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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes > Family Ostraciidae
Longhorn cowfish
Lactoria cornuta
Family Ostraciidae
updated Oct 2019

Where seen? This strange two-pronged boxy fish is sometimes seen on some of our shores, among seagrasses. Elsewhere, it is found in shallow muddy, sandy sheltered areas, in harbours and estuaries, in weedy areas near rocks and reefs. Juveniles are said to form small groups on shallow mudflats, near river mouths and in brackish water. While adults are solitary and shy.

Features: To 40-50cm, the ones seen was about 10-15cm long. It has a cubical, boxy body which is protected by a hard shell (carapace) made up of bony plates with gaps for the various tiny fins, the tail and the mouth. The cowfish got its name for the pair of projecting 'horns' above its eyes. There is a second pair of horns sticking out of the bottom, back end of the fish. The tail fin is very long, sometimes almost as long as the body. Colours green, olive to yellowish, with dark blotches and tiny blue spots.

What does it eat? It feeds on tiny animals hidden in the sand. The fish uncovers these titbits by blowing away the sand with its downturned tubular mouth.

Human uses: Elsewhere, these amazing fishes are sadly harvested and dried to make into ornaments for the tourist trade.

Terumbu Raya, Jul 11
Photo shared by Lok Kok Sheng on his blog.
Downward pointing tubular mouth.

Tail fin very long.
Tiny fins stick out of the boxy body.
Tiny fins stick out of the boxy body.

Longhorn cowfishes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Changi, May 17
Photo shared by Lok Kok Sheng on facebook.

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

Tuas, Apr 17
Photo from Singapore Biodiversity Records 2017:97

Pulau Hantu, Jul 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Pulau Semakau, Nov 13
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Cyrene Reef, Jul 10
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on her blog.

Cyrene, Jun 20
Photo shared by Lok Kok Sheng on facebook.

Cyrene Reef, Apr 18
Photo shared by Chris Wong on facebook.



  • Lee Bee Yan & Jeremy W. L. Yeo. 28 Jul 2017. A juvenile longhorn cowfish. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2017: 97.
  • Ron Yeo. 22 November 2013. Longhorn cowfish at Semakau, Lactoria cornuta. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2013: 75.
  • 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.
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