Onefin Flashlightfish, Photoblepharon palpebratum (Boddaert 1781)

Other Names: Eyelight Fish, Lanterneye Fish, One-fin Flashlightfish, Small Flashlightfish

A Onefin Flashlightfish, Photoblepharon palpebratum, at Kakabia, Indonesia. Source: John E. Randall / Fishbase via EOL. License: CC by Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


A flashlight fish with a large cream-coloured bean-shaped light organ filled with bioluminescent symbiotic bacteria. The Onefin Flashlightfish has a white margin on the edge of the gill cover, reflective blue spots along the lateral line, and large eyes far forward near the top of the head.

The Onefin Flashlightfish is nocturnal, and seeks refuge in deeper caves and crevices on outer reefs during the day. The luminous bacteria in the light organ constantly produce light. In order to 'turn off' the light, the fish pulls a black membrane up over the light organ - like an 'upside-down eyelid'.

Video of a school of Onefin Flashlightfish 'flashing' in a cave at Lembeh Strait, Indonesia.

Video of a Onefin Flashlightfish filmed in Vanuatu.

Video of a Onefin Flashlightfish at Mbili Island, Solomon Islands, at a depth of 29 metres. 

Video showing Onefin Flashlightfish in the light and dark

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Photoblepharon palpebratum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jul 2024,

Onefin Flashlightfish, Photoblepharon palpebratum (Boddaert 1781)

More Info


Reefs in the Coral Sea, Australia; also Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical east-Indo-west-central Pacific.

Flashlight fish are nocturnal and shelter in caves along steep dropoffs during the day. At night they venture out to feed on zooplankton, small fishes and crustaceans that are attracted to the light. On a moonless night, individuals may migrate all the way to the surface to feed.


Flashlightfish have a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria that live in the light organ under their eye. The bacteria rely on oxygen and nutrients from the fish (via the blood stream). In return, the bacteria provide the fish with it's own built-in flashlight, which enables the fish to attract prey and communicate with others.

The bacteria constantly produce light, and the fish can 'turn off' this light by covering the light organ with a fleshy screen. By 'blinking' or rapidly turning the light on and off, flashlightfish are able to startle and avoid predators.



The specific name palpebratum is from the Latin palpebra (= eyelid) in reference to the black membrane that slides up like an eyelid, hiding the biolumensence.

Species Citation

Sparus palpebratus Boddaert 1781, Neue Nordische Beiträge (Pallas) 1781: 55, pl. 4, figs 1-2. Type locality: Banda Sea, Indonesia (as Ambon, Maluku, Indonesia).


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Onefin Flashlightfish, Photoblepharon palpebratum (Boddaert 1781)


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Hui, T.H., Maruse, T., Fujita, Y., Kiat, T.S. 2014. Observations on the fauna from submarine and associated anchialine caves in Christmas Island, Indian Ocean Territory, Australia. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 30: 406-418. See ref online

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37260002



Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-50 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:12 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map