishery.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37384057


Conservation:IUCN Near Threatened

Depth:10-82 m

Fishing:Commercial, recreational & aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:48 cm TL


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