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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes > Family Callionymidae
Kuiter's dragonet
Dactylopus kuiteri

Family Callionymidae
updated Sep 2020

Where seen? This little curious fish with a flag on its back is sometimes seen on some of our Southern shores. Elsewhere, they are considered common on shallow shetltered mud-sand flats, especially among seagrasses. Also in estuaries and deep water. They are usually buried during the day. Juveniles usually seen alone, adults may be seen in pairs or small groups.

Those seen on the intertidal about 2-3cm, grows to 15cm long. A portion of the dorsal fin is large and flag-like, which can be raised like a finger. The pelvic fins which are fan-like with the first ray detached from the rest of the fin. Body cylindrical and not very flat, pale with brown saddles which have bright bluish spots. Head broad and flat with a narrow pointed mouth so that the head appears triangular when seen from above. Fins dark, anal fins with bright blue spots.

According to Kelvin Lim, juveniles have proportionally taller dorsal fins with a prominent yellow edged eye-spot on the first dorsal fin. Small juveniles around 2 cm are white with orange bars on the head and nape.

Sometimes confused with the Fingered dragonet (Dactylopus dactylopus). Both Fingered and Kuiter's dragonets have the first pelvic fin ray separated from the rest of the pelvic fin. The fingered dragonet differs in having long filamentous rays on the first dorsal fin and distinct stripes on the second dorsal fin.

Sometimes mistaken for flatheads (Family Platycephalidae). Here's more on how to tell apart fish with flat heads.

Terumbu Pempang Laut, May 17
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Kusu Island, May 14
What does it eat? It feeds on molluscs, worms and crustaceans.

Human uses: May be harvested for the aquarium trade.

Kuiter's dragonets on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Cyrene Reef, Nov 17
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Cyrene Reef, May 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Kusu Island, May 14

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Cyrene Reef, May 11
Photo shared by Rene Ong on facebook.

Cyrene Reef, Apr 08
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Beting Bemban Besar, May 17
Photo shared by Dayna Cheah on facebook.

Terumbu Pempang Laut, May 17
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Pretty dragonet fish at Cyrene Reef from Loh Kok Sheng on Vimeo.



  • Kelvin K. P. Lim, Neo Mei Lin, Debby Ng & Toh Chay Hoon. 17 April 2014. New record of Kuiter’s dragonet from Singapore. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 103-104
  • Ng, H. H., 2012. The dragonets of Singapore (Actinopterygii: Perciformes: Callionymidae). Nature in Singapore, 5: 27-38. [PDF, 1.55 MB]
  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
  • Kuiter, Rudie H. 2002. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
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