Starry Toadfish, Arothron firmamentum (Temminck & Schlegel 1847)

Other Names: Mainstay Puffer, Snowflake Puffer, Starry Toado

A Starry Toadfish, Arothron firmamentum, in Cabbage Tree Bay, Manly, New South Wales, May 2018. Source: John Sear / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

A relatively elongate dark bluish to purplish-brown prickly puffer with many pale spots, a white underside, and dusky to reddish-brown fins.

Video of Starry Toadfish at the Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka, New Zealand.
A juvenile Starry Toadfish (aka Snowflake Puffer) in an aquarium.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Arothron firmamentum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 30 Nov 2022,

Starry Toadfish, Arothron firmamentum (Temminck & Schlegel 1847)

More Info


North of Rowley Shoals, Western Australia, and from Stradbroke Island, Queensland, south to Tasmania, and west to the Great Australian Bight, South Australia, and possibly west to Hopetoun, Western Australia. Elsewhere the species has an anti-tropical distribution in the Atlantic and west-Pacific oceans.
Although Starry Toadfish often inhabit coastal waters, including estuaries (as far upstream as Roseville Bridge in Middle Harbour, Sydney), they have also been collected from depths to 360 m. Individuals form very large schools in some areas, and juveniles may associate floating algal mats.


Dorsal fin 13-15; Anal fin 13-15; Caudal fin 11; Pectoral fin 15-17. 
Body oblong in profile, rounded above and below, slightly compressed laterally; caudal peduncle of moderate depth, without lateral skinfolds; body cavity inflatable. Head of moderate size (28-32% SL); eyes of moderate size, rounded, without skinfolds, lower border above pectoral fin bases; bony interorbital space broad; chin not prominent; mouth small; teeth in each jaw fused into beak-like structure separated by medial groove; each nostril a tube divided nearly to base, posterior lobe larger, opposing surfaces of lobes spongy; gill openings confined to area just in front of pectoral fin bases.  
Scales absent; body mostly covered by small four-rooted spines, sometimes partly hidden by associated papillae; lateral line generally indistinct, but when apparent angled from back of head toward centre of caudal peduncle, without branch angled anteroventrally above anal fin or second lateral line on ventrolateral surface. 
Single fleshy small rounded, paddle-shaped dorsal fin positioned posteriorly; anal fin similar to and opposite dorsal fin; caudal fin rounded. Pectoral fins moderately small, truncate. Pelvic fins absent.


Omnivore - feeds mostly on crustaceans, and benthic and pelagic invertebrates.


This species is poisonous and should not be eaten (or fed to pets).


Often taken in large numbers as incidental by-catch during skipjack tuna purse seining off New Zealand and set nets in the Sea of Japan. Also taken in commercial trawl fisheries in southern Australia.


The specific name is from the Latin firmamentum "(= a firm object, a support, a strengthening, that which strengthens or supports). The word 'firmament' became synonymous with "sky" or "heaven" dating back to the 14th or 15th century - thus the name presumably refers to the pattern small spots resemble stars in the night sky.

Species Citation

Tetraodon firmamentum Temminck & Schlegel, 1850, Pisces, in Siebold, P.F., Fauna Japonica: 280, pl. 126, fig. 2. Type locality: Japan.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Starry Toadfish, Arothron firmamentum (Temminck & Schlegel 1847)


Abe, T. 1952. Taxonomic studies on the puffers (Tetraodontidae, Teleostei) from Japan and adjacent regions. VII. Concluding remarks, with the introduction of two new genera, Fugu and Boesemanichthys. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 2(1): 35-44 figs 1-3

Ayling, T. & Cox, G.J. 1982. Collins Guide to the Seafishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Collins 343 pp. 48 pls 475 figs.

Bulman, C., Althaus, F., He, X., Bax, N.J. & Williams, A., 2001. Diets and trophic guilds of demersal fishes of the south-eastern Australian shelf. Marine and Freshwater Research 52: 537–548.

Clarke, F.E. 1897. On two new globe-fish. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 29(16): 243-250, Pls. 14-15. (as Tetrodon gillbanksii)

De Astarloa, J.M.D., Figueroa, D.E. & Reta, R. 2003. First documented occurrence of the starry toadfish Arothron firmamentum (Teleostei: Tetraodontidae) in the south-west Atlantic. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 83(4): 879-880.

Glover, C.J.M. 1976. The starry toadfish Boesemanichthys firmamentum (Temminck & Schlegel, 1850). An addition to the fish fauna of South Australia. South Australian Naturalist 50(3): 54-56.

Hardy, G.S. 1980. Redescription of the antitropical pufferfish Arothron firmamentum (Plectognathi: Tetraodontidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 7: 115-125.

Hardy, G.S. 1994. Family Tetraodontidae. pp. 902-912, figs 795-804 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.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 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. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R. & Kuiter, S. 2018. Coastal sea-fishes of south-eastern Australia. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, 371 pp.

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

Matsuura, K. 2008. Families Ostraciidae, Tetraodontidae. pp. 842-856 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Matsuura, K. & Tyler, J.C. 1997. Tetraodontiform fishes, mostly from deep waters, of New Caledonia. pp. 173-208 in Séret, B. (ed.) Résultats des Campagnes MUSORSTOM, vol. 17. no.9. Mem. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat. 174. 

May, J.L. & Blaber, S.J.M. 1989. Benthic and pelagic fish biomass of the upper continental slope off eastern Tasmania. Marine Biology 101(1): 25.

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.

Nakashima, K., Arakawa, O., Taniyama, S., Nonaka, M., Takatani, T., Yamamori, K., Fuchi, Y. & Noguchi, T. 2004. Occurrence of saxitoxins as a major toxin in the ovary of a marine puffer Arothron firmamentum. Toxicon 43(2): 207-212.

Shao, K., Liu, M., Jing, L., Hardy, G., Leis, J.L. & Matsuura, K. 2014. Arothron firmamentum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T193822A2283115. Downloaded on 05 September 2015.

Stewart, A.L. & Roberts, C.D. 2015. 248 Family Tetraodontidae. pp. 1730-1740 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds) 2015. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748.

Temminck, C.J. & Schlegel, H. 1847. Pisces. 248-289 pls 111-128, 129 (in part) in Siebold, P. Fr de (ed.). Fauna Japonica. Leyden : Apud Arnz & Socios Vol. 4(14, 15). See ref at BHL

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37467005

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern


Depth:1-365 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:43 cm SL

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CAAB distribution map