Sailfin Cardinalfish, Quinca mirifica Mees 1966

A Sailfin Cardinalfish, Quinca mirifica, photographed in shallow water (<2m) just after dark at Heron Point, Learmonth, Western Australia, November 2019. Source: Glen Whisson / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A relatively large uniformly black cardinalfish with a white tail, found only in coastal waters of north Western Australia. The species has a very tall second dorsal fin with 14 rays, and very long pelvic fins that extend well beyond the anal-fin origin.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Quinca mirifica in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 Sep 2022,

Sailfin Cardinalfish, Quinca mirifica Mees 1966

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Endemic to Western Australia, from North West Cape to north of Kalumburu, on the Kimberley Coast. Inhabits dark overhangs and crevices on shallow reefs during the day, emerging to feed at night.
The holotype was collected at low tide on the reef at Cockatoo Island, Yampi Sound.


Dorsal fin VII + I,14; Anal fin 11, 13.


During courtship, male Sailfin Cardinalfish dramatically change colour from their normal deep-black to a brilliant silvery/white on most of their body including areas of the dorsal and pelvic fins. 


The species is named mirifica (= wonderful, strange) presumably in reference to the "unexpected" and "aberrant" character of this species having 14 soft dorsal-fin rays.

Species Citation

Quinca mirifica Mees 1966, J. Roy. Soc. W. A. 49(3): 83, fig. 1. Type locality: Cockatoo Island, Yampi Sound, Western Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Sailfin Cardinalfish, Quinca mirifica Mees 1966


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

Allen, G.R. 1999. Apogonidae. pp. 2602-2610 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.

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls (as Pterapogon mirifica)

Fraser, T.H. & Allen, G.R. 2010. Cardinalfish of the genus Apogonichthyoides Smith, 1949 (Apogonidae) with a description of a new species from the West-Pacific region. Zootaxa 2348: 40-56.

Hutchins, B. 2004. Fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 66: 343–398.

Hutchins, J.B. 1994. A survey of the nearshore reef fish fauna of Western Australia's west and south coasts — The Leeuwin Province. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 46: 1-66 figs 1-6 

Kuiter, R.H. & Kozawa, T. 2019. Cardinalfishes of the world. New edition. Seaford, Victoria: Aquatic Photographics, and Okazaki, Aichi, Japan:  Anthias, Nexus, 198 pp.

Mabuchi, K., Fraser, T.H., Song, H., Azuma, Y. & Nishida, M. 2014. Revision of the systematics of the cardinalfishes (Percomorpha: Apogonidae) based on molecular analyses and comparative reevaluation of morphological characters. Zootaxa 3846(2): 151–203. Abstract

Mees, G.F. 1966. A new fish of the family Apogonidae from tropical Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 49(3): 83-84 fig. 1 See ref at BHL

Vagelli, A.A. 2014. Ephemeral sexual dichromatism in Quinca mirifica (Teleostei, Apogonidae), a black apogonid with solitary behavior. aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology 20(1): 1-10 PDF

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37327111

Depth:0-15 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish (rare)

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:12+ cm SL


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