Mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus (Temminck & Schlegel 1844)

Other Names: Butterfish, Butter-fish, Dusky Meagre, Japanese Meagre, Jew, Jewfish, Kingfish, River Kingfish, School Jew, Silver Jew, Silver Jewfish, Soapy, Southern Meagre

A school of Mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus, at the Solitary Islands, New South Wales. Source: Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef Life Survey. License: CC BY Attribution

A large silvery to greenish-bronze fish with a moderately elongate body, a concave to pointed caudal fin, and pearly-white spots along the lateral line.

Video of a school of Mulloway at the Sand Pipe, Gold Coast Seaway, Queensland, Australia.
Video of a school of Mulloway 'hanging out'.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Argyrosomus japonicus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024,

Mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus (Temminck & Schlegel 1844)

More Info


Yeppoon, Queensland, around southern Australia, to Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, including Tasmania. Elsewhere the species occurs in South Africa and the north-west Pacific.
Small juveniles inhabit estuaries and inshore coastal waters. Adults and subadults are found along surf beaches, around rocky headlands and in deeper areas offshore. Individuals also form schools in the lower parts of estuaries and around river mouths during flood periods. The species undertakes seasonal movements along the coast as well as in and out of estuaries. 


Dorsal fin X + I,26-29; Anal fin II,7; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 18-19; Pelvic fin V I,5; Lateral-line scales 46-52. 
Body moderately depth (26-30% SL), slightly elongate, compressed; caudal peduncle of moderate depth. Head moderately small (28-34% SL); eyes moderately small (14-22% HL); mouth of moderate size (upper jaw length 38-45% HL); slightly oblique, maxillae extending nearly to below posterior edge of eyes; teeth pointed, in two series in each jaw; upper jaw with narrow inner band of small teeth, outer composed of irregularly spaced large canines; lower jaw with a row of small teeth outside, though in some places between row of large canines; each operculum with two weak spines.
Scales small, finely ctenoid, covering all of body and head except tip of snout, only single row at base of dorsal and anal fins; lateral line nearly straight, extending to tip of tail. 
Dorsal fin deeply notched dividing fin into short anterior spinous portion and elongate slightly lower posterior portion;  anal fin with short base; caudal fin pointed in young, rear edge becoming S shaped or slightly concave in adults. Pelvic fins arising below and slightly behind pectoral fins.  


Reaches a length of over 2 m and a weight of nearly 60 kg.


Greyish green to steel blue above, silvery grey below, with darker oblique bands following scale rows in small individuals; inside of mouth and opercula bright orange; fins slightly yellowish; prominent black spot at base of each pectoral fin. 


Carnivores, preying on a variety of fishes, crustaceans and squid. Juveniles feed mostly on crustaceans.


Mulloway spawn just outside of the surf zone, and the eggs and larvae are pelagic.


The mulloway is a popular game and commercial fish with excellent quality flesh. Large individuals provide exciting sport to the angler with their powerful long runs. Those sold in markets are usually taken by net in estuarine areas. 


The common name Mulloway is an aboriginal word meaning ‘the greatest one’. Other common names such as jew, jewfish, silver jew, school jew, arose from the term 'jewel fish', referring to the Mulloway's very large otoliths or earbones that were collected for use as jewellery.


The specific name refers to the type locality: near Nagasaki, Japan.

Species Citation

Sciaena japonica Temminck & Schlegel, 1844, Fauna Japonica 4(2–4): 58, pl. 24(1). Type locality: (Neotype) Meitsu, Nango-Cho, Miyazaki Prefecture, south-east coast of Kyushu, Japan (as vicinity of Nagasaki, Japan), depth 50 m.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus (Temminck & Schlegel 1844)


Barnes, T.C., Junge, C., Myers, S.A., Taylor, MD., Rogers, P.J., Ferguson, G.J., Lieschke, J.A., Donnellan, S.C. & Gillanders, B.M. 2015. Population structure in a wide-ranging coastal teleost (Argyrosomus japonicus, Sciaenidae) reflects marine biogeography across southern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 67: 1103-1113.

Edgar, G.J. 2000. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 544 pp.

Fennessy, S. 2020. Argyrosomus japonicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T49145403A49234015. Accessed on 10 June 2022.

Ferguson, G.J., Ward, T.M. & Gillanders, B.M. 2011. Otolith shape and elemental composition: complimentary tools for stock discrimination of mulloway (Argyrosomus japonicus) in southern Australia. Fisheries Research 110: 75–83.

Ferguson, G.J., Ward, T.M., Ivey, A. & Barnes, T. 2014. Life history of Argyrosomus japonicus, a large sciaenid at the southern part of its global distribution: implications for fisheries management. Fisheries Research 151: 148–157. 

Gomon, M.F. 1994. Family Sciaenidae. pp. 602-603, fig. 532 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.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Emmelichthyidae, Gerreidae, Sparidae, Sciaenidae, Mullidae. pp. 585-592 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

Griffiths, M.H. & Heemstra, P.C. 1995. A contribution to the taxonomy of the marine fish genus Argyrosomus (Perciformes: Sciaenidae), with descriptions of two new species from southern Africa. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 65: 1-40.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs.

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)

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp.

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.

Marshall, T.C. 1964. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Waters of Queensland. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 566 pp. 136 pls.

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp.

Pirozzi I, Booth MA, Pankhurst PM. 2009. The effect of stocking density and repeated handling on the growth of juvenile mulloway, Argyrosomus japonicus (Temminck & Schlegel 1843) Aquaculture International 17: 199-205.

Roughley, T.C. 1957. Fish and Fisheries of Australia. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 341 pp.

Sasaki, K. 2001. Sciaenidae. pp. 3117-3174 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 5 2791-3379 pp.

Silberschneider, V. & Gray, C.A. 2008. Synopsis of biological, fisheries and aquaculture related information on mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus (Pisces: Sciaenidae), with particular reference to Australia. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 24: 7–17.  

Silberschneider V., Gray C.A. & Stewart J. 2009. Age, growth, maturity and the overfishing of the iconic sciaenid, Argyrosomus japonicus, in south-eastern, Australia. Fisheries Research 95: 220-229.  

Smith, K.A. 2003. Larval distribution of some commercially valuable fish species over the Sydney continental shelf. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 124: 1-11.

Taylor, M.D., Laffan, S.D., Fielder, D.S. & Suthers, I.M. 2006. Key habitat and home range of mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus in a south-east Australian estuary: finding the estuarine niche to optimise stocking. Marine Ecology Progress Series 328: 237–247.

Temminck, C.J. & Schlegel, H. 1844. Pisces. 21-72 pls 7A-36 in Siebold, P. Fr. de (ed.) Fauna Japonica. Leyden : Apud Arnz & Socios Vol. 4(2–4).

Trewavas, E. 1977. The sciaenid fishes (croakers or drums) of the Indo-West Pacific. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 33: 253-541 figs 1-61 pls 1-14

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37354001

Conservation:IUCN Endangered

Depth:0-150 m

Fishing:Commercial, recreational fish

Habitat:Estuaries, rocky areas

Max Size:200 cm

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map