Smallhead Sole, Soleichthys microcephalus (Günther 1862)

Other Names: Small-head Sole, Small-headed Sole

A Smallhead Sole, Soleichthys microcephalus, in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


A colourful banded sole with 11-13 dark-brown to blackish crossbands on the head and body that are wider than the alternating paler bands, 2 conspicuous white spots on the midline, and a blue and black margin to the dorsal, anal and caudal fins.

The brightly-coloured juveniles are whitish with black and orange fin margins. They mimic a species of flatworm in both colour and in their undulating movement.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Soleichthys microcephalus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2024,

Smallhead Sole, Soleichthys microcephalus (Günther 1862)

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Endemic to eastern Australia from NE of Bundaberg, Queensland, to off Sydney, New South Wales. Inhabits silty bottoms in harbours and estuaries, usually burying in the substrate.


Dorsal fin 71-84; Anal fin 61-71; Lateral line scales 81-89; Vertebrae 43-45.
in having two elongated ocular-side pectoral-fin rays of nearly equal length or with the second fin ray longer than first, and in having small scales present on bases and proximal halves of elongated ocular-side pectoral-fin rays.


Eyed side: 8–10 dark-brown to black, mostly complete crossbands on the body, with three continuous dark brown bands across head, and two conspicuous white spots in longitudinal series on the midline.


The Smallhead Sole, like other species of Soleichthys, swims with an undulating motion, mimicking flatworms which are toxic.

Species Citation

Solea microcephala Günther, 1862, Cat. fishes Brit. Mus. 4: 466. Type locality: New South Wales.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Australian Faunal Directory

Smallhead Sole, Soleichthys microcephalus (Günther 1862)


Günther, A. 1862. Catalogue of the Fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the Acanthopterygii Pharyngognathi and Anacanthini in the collection of the British Museum. London : British Museum Vol. 4 534 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

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

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. (as Aesopia microcephala)

Muchhala, N. & Munroe, T.A. 2004. A new species of Soleichthys (Soleidae: Pleuronectiformes) from tropical seas off northern Australia. Ichthyological Research51: 57-62.

Munroe, T.A. & Menke, S.B. 2004. Two new soleid flatfishes Pleuronectiformes: Soleidae: Soleichthys) from Australian waters, with a re-description of Soleichthys microcephalus (Günther). Records of the Australian Museum 56: 247-258. DOI: 10.3853/j.0067-1975.56.2004.1430

Norman, J.R. 1926. A report on the flatfishes (Heterosomata) collected by the F.I.S. Endeavour, with a synopsis of the flatfishes of Australia and a revision of the subfamily Rhombosoleinae. Biological Results of the Fishing Experiments carried on by the F.I.S. Endeavour 1909-1914 5(5): 219-308 figs 1-15

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37462033

Behaviour:Juvs mimic flatworms

Depth:3-43 m

Habitat:Sandy, silty bottoms

Max Size:22 cm TL


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CAAB distribution map