Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801

Other Names: Stonefish

A Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, on Mantis Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, October 2005. Source: Erik Schlogl / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial


A variably-coloured pale to dark brown, orange or pink stonefish, with warty, scaleless skin, fleshy pectoral fins, and a deep pit behind and a smaller pit below each eye.

Stonefish are superbly camouflaged ambush predators and are extremely difficult to spot. Along with the Estuarine Stonefish, Synanceia horrida, they are considered to be the most venomous of fishes, and a sting can be excruciatingly painful and even fatal. 

Video of a Reef Stonefish in the Kimberley.

Video of Reef Stonefish in the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Video about Reef Stonefish and their venom.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Synanceia verrucosa in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024,

Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801

More Info


Shark Bay and offshore reefs of Western Australia, around the tropical north to Woolgoolga, New South Wales; also Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands 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: Red Sea, East Africa, east to Micronesia and French Polynesia, north to southern Japan, south to Australia, New Caledonia, Tonga and the Austral Islands; recently recorded from the Mediterranean Sea. 
Individuals or small groups inhabit coral and rocky reefs, often under ledges and in caves. They also use their large pectoral fins to partly bury themselves in sand or rubble on the reef flat during the day. At low tide, they may shelter in tidepools on the reef flat.


Dorsal fin XIII-XIV (usually XIII), 5-7; Anal fin III, 5-6; Pectoral fin 17-19.

Head broad, depressed; eyes small, directed upward, slightly elevated on the head; each eye with a deep pit behind the eyes, and a smaller pit below the eyes; mouth large, opening dorsally, gape vertical; skin naked, covered in warty skin.

Dorsal-fin spines strong, sharp, about equal in length, each in a thick sheath of skin with a venom gland at base; pectoral fins large, fleshy.   


Nocturnal carnivore - an ambush predator that feeds on fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods.


Stonefish are considered to be the most venomous of fishes. Each stout dorsal-fin spine has a groove linked to two venom glands at its base. Rather than fleeing when disturbed, the stonefish usually remains very still, perhaps erecting the dorsal fin for protection. When an unwary victim accidentally steps on the fish, the spines act like hypodermic syringes, forcing venom into puncture wounds.

The venom affects the cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. The sting is excruciatingly painful and even may prove fatal unless the victim is administered antivenom. Although no deaths from stonefish stings have been recorded in Australia since the arrival of Europeans, deaths have been reported from elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific.

Similar Species

The Estuarine Stonefish, Synanceia horrida, differs in having the eyes well elevated on the head, with a deep pit behind the eyes and a deep pit below each eye (vs. eyes only slightly elevated on the head, with a deep pit behind the eyes and a smaller pit below each eye in the Reef Stonefish).

Species Citation

Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider, 1801, Systema Ichthyol.: 195, pl. 45. Type locality: India.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37287089

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Extremely venomous spines

Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:40 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map