Smallscale Hardyhead, Atherinason hepsetoides (Richardson 1843)

Other Names: Dannevig's Hardyhead, Deepwater Hardyhead, Richardson's Hardyhead, Small-scale Hardyhead, Vera's Hardyhead

Smallscale Hardyhead, Atherinason hepsetoides. Source: Rudie Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


Small slender schooling fishes with a silvery yellow to greenish back, a broad dark silvery to reddish mid-lateral stripe, and fine dark speckles on the snout and top of the head. The species has a long slender tail base, a large and very protrusible mouth.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Atherinason hepsetoides in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

Smallscale Hardyhead, Atherinason hepsetoides (Richardson 1843)

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Endemic to temperate waters of southern and southeastern Australia, from Sydney, New South Wales, to Spencer Gulf and Kangaroo Island, South Australia, and the Bass Strait islands to southeastern Tasmania.

Inhabits sheltered bays and deeper estuaries at 1-4 m, and to 30 m in deeper coastal bays. Forms large dense schools, usually feeding on mysids near the bottom in deeper waters during the day, moving to surface waters to feed on zooplankton at night.


Dorsal fin V-IX; I, 9-13; Anal fin I, 11-14; Pectoral fin 13-16; Pelvic fin I, 5; Gill rakers (lower limb) 16-20; Scales in mid-lateral row 58-83; Vertebrae 43-48.

Body long, slender, slightly compressed with a long, slender caudal peduncle. Head small, bluntly pointed, snout short, eyes moderately large.

Mouth terminal, moderately large, distal end of premaxilla extending past vertical through anterior margin of orbit. Jaws extremely protrusible, ascending premaxillary process very long, reaching into interorbital space. Upper jaw covering lower jaw when mouth closed; posterior end of lower jaw greatly elevated.

Lips fused well before corner of mouth and upper lip fleshy at corner of mouth. Teeth minute or absent. Gill rakers moderately long, slender. Scales large, cycloid, firmly attached.


Maximum standard length 11 cm.


Translucent silvery, yellow or greenish above and below, with a broad silvery, broad dark or reddish midlateral stripe; scales above stripe outlined by fine lines of dark spots; preopercle and opercle silvery; snout and top of head with fine dark speckling.


Dense schools feed on zooplankton in surface waters at night.

Similar Species


The species is named hepsetoides in reference to its similarity to Atherina hesetus Linnaeus 1758.

Species Citation

Atherina hepsetoides Richardson, 1843, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., 11(68): 178, Type locality: Port Arthur, Tasmania.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Smallscale Hardyhead, Atherinason hepsetoides (Richardson 1843)


  • Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds) 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.
  • Ivantsoff, W. 1978. Taxonomic and systematic review of the Australian fish species of the family Atherinidae with references to related species of the Old World. Ph.D Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney 701 pp. 118 figs.
  • Ivantsoff, W. 1994. Families Atherinidae, Isonidae. pp. 375-383 figs 336-342 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.
  • Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.
  • Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.
  • Kuiter, R. & Kuiter, S. 2018. Coastal sea-fishes of south-eastern Australia. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, 371 pp.
  • McCulloch, A.R. 1911. Report on the fishes obtained by the F.I.S. Endeavour on the coasts of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Part 1. Zoological (Biological) Results. Endeavour 1(1): 1-87 figs 1-20 pls 1-16 (described as Atherina dannevigi)
  • Raadik, T.A. 2008. Family Atherinidae. pp. 395-400 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.
  • Richardson, J. 1843. Contributions to the ichthyology of Australia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 1 11(69): 169-182
  • Whitley, G.P. 1951. Studies in Ichthyology No. 15. Records of the Australian Museum 22(4): 389-408 figs 1-14 (described as Atherinason dannevigi verae)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37246004

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Coastal bays, estuaries

Max Size:11 cm SL

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CAAB distribution map