Robust jawfish


This fish has a black spot on the dorsal fin, between the third or fourth and eighth spines followed by two large, irregular, dark blotches that extend onto body, and a blackish streak on the cheek bordering upper edge of the mouth.

Scientific Name: Opistognathus muscatensis
Common Name: Robust jawfish, smiler
Family: Opistognathidae
Size: Up to 47 cm. Common length 30 cm


Their distribution is in the Western Indian Ocean: Persian Gulf and Red Sea, along the East Africa down to KwaZulu-Natal.


These fish live on sand and gravel bottoms 15 to 50 m deep. They live in burrows which they excavate by using their capacious mouths to carry the sand and pebbles. The vertical shaft of the burrow is lined and reinforced with small pebbles and shell fragments, and connects to a lower chamber into which the fish can retreat when threatened by a predator. Jawfish are usually seen sitting in the mouth of their burrow or hovering just above it.


Juveniles and adults feed on zooplankton; the adults' diet also includes benthic invertebrates and fish.


These fish spawn in pairs. After fertilising the eggs, the male picks them up in his mouth; the eggs are kept in the mouth until the larvae hatch several days later.


This species is occasionally encountered in the fish market and its flesh is reported to be relatively good. It is taken incidentally in bottom trawls and by hook and line between 30 and 50 metres.


Daily bag limit: not available
Minimum size limit: not available
Closed Season: none
Other Regulations: none
SASSI: not listed


No conservation efforts have been undertaken for this species.