Spotfin Anglerfish, Antennarius nummifer (Cuvier 1817)

Other Names: Big-spot Angler, Coin-bearing Frogfish, Dark-spotted Frogfish, Ocellated Angler, Ocellated Anglerfish, Ocellated Fringed Fishing Frog, Opulent Frogfish, Spotfin Angler, Spotfin Anglerfish, Spotfin Fish, Spotfin Frogfish, White-finger Anglerfish

A Spotfin Anglerfish, Antennatus nummifer. Source: Stephen Childs / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution


Spotfin Anglerfish have a distinct tail base and a short 'fishing rod' tipped with a bait that resembles a tiny shrimp. They range in colour from yellow to pink, red, brown or black, to match their surroundings. They usually have a large pale-ringed dark spot or ocellus at the base of the soft dorsal fin. 

Video of a Spotfin Anglerfish

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Antennarius nummifer in Fishes of Australia, accessed 09 Dec 2022,

Spotfin Anglerfish, Antennarius nummifer (Cuvier 1817)

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Widespread throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea and East Africa to Central America in the Eastern Pacific, north to southern Japan and south to Australia. Spotfin Anglerfish are known in Australian waters from about the Perth region of Western Australia, north and eastwards through the Northern Territory, including the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, to south of Sydney in New South Wales. These bottom-dwelling fishes inhabit inshore and offshore coral and rocky reefs on the continental shelf, from the intertidal zone to 176 m, although most live in depths above 50 m.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin III, 12-13; Anal fin 7-8; Pectoral fin 10-11 (rarely 12); Pelvic fin I, 5.

Gill opening near to, or on pectoral-fin lobe; a distinct caudal peduncle present, the outer membranous of the soft-dorsal and anal fins are attached to body distinctly anterior to base of outermost rays of caudal fin. A shallow naked depression usually between 2nd and 3rd dorsal-fin spines, 3rd spine curved posteriorly. Scales absent, skin covered in close-set bifurcated spinules.

Fins: Illicium or 1st dorsal-fin spine about equal in length to second dorsal-fin spine. The lure or esca (which resembles a tiny stout-bodied shrimp) ranges from a simple, unpigmented sphere of irregularly folded tissue with a few, short, basal filaments to an elongate and tapering structure with a variable number of slender filaments and a cluster of darkly pigmented, spherical swellings at the base The 2nd dorsal-fin spine is usually straight. The prehensile pectoral fins have an ‘elbow-like’ joint. The pelvic fins have a short, slender spine and 5 soft rays, the last ray is divided.


To 13 cm.


Spotfin Anglerfish vary in colour to match their surroundings, and range in shades of mottled yellow, orange, pink, red, brown and black, with scattered blotches. A dark spot encircled with a lighter ring is present at the base of the soft dorsal-fin rays and dark lines radiate from the eye. Blackish individuals often have white-tipped pectoral-fin rays, whereas in others the tips may be bluish.


Spotfin anglerfish are well-camouflaged ambush predators. They remain very still, waving their lure or esca in front of their mouth to attract unsuspecting prey, which are rapidly engulfed. 


Oviparous, sexes separate, with external fertilization. Eggs are laid in a colourless and transparent balloon-like floating mass or 'raft' measuring about 5 x 7 cm. Each egg raft may contain tens of thousands of eggs which remain embedded in separate mucous chambers until the pelagic larvae hatch. The egg raft of a Spotfin Anglerfish in captivity ws estimated to contain 48,800 eggs.  Larvae remain in the plankton for the first 1 or 2 months before settling onto the reef.


Of no interest to fisheries, although sometimes collected for the aquarium industry.


Not evaluated.

Similar Species

Freckled Anglerfish, Antennarius coccineus, are similar to Spotfin Anglerfish, but lack the dark spot at the soft dorsal-fin base and distinct tail base of Spotfin Anglerfish.


Antennarius is from the Latin, antenna, meaning sensory organ on the head, in reference to the modified first dorsal spine. The species name nummifer is derived from Latin and means bearer of coins in reference to the spot at the base of the dorsal fin.

Species Citation

Chironectes nummifer Cuvier 1817, Mém. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat. Paris 3: 430, pl. 17, fig. 4, type locality unknown.


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Spotfin Anglerfish, Antennarius nummifer (Cuvier 1817)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of tropical Australia and South-east Asia: A field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australia Western Australian Museum 292 p.

Allen, G.R., D.F. Hoese, J.R. Paxton, J.E. Randall, B.C. Russell, W.A. Starck, F.H. Talbot & GP Whitley. l976. An annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30 (15):365-454.

Allen, G.R., R.C. Steene & M. Orchard. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. 2nd Ed. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Australia. 284 p.

Allen, G.R., R. Steene, P. Humann & N. Deloach. 2003. Reef fish identification: tropical Pacific. New World Pbl. Inc, Jacksonville, Florida.

Cuvier, G.L. 1817. Sur le genre Chironectes Cuv. (Antennarius Commerson). Mémoires du Muséum Nationale d'Histoire Naturelle. Paris 3: 418-435 pls 16-18.

Francis, M.P. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pac. Sci. 47(2): 136-170.

Hoese DF, Bray DJ, Paxton JR & Allen GR (2006). Fishes. In Beesley PL & Wells A (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia Part 1, pp xxiv 1-670; Part 2, pp xxi 671-1472; Part 3 pp xxi 1473-2178.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. New Holland Publishers, Frenchs Forest, Australia, 433 p.

Michael, S.W. (1998). Reef Fishes Volume 1. A Guide to Their Identification, Behaviour and Captive Care. Microcosm Ltd. Shellbourne, Vermont 624 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. 1984. The genera of frogfishes (Family Antennariidae). Copeia 1984(1): 27-44.

Pietsch, T.W. & Grobecker, D.B. 1987. Frogfishes of the World: Systematics, Zoogeography, and Behavioural Ecology. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 420 p.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu. 707p.

Randall, J.E., G.R. Allen and R.C. Steene 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 506 p.

Ray, C. 1961. Spawning behavior and egg raft morphology of the ocellated fringed frogfish, Antennarius nummifer (Cuvier). Copeia 1961(2): 230-231.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37210011

Biology:Fishing lure on head

Depth:1-176 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:13 cm

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