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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes > Family Scatophagidae
Spotted scat
Scatophagus argus
Family Scatophagidae
updated Oct 2016

if you learn only 3 things about it ...
It is more commonly seen near mangroves.
It is popular among anglers and as food.
It has sharp poisonous spines. Don't handle it!

Where seen? This odd-shaped fish is sometimes seen in muddy and seagrass areas near mangroves or along the coasts. Also under jetties. It can tolerate freshwater so it's sometimes also seen near moonsoon drains.

What are scats?
Scats belong to Family Scatophagidae. According to FishBase: the family has 2 genera and 4 species. These fishes are found in the Indo-Pacific region in fresh, brackish and marine habitats.

10-30cm long. Body flattened sideways with a somewhat rectangular shape. Has small scales. Small mouth on a rounded snout. Eyes are relatively large. It has sharp spines on the first dorsal fins that are believed to contain venom glands and can prick painfully. The body is generally white to yellowish or greenish with dark round spots on the sides. Juveniles have a few large roundish blotches about the size of the eye with 5-6 broad, dark vertical bars. In large adults, the spots may be faint.

What does it eat? It eats detritus and algae from the sea bottom as well as worms, insects and small crustaceans. It also eats droppings of other animals including ours. Its scientific name 'scatophagus' means 'shit-eater'.

Human uses: Spotted scats are a popular catch among anglers. They are also marketed fresh and as live fish for the table. Juveniles are said to be popular aquarium fish. According to FishBase, it is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Status and threats: Our Spotted scats are not listed among the threatened animals of Singapore. However, like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Over-fishing can also affect local populations.

Chek Jawa, Oct 03

Chek Jawa, Jan 10

Tanah Merah, May 10

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

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

Spotted scats on Singapore shores

Photos of Spotted scats for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Beting Bronok, Jun 14
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Pulau Sekudu, Jul 16
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

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

  Family Scatophagidae
  Scatophagus argus (Spotted scat)

  • 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.
  • Lieske, Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral Reef Fishes of the World Periplus Editions. 400pp.
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