Snapper, Chrysophrys auratus (Forster 1801)

Other Names: Australasian Snapper, Cockney, Cockney Bream, Eastern Snapper, Nobblers, Old Man Red Snapper, Old Man Snapper, Pink Snapper, Pinkie, Pinkies, Queen, Red Bream, Reddie, Ruggers, Schnapper, Silver Seabream, Squire, Tamure, Western Snapper, White Snapper

A large adult Snapper, Chrysophrys auratus, in Nelson Bay, New South Wales. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved


A silvery pink to coppery-pink seabream, becoming pale silvery below, with many small electric blue spots scattered on upper sides (especially in juveniles). Large fish of both sexes develop a prominent hump on the head. 

Snapper were previously known as Pagrus auratus

Images of Snapper jaw bones at the University of Sydney Archaeological Fish-Bone Images.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Chrysophrys auratus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Snapper, Chrysophrys auratus (Forster 1801)

More Info


Recorded in Australian waters from about Townsville (Queensland) around the southern part of Australia to Cape Cuvier (Western Australia); also at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere, the species occurs in New Zealand.

Juveniles and small adults occur in bays, inlets and estuaries, whereas adults are usually offshore near rocky reefs. research has shown that Snapper show strong site fidelity to a range of habitats.


Dorsal-fin rays XII, 9-10; Anal-fin rays III, 8-9; Pectoral-fin rays 15-16; Caudal-fin rays 17; Pelvic-fin spines/rays I, 5; Lateral line scales 52-59.

Body moderately deep (43-52% SL), of moderate length, compressed; caudal peduncle moderately narrow. Head of moderate size (29-35% SL), dorsal profile with slight convex curve, large individuals developing prominent hump above and behind eyes and lesser one on snout;  eyes of moderate size in juveniles, moderately small in adults (24-36% HL); mouth of moderate size (upper jaw length 33-41% HL), reaching to below anterior edge of eyes; teeth of two types, each jaw with several pairs of peg like canines at front and an outer row of smaller canines along each side, rear of each jaw with several inner rows of rounded molars.

Scales mostly ctenoid, firmly attached, covering body, posterior half of head, including cheeks, and reaching slightly onto bases of dorsal and anal fins posteriorly;  lateral line smoothly curved; 8-12 rows of scales between dorsal fin origin and lateral line.

Single dorsal fin with elongate base, spinous portion only slightly higher than soft portion; anal fin with short base and rather uniform height, except for slightly longer second spine; caudal fin forked. Pectoral fins rather long, pointed, reaching to anal fin origin.


Pink above, silvery white below with fine bright blue spots scattered on upper half of sides, though less apparent in large individuals; very small juveniles have vertical dark bands. Fins mostly transparent in young, becoming pinkish in adults; anal and pelvic fins mostly whitish.


Small juveniles feed mainly on small crustaceans, consuming crabs, worms and other invertebrates as they grow. Adults consume small fishes and a range of hard-shelled invertebrates which they easily crush with their powerful molar-like teeth.


The oldest Snapper aged in Australia were found to be more than 40 years of age.


The Snapper is one of the best known and most popular food and sport fishes in southern Australia. Significant commerical and recreational fisheries exist for Snapper. They are targeted by bottom trawls, and hook and line, and minimum legal size and bag limits exist. The flesh is of excellent quality.
Snapper are so highly sought after that fishermen have devised a series of names to refer to individuals of different sizes, with very small fish known as "cockneys", those of about a half kilogram "red bream", specimens of about 1.5 kg "squires" and the largest ones "snapper". Very large individuals which have developed the contorted humps on the snout and forehead are sometimes referred to as "old man snappers". 


Pink in colour and when adult have a more hump-headed appearance than other Australian members of the family Sparidae. They also have fewer soft rays in the dorsal fin (9–10 cf. 10–14). Juvenile snapper possess numerous blue spots over the body and are then commonly called cockney bream. Snapper form schools in shallow water to spawn when water temperatures pass 18°C. Spawning thus occurs during summer in Victoria and during winter in Queensland and central Western Australia. Growth is slow, many of the larger fish being over 20 years old. The species is probably the most prized reef fish caught in southern and southeastern Australian waters.


Although Snapper were historically known from northern Tasmania, they were rare or unknown in the south. Due to climate change, the East Australian Current is pushing warmer waters down the Tasmanian Coast. As a result, Snapper now occur south of Hobart.
However, researchers do not yet know whether Snapper is only a summertime visitor, or are over-wintering in Tasmania, let alone breeding.

Species Citation

Labrus auratus Forster, in Bloch & Schneider, 1801, Syst. Ichthy.: 266. Type locality: Queen Charlotte Sound, Marlborough Sounds, South Island, New Zealand.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Snapper, Chrysophrys auratus (Forster 1801)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37353001


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-200 m

Fishing:Commercial & recreational fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:130 cm TL; 20 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map