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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes > Family Callionymidae
Smallhead dragonet
Callionymus erythraeus

Family Callionymidae
updated Sep 2020

Where seen? This little fish with a permanent pout is often seen on Changi, sometimes seen on our Northern shores, on sandy areas near seagrasses. Well camouflaged on the sand, it is hard to spot. It is more active at night.

Those seen about 5cm, grows to about 10cm. Body somewhat flattened downwards. Head broad and flat with a narrow pointed mouth so that the head appears triangular when seen from above. The mouth can stick out downwards forming a tube and the upper jaw can be greatly extended. Large eyes are set high on the head. Gill openings reduced to small pores on the top of the broad head. It has a pattern of spots that blend well with the sand, usually beige with indistinct dusky spots. But sometimes with colourful blue spots too. It is white on the underside. In the male, the first three spines of the dorsal fin are greatly elongated into filaments. The females lack this.

According to Ng, it lacks a distinct dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin and anal-fin rays. It is otherwise distinguished from the other dragonets of Singapore in having a sharply delineated wavy line separating the colour pattern on the upper and lower surfaces of the body, dark markings on the anal fin, and the first dorsal fin of males with elongate second, third, and fourth fin rays. The females lack this.

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

Changi, Jul 09

Changi, Jun 13

Changi, Jun 09

Underside of a dead specimen.
Tanah Merah, Oct 09

Smallhead dragonets on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

East Coast Park, Aug 18
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Changi, Jun 20
Photo shared by Dayna Cheah on facebook.

Tiny, about 1cm.
Changi, Aug 12
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Grateful thanks to Dr Ng Heok Hee for correcting the identification of these fishes.



  • Ng, H. H., 2012. The dragonets of Singapore (Actinopterygii: Perciformes: Callionymidae). Nature in Singapore, 5: 27-38. [PDF, 1.55 MB]
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