Black Rabbitfish, Siganus fuscescens (Houttuyn 1782)

Other Names: Black Spinefoot, Black Trevally, Blue-spotted Trevally, Dusky Rabbitfish, Fuscous Rabbitfish, Happy Moments, Mi Mi, Mottled Spinefoot, Pearl-spotted Spinefoot, Pearly-spotted Rabbitfish, Pin-spotted Spinefoot, Stinging Bream, West Australian Rabbitfish

A Black Rabbitfish, Siganus fuscescens, at the Solitary Islands, New South Wales. Source: Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef Life Survey. License: CC by Attribution

A greenish-grey to brown rabbitfish fading to silvery below, with numerous small pale bluish spots, a narrow brown bar along the upper edge of the gill cover, and often a dark patch below the origin of the lateral line. Adults are often mottled at night and when threatened.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Siganus fuscescens in Fishes of Australia, accessed 18 Jul 2024,

Black Rabbitfish, Siganus fuscescens (Houttuyn 1782)

More Info


Busselton, Western Australia, around the tropical north to Nadgee, southern New South Wales; also the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical, east-Indo-west Pacific. 
Inhabits algal and seagrass flats and shallow lagoons, coastal reefs and estuaries. Forms aggregations in clear coastal waters feeding on filamentous algae, leafy algae and seagrass leaves.


Dorsal fin XIII, 10; Anal fin VII, 9; Pectoral fin 15-18; Vertebrae 13.  Slender, pungent, venomous spines. Preopercular angle 89°-95°. Lower half to 2/3 of cheeks commonly covered with weak, scattered scales. Midline of thorax between pelvic ridges.


Adults consume brown and green algae, while juveniles prefer filamentous algae and seagrass leaves.


Prespawning aggregations shoal on inner reef flats, and spawning occurs on the 4th or 5th day of the new moon near the edge of the reef. Females release about 300,000 eggs/female at a single spawning. Eggs and larvae are pelagic.


Fished commercially throughout its range, and commercially cultured in Japan.

Similar Species

The similar Siganus argenteus has a deeply forked tail, and differs in coloration.


The specific name is from the Latin fuscescens (= become dark, turning dark), presumably in reference to the coloration of this species.

Species Citation

Centrogaster fuscescens Houttuyn, 1782, Verhandelingen der Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, Haarlem 20(2): 333. Type locality: Japan.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Black Rabbitfish, Siganus fuscescens (Houttuyn 1782)


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. (in part as Siganus canaliculatus)

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 (as Siganus nebulosus)

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. 

Blaber, S.J.M., Brewer, D.T. & Harris, A.N. 1994. Distribution, biomass and community structure of demersal fishes of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 45(3): 375-396.

Blaber, S.J.M., Young, J.W. & Dunning, M.C. 1985. Community structure and zoogeographic affinities of the coastal fishes of the Dampier region of north-western Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 247-266.

Capper, A., Tibbetts, I.R., O'Neil, J.M. & Shaw, G.R. 2006. Feeding preference and deterrence in rabbitfish Siganus fuscescens for the cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula in Moreton Bay, south-east Queensland, Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 68: 1589-1609.

Carpenter, K.E., Lawrence, A. & Myers, R. 2016. Siganus fuscescens (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T69689554A115469581. Downloaded on 06 January 2019.

Coleman, N. 1981. Australian Sea Fishes North of 30°S. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 297 pp.

Edgar, G.J. 2000. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland Revised Edn, 544 pp. (as Siganus nebulosus

Fox, R.J. & Bellwood, D.R. 2008. Remote video bioassays reveal the potential feeding impact of the rabbitfish Siganus canaliculatus (f: Siganidae) on an inner-shelf reef of the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 27: 605-615.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170.

Fujita, S. & Ueno, M. 1954. On the development of the egg and prelarval stages of Siganus fuscescens (Houttuyn) by artificial insemination. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 3: 129-132.

Hernandez, H.B., Aliño, P.M. & Jarre, A. 1990. The daily food consumption of Siganus fuscescens, an important herbivore in seagrass communities at Bolinao, Pangasinan province, Philippines. ICES C.M. G: 18, 15 pp.

Houttuyn, M. 1782. Beschryving van eenige Japanische visschen en andere zeeschepselen. Verhandelingen uitgegeeven door de Hollandse Maatschappye der Wetenschappen te Haarlem 20(2): 311-350.

Hsu, T.-H., Adiputra, Y.T., Burridge, C.P. & Gwo J.-C. 2011. Two spinefoot colour morphs: mottled spinefoot Siganus fuscescens and white-spotted spinefoot Siganus canaliculatus are synonyms. Journal of Fish Biology 79: 1350-1355.

Hutchins, J.B. 1990. Fish survey of South Passage, Shark Bay, Western Australia. pp. 263-278 in Berry, P.F., Bradshaw, S.D. & Wilson, B.R. (eds). Research in Shark Bay: Report of the France-Australe Bicentenary Expedition Committee. Perth : Western Australian Museum.

Hutchins, J.B. 1997. Checklist of fishes of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. pp. 239-253 in Wells, F.E. (ed.) The Marine Flora and fauna of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum.

Hutchins, J.B. 2003. Checklist of marine fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. pp. 453-478 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I., & Jones, D.S. (eds). Proceedings of the Eleventh International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Johannes, R.E. & MacFarlane, J.W. 1991. Traditional fishing in the Torres Strait Islands. CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Tasmania, Australia. 268 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. 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.H. & Debelius, H. 2001. Surgeonfishes, Rabbitfishes and Their Relatives. A comprehensive guide to Acanthuroidei. Chorleywood, U.K. : TMC Publishing 208 pp. [p. 149 as Siganus tumifrons (regarded S. fuscencens as restricted to Japan); p. 151  as Siganus nebulosus from eastern Australia; p. 152, as Siganus margaritiferus; p. 154 as Siganus canaliculatus]

Larson, H.K. & Williams, R.S. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. pp. 339-380 in Hanley, H.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds). The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.

Magsino, R.M. & Juinio-Meñez, M.A. 2008. The influence of contrasting life history traits and oceanic processes on genetic structuring of rabbitfish populations Siganus argenteus and Siganus fuscescens along the eastern Philippine coasts. Marine Biology 154(3): 519-532.

Ogilby, J.D. 1912. On some Queensland fishes. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 1: 26-65 2 figs pls 13-14 (described as Siganus consobrinus)

Oxley, W.G., Ayling, A.M., Cheal, A.J. & Osborne, K. 2004. Marine surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Sciences 64 pp.

Park, M. 1797. Descriptions of eight new fishes from Sumatra. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 3: 33-38 fig. 1 (described as Chaetodon canaliculatus)

Quoy, J.R.C. & Gaimard, J.P. 1825. Chapter 9. Poissons. 329-401 pls 43-65 in Freycinet, L.C.D. de (ed.) Voyage Autour du Monde, entrepris par orde du Roi, sous le Ministère et conformément aux instructions de S. Exc. M. le Vicomte de Boucharge, secrétaire d'État au Département de la Marine exécuté sur les corvettes de S.M. l'Uranie et la Physicienne, pendent les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820; publié sous les auspices de S.E.M. le Conte Corbière, secrétaire d'État de l'Intérieur, pour la partie historique et les sciences naturelles, et de S.E.M. le Marquis de Clermont-Tonnerre, Secrétaire d'État de la Marine et des Colonies, pour la partie nautique; par M. Louis Freycinet, etc. Paris : Pillet Aîné Vol. 1 + atlas iv 712 pp. (described as Amphacanthus maculosus and Amphacanthus nebulosus)

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. (in part as Siganus canaliculatus)

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. (in part as Siganus canaliculatus)

Russell, B.C. 1983. Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Special Publication Series 1: 1-184 figs 1-2

Russell, B.C. & Houston, W. 1989. Offshore fishes of the Arafura Sea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 6(1): 69-84.

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Smith, W.L. & Wheeler, W.C.2006. Venom evolution widespread in fishes: a phylogenetic rode map for the bioprospecting of piscine venoms. Journal of Heredity 97(3): 206-217.

Streit, R.P., Hoey, A.S. & Bellwood, D.R. 2015. Feeding characteristics reveal functional distinctions among browsing herbivorous fishes on coral reefs. Coral Reefs 34(4): 1037-1047. Abstract (in part as Siganus canaliculatus)

Taylor, W.R. 1964. Fishes of Arnhem Land. Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land 4: 44-307 figs 1-68 (as Teuthis nebulosa)

Travers, M.J. & Potter, I.C. 2002. Factors influencing the characteristics of fish assemblages in a large subtropical marine embayment. Journal of Fish Biology 61(3): 764-784.

Woodland, D.J. 1990. Revision of the fish family Siganidae with descriptions of two new species and comments on distribution and biology. Indo-Pacific Fishes 19: 1-136 figs 1-23, 11 pls (p. 55 as Siganus fuscescens, and p. 51 as S. canaliculatus

Woodland, D.J. 2001. Siganidae. pp. 3627-3650 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. 6 pp. 3381-4218. (as Siganus fuscescens and S. canaliculatus)

Valenciennes, A. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1835. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 10 482 pp. pls 280-306. (described as Amphacanthus margaritiferus; also described in part as Amphacanthus tumifrons - two species among the type series)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37438001

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Venomous spines

Depth:0-54 m

Fishing:Commercial, aquaculture fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:30 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map