Tarwhine, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forsskål 1775)

Other Names: Goldlined Seabream, Silver Bream

A Tarwhine, Rhabdosargus sarba, at Fairy Bower, Sydney Harbour, New South Wales - showing the large scale in the axil of the pelvic fin. Source: John Turnbull / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Body greyish with a silvery-gold sheen, underside silvery-white, fine yellowish to golden stripes along the sides, pelvic and anal fins yellowish to brownish-yellow.
Video of Tarwhine feeding at Shelly Beach, Manly, NSW.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Rhabdosargus sarba in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/679

Tarwhine, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forsskål 1775)

More Info


Recorded in Australia from Bremer Bay to Exmouth Gulf, WA, and from Townsville, QLD to Mallacoota, VIC. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the Indo-West Pacific, from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf to South Africa, eastwards to the South China Sea and Japan, and southwards to eastern and western Australia.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin XI, 12-14; Anal fin III, 10-11; Pectoral fin 14-16; Pored lateral line scales 56-64; Scale rows above/below lateral line 6.5-8.5 / 12.5-14.5; Gill rakers 5-6 + 7-9 = 12-15.


A protandrous hermaphrodite (changes sex from male to female), that spawns multiple times from July to November in Western Australia. Tarwhine reportedly move offshore into deeper waters to spawn in Western Australia.


This popular angling species commonly taken with hook and line. Tarwhine are of minor commercial importance SW Australia where they are taken in estuarine gill net and haul net finfish fisheries.

Similar Species

Differs from the Yellowfin Bream, Acanthopagrus australis, and the Black Bream Acanthopagrus butcheri, in having a golden colouration, a more rounded snout, more scale rows above the lateral line (6.5-8.5 vs 4 rows in both bream species), and in having the thrid anal-fin spine equal in length to the second spine (vs shorter in both species of bream).

Species Citation

Sparus sarba Forsskål, 1775, Descriptiones animalium: 31. Type locality (lectotype) Jidda (as Djiddae), Saudi Arabia, Red Sea. 


Dianne J. Bray

Tarwhine, Rhabdosargus sarba (Forsskål 1775)


Carpenter, K.E. 2001. Sparidae, Lethrinidae. pp. 2990-3050 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.

Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. 544 pp.

Forsskål, P. 1775. Descriptiones animalium Avium, Amphibiorum, Piscium, Insectorum, Vermium; quae in itinere orientali observavit Petrus Forskål. Post mortem auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. Adjuncta est materia medica kahirina atque tabula maris rubri geographica. Hauniae : Mölleri 1-19, i-xxxiv, 164 pp., 43, pls.

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

Hesp, S.A. 2003. Biology of two species of sparids on the west coast of Australia. Ph.D thesis. Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.

Hesp, S.A. & Potter, I.C. 2003. Reproductive biology of the tarwine Rhabdosargus sarba (Sparidae) in three different environments on the west coast of Australia. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK.

Hesp, S.A. Hall, N.G. & Potter, I.C. 2004. Size-related movements of Rhabdosargus sarba in three different environments and their influence on estimates of von Bertalanffy growth parameters. Marine Biology 144: 449-462.

Hughes, J.M., Stewart, J., Kendall, B.W. & Gray, C.A. 2008. Growth and reproductive biology of tarwhine Rhabdosargus sarba (Sparidae) in eastern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 59: 1111–1123.

Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. 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)

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. 433 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. 437 pp.

Mann, B.Q., Buxton, C.D., Russell, B., Iwatsuki, Y., Bishop, J., Pollard, D., Carpenter, K.E., Kaymaram, F., Hartmann, S., Abdulqader, E., Hassan-Al-Khalf, K., Alam, S., Liao, W., Shao, K., Alnazry, H. & Jassim Kawari, A. 2014. Rhabdosargus sarba. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. . Downloaded on 16 November 2014.

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

Munro. 1949. Revision of Australian silver breams Mylio and Rhabdosargus. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 12(4): 182-223.

Ogilby, J.D. 1893. Edible Fishes and Crustaceans of New South Wales. Sydney : Government Printer 212 pp. 51 pls.

Potter, I.C. & Hyndes, G.A. 1999. Characteristics of the ichthyofaunas of southwestern Australian estuaries, including comparisions with holarctic estuaries elsewhere in temperate Australia: A review. Australian Journal of Ecology 24: 395–421.

Smith, K., Brown, J., Howard, A. & Stadler, M. 2012. South Coast nearshore and estuarine finfish resources status report, pp. 266-278. In: W.J. Fletcher & K. Santoro (eds). Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2011/2012: The State of the Fisheries. Perth, WA.

Tanaka, F. & Y. Iwatsuki. 2013. Rhabdosargus niger (Perciformes: Sparidae), a new sparid species from Indonesia, with taxonomic status of the nominal species synonymized under Rhabdosargus sarba. Ichthyological Research 60: 343-352.

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

Yeung, W.S. & S.T. Chan. 1987. The gonadal anatomy and sexual pattern of the protandrous, sex reversing fish, Rhabdosargus sarba (Teleostei: Sparidae). Journal of Zoology 212(3): 521-532.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37353013

Biology:Capable of changing sex

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-60 m

Fishing:Sports fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:80 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map