Spotted Croucher, Caracanthus maculatus (Gray 1831)

Other Names: Spotted Coral Croucher

A Spotted Croucher, Caracanthus maculatus, at Christmas Island, eastern Indian Ocean. Source: Gerald R. Allen / FishBase. License: All rights reserved

A very cryptic tan to pale grey croucher with numerous small reddish-brown spots and a deep notch between the spinous and soft-rayed parts of the dorsal fin. The skin is densely covered in tiny sensory papillae giving the fish a furry appearance.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Caracanthus maculatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Spotted Croucher, Caracanthus maculatus (Gray 1831)

More Info


Offshore reefs of north Western Australia, Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island in the Timor Sea, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, and reefs in the Coral Sea, to the Solitary Islands, New South Wales; also Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical Indo-west-central Pacific.
This highly cryptic species is an obligate coral dweller that shelters deep among branches of PocilloporaStylophora and Acropora corals on shallow reefs.


Dorsal fin VII-VIII, 12-13; Anal fin  II, 11-12.
Body covered in tiny tubercles; dorsal fin notched.


Feeds on coral dwelling fishes and crustaceans.


Coral crouchers are obligate coral dwellers that live and feed wholly within branching corals. They are protogynous hermaphrodites, with individuals changing sex from male to female during their life cycle.


Occasionally traded in the aquarium industry.


Coral crouchers were previously placed in their own family (Caracanthidae). Shinohara & Imamura (2005) determined that the genus belonged in the family Scorpaenidae.

Similar Species

The Coral Croucher, Caracanthus unipinna, is uniformly brown to greyish-brown in colour and lacks a deep notch between the spinous and soft-rayed parts of the dorsal fin. 


The specific name is from the Latin maculatus (= spotted), in reference to the numerous dark spots on the head and body.

Species Citation

Micropus maculatus Gray 1831, Zoological Miscellany 1: 20. Type locality: Hao Island, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Spotted Croucher, Caracanthus maculatus (Gray 1831)


Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21 

Choat, J.H., van Herwerden, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ayling, A.M. 2006. A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage. 65 pp. 

Cole, K.S. & Montgomery, W.L. 2003. Hermaphroditic characteristics of gonad morphology and Inferences regarding reproductive biology in Caracanthus (Teleostei, Scorpaeniformes). Copeia 2003(1): 68-80,[0068:HCOGMA]2.0.CO;2

Fowler, H.W. 1900. Contributions to the ichthyology of the tropical Pacific. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 52: 493-528

Gray, J.E. 1831. Description of a new genus of percoid fish, discovered by Mr. Samual Stutchbury, in the Pacific sea, and now in the British Museum. Zoological Miscellany 1: 20 

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202 

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S .J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: new records, community composition and biogeographic significance. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 203–219

Motomura, H. & Matsuura, K. 2016. Caracanthus maculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T69793032A69800902. Downloaded on 22 September 2021.

Poss, S.G. 1999. Families Scorpaenidae, Caracanthidae, Aploactinidae. pp. 2291-2358 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 pp. 2069-2790. 

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. 

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. 

Shinohara, G. & Imamura, H. 2005. Anatomical description and phylogenetic classification of the orbicular velvetfishes (Scorpaenoidea: Caracanthus). Ichthyological Research  52(1): 64-76.

Shinohara, G. & Imamura, H. 2007. Revisiting recent phylogenetic studies of “Scorpaeniformes”. Ichthyological Research 54: 92–99.

Smith, W.L., Everman, E. & Richardson, C. 2018. Phylogeny and taxonomy of flatheads, scorpionfishes, sea robins, and stonefishes (Percomorpha: Scorpaeniformes) and the evolution of the lachrymal saber. Copeia 106(1): 94-119.

Smith, W.L. & Wheeler, W.C. 2006. Venom evolution widespread in fishes: a phylogenetic rode map for the bioprospecting of piscine venoms. Journal of Heredity 97(3): 206-217 

Stier, A.C. & Leray, M. 2014. Predators alter community organization of coral reef cryptofauna and reduce abundance of coral mutualists. Coral Reefs 33: 181-191

Whitley, G.P. 1964. Fishes from the Coral Sea and the Swain Reefs. Records of the Australian Museum 26(5): 145-195 figs 1-15 pls 8-10

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37289001


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:3-30 m

Habitat:Branching corals

Max Size:5 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map