What's on the move

Thornback cowfish

Lactoria fornasini

(Image credit: Australian National Fish Collection, CSIRO)

A very distinctive fish with a box-shaped body and spines on the head, dorsal and tail areas. Two spines project forward from the brow ridge, another two project backwards from underneath the tail and a single spine projects upwards from where the dorsal fin is found in other fish. The lips are small and pointed and the eyes are large and bulge outwards from the body. The tail is slender and extends from the box-like body.

Colouration varies between individuals with brown, orange and green being common. Juveniles have small spots on the body, whereas adults will have larger spots and bright blue markings in some individuals. Hexagon-like patterns are also apparent in many of the larger individuals.

The thorny-back cowfish is a wary species and will retreat when approached. It is commonly found swimming around sponges and, if disturbed, will move to the other side of a sponge then slightly poke its head around to view if the threat has disappeared.

Length: Up to 20 cm


Sponge associated in calm bays and estuaries; 1-30 m depth

Log it

In New South Wales, log if spotted south of Bate Bay

Related links/info

Species names on the Redmap site are based on the Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota or CAAB (http://www.cmar.csiro.au/caab/). This is updated regularly and lists the approved common name, family, species name and more.

Redmap species descriptions were based, with permission, on the following resources:

Fishes of Australia’s Southern Coast, Edited by M. Gomon. D. Bray and R. Kuiter (2008) Reed Books, Melbourne

Find further information and images at FISHES OF AUSTRALIA http://www.fishesofaustralia.net.au/

Number of sightings 0

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