Wood's Siphonfish, Siphamia cephalotes (Castelnau 1875)

Other Names: Little Siphonfish, Woods Siphon Fish, Wood's Siphon-fish

Wood's Siphonfish, Siphamia cephalotes, in Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / http://www.daveharasti.com/. License: All rights reserved


A bronze to silvery-green cardinalfish with a silvery tube-like light organ visible along the lower surface, a dark spot on the caudal-fin base, and a coppery midlateral stripe. These small, slender bioluminescent fishes live amongst seagrasses and macroalgae on rocky reefs in the southern half of Australia.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Siphamia cephalotes in Fishes of Australia, accessed 09 Apr 2020,

Wood's Siphonfish, Siphamia cephalotes (Castelnau 1875)

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Widespread in coastal marine and estuarine environments from Byron Bay, New South Wales, to Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, and south to Cape Barren Island, Tasmania.

Wood's Siphonfish inhabits reefs in bays, estuaries and along the coast. It is most active a night and is rarely seen by divers as it usually shelters under ledges, and in seagrass and kelp beds during the day.


Dorsal fin VI + I, 7-9; Anal fin II, 8-9; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 12-14; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 22-23 (tubed); Median pre-dorsal scales 4-5; Gill rakers 4-6 + 14-16; developed gill rakers 1-3 + 13-16 = 15-18.

Body relatively slender, depth 3.2–4.8 in SL; body width 1.6–1.8 in depth; eye diameter 3.2–3.7 in head length; caudal-peduncle slender.

Preopercular edge and ridge smooth, the ventral edge slightly crenulate; 1–3 series of small teeth on palatines. Pectoral fin rays unbranched and compressed distally.

Scales large, mostly ctenoid (some cycloid); tubed lateral-line scales with a vertical series of papillae. Tip of light organ on each side of tongue bound by a membrane.


Individuals in seagrass habitats are usually greenish, while those inhabiting kelp beds are usually brown.

Body overall pale silvery, head and abdomen with a greenish or yellowish hue, peppered with small dark brown dots; upper part of body from above eye, along dorsal-fin bases and upper part of caudal peduncle densely peppered with dark dots.

Fins pale with faint small spots; anal-fin base with a line of dark brown dots or short dashes; caudal-fin base with a dark spot.

Light organ a silvery stripe with dark dots along lower edge of body from pelvic-fin base tapering to along most of caudal peduncle.


Bacterial bioluminescent system present. Males incubate the developing eggs in their mouths.

Similar Species

Siphamia cephalotes differs from all other species in the genus Siphamia in having 15-18 developed gill rakers on the first arch. S. roseigaster has 13–15 developed rakers, a higher number of second dorsal- and anal-fin rays (9–11), and a higher number of pectoral-fin rays (14) that are mostly branched. It also lacks palatine teeth and the light organ in its mouth has a free ending.

Species Citation

Scopelus cephalotes Castelnau 1875, Researches on the fishes of Australia 2: 4. Type locality: Adelaide, South Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Wood's Siphonfish, Siphamia cephalotes (Castelnau 1875)


  • 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. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Apogonidae. pp. 557-561 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.
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  • McCulloch, A.R. 1921. Studies in Australian fishes, No. 7. Records of the Australian Museum 13(4): 123-142 pls 21-24 (as Adenapogon woodi)
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  • Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37327032

    Biology:Bioluminescent; mouth brooders

    Depth:1-30 m

    Habitat:Reef associated

    Max Size:5 cm


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