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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes
Freckled goatfish
Upeneus tragula
Family Mullidae
updated Sep 2020

Where seen? This well-camouflaged fish is sometimes seen on silty sandy shores near seagrasses. It may be common but just overlooked. It is considered the most widespread goatfish in the tropical Indo-Pacific.

What are goatfishes? Goatfishes belong to Family Mullidae. According to FishBase: the family has 6 genera and 55 species in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

Fish Goatee: Goatfishes have two long barbels on the chin, which contain chemosensory organs and are used to probe the sand or holes in the reef for bottom-dwelling animals or small fish. The barbels are also used by males during courtship of females. When not in use, the barbels are tucked away tightly under the chin. These fishes can change their colours with mood and during the day and night. Juveniles may look very different from adults.

Pair of barbels under the chin
Changi, Jun 13

Pulau Senang, Aug 10

Features: The Freckled goatfish is up to 30cm long, those seen about 4-8cm long. Body long and somewhat cylindrical, with a blunt snout. The pair of barbels under the chin is hard to spot from above on a resting fish. Those seen tend to have broad dark bars across the body. In some, the forked tail had darkish bands.

Accounts suggest the Freckled goatfish comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns. From red, to irregular dots and blotches on body; brown-blackish stripe from snout to tail fin. Adults with dark tips on both dorsal fins and typically with several yellow spots in the dark tip of the first dorsal fin. When resting on the bottom, they tend to be red and spotted, both during day or night. When swimming about to feed, they are light colored with a black stripe along the body. It is also called the Bar-tailed goatfish and Black-striped goatfish.

What does it eat?
It feeds on bottom dwelling such as worms, shrimps, crabs, snails and clams, echinoderms and little fishes.

Human uses: Large ones are eaten as food fish.

Freckled goatfishes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Beting Bronok, Aug 15
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Terumbu Raya, Sep 19
Photo shared by Kelvin Yong on facebook.

Kusu Island, Apr 17
Photo shared by Ian Siah on facebook.

Big Sisters Island, Oct 19
Photo shared by Vincent Choo on facebook.

Cyrene, Apr 24
Photo shared by Kelvin Yong on facebook.

Pulau Semakau, Aug 14
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Terumbu Pempang Tengah, May 11
Photo shared by Ivan Kwan on flickr.

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

  Family Mullidae
  Mulloichthys auriflamma=**Parupeneus forsskali

Parupeneus cyclostomus
Parupeneus trifasciatus

Upeneus luzoniscus=**Upeneus sundaicus
Upeneus sulphureus
(Sulphur goatfish)
Upeneus sundaicus
Upeneus tragula
(Freckled goatfish)
Upeneus vittatus



  • 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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