Australian Red Cod, Pseudophycis palmata (Klunzinger 1872)

Other Names: Hoka, Red Cod, Red Codling

An Australian Red Cod, Pseudophycis palmata, at Blairgowrie, Port Phillip, Victoria, January 2018. Source: Rebecca Lloyd / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A large greyish to greyish-pink cod becoming whitish below with a pale upper jaw, a narrow black margin on the dorsal, caudal and anal fins, a distinct dark blotch or spot on the pectoral-fin base (not extending dorsally onto body), and a white chin barbel and pelvic fins. Specimens over 15 cm SL have a truncate tail with angular corners, and the central caudal-fin rays being distinctly shorter that those of the upper and lower lobes.

In Australia this species was previously known as Pseudophycis bachus, which is endemic to New Zealand.

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

Australian Red Cod, Pseudophycis palmata (Klunzinger 1872)

More Info


Port Stephens, New South Wales, to Port Lincoln, Spencer Gulf, South Australia, including around Tasmania.
Inhabits muddy, sandy and rocky areas in bays, estuaries and coastal waters. This nocturnal species is rarely seen during the day.


Dorsal fin 10-12 + 47-56; Anal fin 50-57; Pectoral fin 22-27; Pelvic fin 5-6; Caudal fin 35-41; Gill rakers 3-4 + 9-11 = 12-15; Vertebrae 15-18 + 31-34 = 47-50; Oblique scale rows intersecting lateral line 96-115; Scales in oblique series between dorsal-fin origin and lateral line 11-15; Pyloric caecae 8-10.

Body moderately slender, laterally compressed, greatest depth at anal-fin origin 18.7-26.5% SL, tapering uniformly from second dorsal fin origin to shallow caudal peduncle; caudal peduncle moderately short, 6.7-10.8% SL, strongly compressed, depth subequal to orbital diameter. Distance between middle of anus and base of anal fin slightly less than half suborbital depth. Body cavity extending to above origin of anal fin.
Nostrils located about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way from snout tip to eye; gill rakers of outer arch of moderate length, almost as long near angle as opposing gill filaments; chin barbel short, 6-17% HL; caudal fin truncate with angular corners in specimens larger than about 150 mm SL, middle rays shorter than rays extending to corners.


Medium brown above extending ventrally to about ventral portion of pectoral fin base, white below, suffused with pinkish hue, especially above anal fin base; lateral line slightly paler at least anteriorly. Underside of head, jaws and barbel white, sometimes tinged with pink. Dorsal, caudal and distal half of anal fins medium brown; proximal half of anal fin white, especially anteriorly, with pink hue; dorsal and anal fins with fine black edge; posterior edge of caudal fin with broad black margin. Pectoral fin medium brown with semi-circular black basal spot covering dorsal 80% of proximal edge of fin, extending little if at all onto side dorsal to fin base. Pelvic fin rays white with pink hue.


Feeds mostly on fishes, cephalopod molluscs, crabs and other crustaceans. 


Kemp et al. (2012) found that Australian Red Cod have a fast growth rate, mature early and have a high fecundity. They are preyed upon by a diverse range of predators, including sea birds, seals and fishes.


Taken and retained as bycatch in commercial fisheries, although the flesh is soft and has little taste.

The Australian Red Cod is an important prey species for some high trophic level predators, including little penguins, Eudyptula minor, Australian fur seals, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, and New Zealand fur seals, Arctocephalus forsteri.

Similar Species

Differs from the Bearded Rock Cod, Pseudophycis barbata, and the Bastard Red Cod, P. breviuscula, in having a black spot or blotch at the pectoral-fin base and a truncated caudal fin margin in adults. P. palmata also has the lower half of the body and the basal half or more of the anal fin mostly white, vs. tan to brown in the other species (although these areas are occasionally suffused with orange to pink in all species). 


The specific name is from the Latin palmatus (= embroidered with palm branches, palmate, shaped like a hand). It is unclear why Klunzinger used this name.

Species Citation

Physiculus palmatus Klunzinger 1872, Archiv für Naturgeschichte 38(1): 38. Type locality: Hobsons Bay, Victoria, Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Australian Red Cod, Pseudophycis palmata (Klunzinger 1872)


Cohen, D.M. 1990. Families Moridae, Muraenolepididae. pp. 346-384 in Cohen, D.M., Inada, T., Iwamoto, T. & Scialabba, N. FAO Species Catalogue. Gadiform fishes of the world (order Gadiformes). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of cods, hakes, grenadiers and other gadiform fishes known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 10 442 pp. (as Pseudophycis bachus in part)

Gomon, M.F. 1994. Families Moridae, Melanonidae, Euclichthyidae, Merlucciidae. pp. 324-340 figs 290-303 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. (as Pseudophycis bachus)

Gomon. M.F. 2008. Family Moridae. pp. 302-315 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds) Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (as Pseudophycis bachus)

Gomon, M.F., Struthers, C.D. & Kemp, J. 2021. A review of the Australasian genus Pseudophycis (Gadiformes: Moridae), redescribing its four species and resurrecting the name Physiculus palmatus Klunzinger, 1872, for the Australian red cod. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 80: 103-143.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp. (as Pseudophycis bachus)

Kemp, J. 2010. The population dynamics of red cod, Pseudophycis bachus: a contribution to understanding the trophic role of this important prey species. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Melbourne. 

Kemp, J., Jenkins, G.P. & Swearer, S.E. 2012. The reproductive strategy of red cod, Pseudophycis bachus, a key prey species for high trophic level predators. Fisheries Research 125–126: 161–172. Abstract

Kemp, J., Jenkins, G.P. & Swearer, S.E. 2013. Assessing the intrinsic resilience of a particularly fast-growing teleost prey species (red cod, Pseudophycis bachus). Marine and Freshwater Research 64(2) 130-138. Abstract 

Klunzinger, C.B. 1872. Zur Fische-fauna von Süd Australien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 38(1): 17-47 pl. 2

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

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp. (as Pseudophycis bachus)

McCoy, F.R. 1878–90. Prodromus of the zoology of Victoria; figures and descriptions of the living species of all classes of the Victorian indigenous animals. Government Printer: Melbourne. 2 vols. 1: 375 pp; 2: 200 pp. (as Pseudophycis barbata in part; illustration is of P. barbata, however description based on specimens of both P. barbata and P. palmatus) See ref at BHL

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs. (as Pseudophycis bachus)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37224006

Depth:2-115 m

Fishing:Commercial fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:90 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map