Rudderfish, Centrolophus niger (Gmelin 1789)

Other Names: Rudder Fish

A Rudderfish, Centrolophus niger, collected during the 2003 NORFANZ Expedition to survey seamount chains in the Tasman Sea. Source: Kerryn Parkinson / NORFANZ Founding Parties. License: All rights reserved

Rudderfish are a dull dusky brown above, becoming silvery grey on the belly, with entirely greyish-brown fins, a deep brown head fading to a pale creamy pink snout, and no distinctive markings. Juveniles have two broad dark bands across the sides.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Centrolophus niger in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

Rudderfish, Centrolophus niger (Gmelin 1789)

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Continental slope off Sydney, New South Wales, around southern Australia to Northwest Shelf, Western Australia, although rarely taken along the south and west coasts; also Lord Howe Island and seamounts in the Tasman Sea. Depth range 114-1178 metres.

Elsewhere, the species is widespread in temperate waters from the North and South Atlantic, Mediterranean, Adriatic, South Africa and New Zealand


Dorsal fin (total) 37-42; Anal fin (total) 24-27; Caudal fin 17; Pectorla fin 20-23; Pelvic fin i, 5: Lateral line approx. 150; Gill rakers 5-6+1+13-15; Vertebrae 25.

Body streamlined, moderately shallow (25-30% SL), thick; caudal peduncle long, almost tubular. Head small (21-25% SL) but thick; snout very blunt;  eyes small (17-21% HL); mouth small, maxillae reaching below front of eyes, very slightly oblique; teeth fine, single row in each jaw.

Scales very small and easily dislodged; lateral line curved, about parallel to profile of back. Head and trunk covered with small pores. Pyloric caeca few, finger-like. 

Single elongate, low, fleshy dorsal fin with short soft spines grading into branched rays, origin well behind pectoral fin bases, fin highest anteriorly, outer margin slightly concave; anal fin low, of moderate length, margin slightly concave; caudal fin lunate to slightly forked. Pectoral fins small and rounded. Pelvic fins very small, thoracic.


To 1.2 metres


Dull dusky brown on back, paling to silvery grey on belly; fins entirely grey brown; head deep brown paling on snout to pale creamy pink; no distinctive markings. Juveniles with 2 broad dark bands across sides.


Rarely taken and even less so in commercial quantities but may be caught more as large powerful trawlers increasingly harvest deep continental slope waters.

Species Citation

Perca nigra Gmelin 1789, in Linnaeus (ed) Systema Naturae Vol. 1 Pt 3: 1321. Type locality: Rivers of Cornwall, England.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Atlas of Living Australia

Rudderfish, Centrolophus niger (Gmelin 1789)


Gmelin, J.F. 1789. Pisces. pp. 1126-1516 in Linnaeus, C. (ed.) Systema Naturae. Leiden : Delamollière Vol. 1 Pt 3.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Sphyraenidae to Centrolophidae. pp. 774-800 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Haedrich, R.L. 1967. The stromateoid fishes: systematics and a classification. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 135(2): 31-139. See ref at BHL

Iwamoto, T. 2015. Centrolophus niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T198571A21914161. Downloaded on 20 May 2019.

Lacépède, B.G. 1802. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : chez Plassan Vol. 4 728 pp. 16 pls.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

McDowall, R.M. 1982. The centrolophid fishes of New Zealand (Pisces : Stromateoidei). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 12(2): 103-142 figs 1-20

McDowall, R.M. 1994. Family Centrolophidae. pp. 832-838, figs 736-741 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.

Ogilby, J.D. 1893. Description of a new pelagic fish from New Zealand. Records of the Australian Museum 2(5): 64-65

Parin, N.V. & Piotrovsky, A.S. 2004. Stromateoid fishes (suborder Stromateoidei) of the Indian Ocean (species composition, distribution, biology, and fisheries). Journal of Ichthyology 44(Suppl. 1): 33-62

Stewart, A.L., Last, P.R. & Struthers, C.D. 2015. 235 Family Centrolophidae pp. 1648-1661, in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds) The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748.

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

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37445004

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:114-1178 m

Habitat:Deepwater, oceanic

Max Size:1.2 m

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