Northern Whiting, Sillago sihama (Forsskål 1775)

Other Names: Sand Smelt, Silver Sillago

A Northern Whiting, Sillago sihama, in Bali, Indonesia, April 2015. Source: zsispeo / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

A variably coloured whiting ranging from light tan, silvery yellow-brown to sandy brown, or honey coloured, becomging paler below, with a silver midlateral stripe, dusky dorsal fins with or without rows of dark brown spots on the second dorsal-fin membranes, a dusky caudal fin, and often a whitish margin on the anal fin. There is no dark blotch on the pectoral-fin base.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Sillago sihama in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Jun 2024,

Northern Whiting, Sillago sihama (Forsskål 1775)

More Info


Broome, Western Australia, around the tropical north to about Mackay, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical Indo-west Pacific.
Commonly inhabits shallow sandy areas along coastal shores, bays, harbours, mangrove-lined creeks and estuaries, occasionally entering the lowermost reaches of freshwater streams.


Feeds mostly on small crustaceans, polychaete worms, invertebrate larvae, blue-green algae and dinoflagellates.


Taken with beach seines, hand lines and prawn trawls in parts of its range, and marketed fresh, frozen and dried salted - reportedly very good eating.


Golani et al. (2011, 2013) suggest that Sillago sihama is restricted to the southern Red Sea.

Species Citation

Atherina sihama Forsskål 1775, Descriptiones animalium: 70. Type locality: Lohaja, Red Sea.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Northern Whiting, Sillago sihama (Forsskål 1775)


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

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. 

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. 

Bloch, M.E. & Schneider, J.G. 1801. Systema Ichthyologiae Iconibus ex Illustratum. Berlin 584 pp. 110 pls. (described as Sciaena malabarica)

Cuvier, G.L. 1816. Le Règne Animal, distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base a l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction a l'anatomie comparée. Les reptiles et les poisons. Paris : Déterville Vol. 2 pp. 104-351 (described as Sillago acuta)

Forsskål, P. 1775. Descriptiones animalium Avium, Amphibiorum, Piscium, Insectorum, Vermium; quae in itinere orientali observavit Petrus Forskål. Post mortem auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. Adjuncta est materia medica kahirina atque tabula maris rubri geographica. Hauniae : Mölleri 1-19, i-xxxiv, 164 pp., 43, pls. 

Gill, T.N. 1862. Synopsis of the sillaginoids. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia 13: 501-505.

Golani, D., Fricke, R. & Tikochinski, Y. 2011. Rehabilitation of Sillago erythraea Cuvier, and redescription of Sillago sihama (Forsskål) (Teleostei: Sillaginidae) from the Red Sea. Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde A, Neue Serie 4: 465-471.

Golani, D., Fricke, R. & Tikochinski, Y. 2013. Sillago suezensis, a new whiting from the northern Red Sea, and status of Sillago erythraea Cuvier (Teleostei: Sillaginidae). Journal of Natural History: 1-16.

Kaga, T. & Ho, H. 2012. Redescription of Sillago (Parasillago) indica McKay, Dutt & Sujatha, 1985 (Perciformes: Sillaginidae), with a reassignment to the subgenus Sillago. Zootaxa 3513: 61-67.

Kato, M., Kohno, H. & Taki, Y. 1996. Juveniles of two sillaginids, Sillago aeolus and S. sihama, occurring in a surf zone in the Philippines. Ichthyological Research 43 (4): 431–439. doi:10.1007/BF02347640 Abstract

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

McKay, R.J. 1985. A revision of the fishes of the family Sillaginidae. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 22(1): 1-73 figs 1-18 

McKay, R.J. 1992. FAO Species Catalog. Sillaginid fishes of the world (Family Sillaginidae) an annotated and illustrated catalogue of the Sillago, smelt of the Indo-Pacific whiting species. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125 Vol. 14. 1-87 pp. 

McKay, R.J. 1999. Family Sillaginidae. pp. 2614-2629 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.

Sheaves, M. 2006. Scale-dependent variation in composition of fish fauna among sandy tropical estuarine embayments. Marine Ecology Progress Series 310: 173–184. doi:10.3354/meps310173 PDF available, open access

Smith-Vaniz, W.F. & Sparks, J.S. 2016. Sillago sihama. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T203423A2765049. Downloaded on 30 March 2017.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37330006

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-60 m, usually above 20 m

Habitat:Reef associated, soft bottom, marine, estuarine

Max Size:31 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map