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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes
Family Centriscidae
updated Sep 2019

Where seen? This strange vertical fish are sometimes seen on some of our shores at low tide, in deep pools such as in swimming lagoons, among coral rubble or in seagrass meadows. Elsewhere, they may be found in muddy bottoms near mangroves to inshore reefs.

What are razorfishes?
Razorfishes belong to Family Centriscidae. According to FishBase: there are 5 genera and 15 species, and these are found in the Indo-Pacific. They are sometimes also called Shrimpfishes, probably because at first glance they look more like shrimps than fishes.

Usually 6-10cm, up to 15cm long. Body flat, knife-like and covered in transparent thin plate-like armour that are extensions of the vertebrate. The first dorsal spine is long and sharp and located at the end of the body. There are two short spines next to it. In razorfishes of the genus Aoeliscus the dorsal spine is hinged, and thus moveable. When the spine is bent, it looks like the fish broke its tail. While in those of the genus Centriscus, the dorsal spine is fixed and rigid.

The colouration may change depending on their surroundings but is usually silvery with a broad band along the body length. Colours seen include blackish, brown, yellowish and pale silvery.

The fishes usually hangs head down in small synchronised groups, often among the spines of large sea urchins such as the Long-spined sea urchin (Diadema sp.) or over branching hard corals and sea whips. But they do swim horizontally and can make a swift getaway.

One, next to a sea fan.
Tuas, Jun 15

In a group, head down.
Pulau Hantu, Feb 06

Tanah Merah, Jun 12

Cyrene, May 08

Hinged dorsal spine.
What do they eat? Razorfishes eat tiny planktonic crustaceans, sucking these up with the small toothless mouth. The mouth is at the tip of a long, tube-like snout.

Human uses: These bizarre fishes are sometimes taken for the live aquarium trade. Some species are harvested and ground up into fishmeal.

Status and threats: Like other marine creatures, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Over-collection by hobbyists may also affect local populations.

Razorfishes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Tanah Merah, Aug 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

Tanah Merah, Oct 09
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on his flickr.

Labrador, Sep 19
Photo shared by Liz Lim on facebook.

Kusu Island, Jul 11
Photo shared by James Koh on flickr.

Pulau Hantu, Aug 15
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Terumbu Raya, Jun 15
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Terumbu Semakau, Nov 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Beting Bemban Besar, May 17
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Family Centriscidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.

  Family Centriscidae
  Aeoliscus strigatus (Longspined razorfish)

Centriscus scutatus



  • Toh Chay Hoon. 7 March 2015. Longspine razorfish (Aeoliscus strigatus) at Pulau Hantu. 7 Mar 2014. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 63
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • 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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