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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes > Family Siganidae
White-spotted rabbitfish
Siganus canaliculatus
Family Siganidae
updated Oct 2020

Where seen? This spiny fish is commonly seen on many of our shores, especially among seagrasses, sometimes in groups of a few small individuals. It is also sometimes seen on our Southern shores. Juveniles may school in large numbers, the numbers reducing as the fishes grow bigger. Adults may be found in large groups at spawning time.

Features: Can be quite small (about 8cm or less) to quite large (about 15cm). It is named for its rabbit-like snout ('siganus' means 'has a nose like a rabbit') or possibly for its habit of grazing on seaweeds. It is also called Spinefoot after the spines on its pelvic fins, a unique feature of this family. It has tiny scales. Sometimes with a dark round blotch behind the gill cover. Especially young ones, with a white bar across the forehead from eye to eye. Body colours vary with its mood and is generally olive with many prominent white spots all over. When it is scared, it displays a 'fright pattern' that is mottled with pale cream and 6-7 dark diagonal bars.

Siganus fuscescens
may appear very similar but the body colour generally more uniform, usually lacks or has much fewer spots and the edge of the gill cover is darkly outlined.

Dark blotch behind the gill cover.
Changi, Jun 09

Kusu Island, May 10

Painful sting! The rabbitfish has spines on its fins that are grooved and contain venom glands. These spines may be found on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. The sting of these spines can be quite painful to humans, but is generally not fatal. The fishes use their spines in self-defence and not for hunting prey.

How to stay safe: Wear covered shoes. Don't handle rabbitfishes.


St. John's Island, May 06

White bar across the forehead from eye to eye.
Pulau Sekudu, Jul 09

Juveniles often seen among Sargassum.
There are two here, can you spot them?
Changi, Apr 07
What does it eat? It eats seaweeeds and to a much lesser extent, seagrasses. It is active during the day.

Human uses: This fish is highly sought after for eating during the Chinese Lunar New Year. At this time, the fishes breed and their roe are particularly relished. Called 'Pei Tor', the Chinese believe it eating it brings good luck. Other species are important foodfishes in other parts of the world. Some of the more colourful reef rabbitfishes are also collected for the aquarium trade.

White-spotted rabbitfishes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores


In a fish trap, Punggol, Nov 20
Photo shared by Vincent Choo on facebook.


Tanah Merah, Jun 08
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Tanah Merah, Jun 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his flickr.


East Coast Park, Jun 09
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Sentosa Serapong, Jul 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.


Sisters Islands, Jul 10
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Kusu Island, Sep 10
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Pulau Tekukor, May 10
Photo shared by James Koh on flickr.


Terumbu Selegie, Jun 11
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Pulau Jong, Apr 11
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.


Terumbu Semakau, Apr 13
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Terumbu Bemban, Apr 11
Photo shared by Rene Ong on facebook.

Terumbu Pempang Laut, Apr 11
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Links
References
  • 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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