Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801

Other Names: Stonefish

A Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa, in Okinawa, Japan, March 2014. Source: Patrick Randall / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


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 to match their surroundings and are extremely difficult to see. 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:
Dianne J. Bray, Synanceia verrucosa in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2020,

Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801

More Info


From Shark Bay, Western Australia, to Woolgoolga, New South Wales, also Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Middleton Reef, Tasman Sea. Found elsewhere in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific; recently recorded from the Mediterranean Sea. Found solitary or in small groups on coral reefs, often resting under ledges or in caves during the day, or half-buried in sand on the reef flat.


Meristic features: 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 and a smaller pit below; mouth large, opening dorsally, gape vertical; skin naked, covered in warty skin; 13-14 sharp strong dorsal-fin spines, 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, rather than only slightly elevated in the Reef Stonefish.

Species Citation

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


Dianne J. Bray

Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa Bloch & Schneider 1801


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37287089

Danger:Extremely venomous spines

Depth:0-20 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:40 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map