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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes > Family Uranoscopidae
Longnosed stargazer
Ichthyscopus lebeck
Family Uranoscopidae
updated Nov 2020

if you learn only 3 things about them ...
It has venomous spines! Don't touch or kick them!
Most of the fish is usually well hidden under the sand.
They lure prey towards them with a filament in their mouths.

Where seen? This bizarre pop-eyed fish is sometimes seen on our Northern shores, usually buried in sand bars and sandy shores near seagrass areas with only their tiny eyes sticking out. A large one (about 30cm) that we rescued from a fish net immediately wiggled into the wet sand, leaving only its bulbous eyes peeping out. Sometimes, dead ones are seen washed ashore.

What are stargazers? Stargazers belong to the Family Uranoscopidae. According to FishBase: the family has 8 genera and 50 species found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Although some descriptions say there are two large spines near the pectoral fins that can inject a painful toxin, others say these fishes lack any venom-injecting spines. One genus, Astroscopus, has electric organs! It is said that the fishes only emerge from hiding at night. Some species have a worm-like filament on the floor of the mouth. This bait is wriggled when the mouth is opened, to lure unwary victims to their sudden deaths.

Usually half buried in the sand.
Chek Jawa, Oct 01

Changi, Jul 11

Changi, Jul 11

Protrusible mouth!

Elongated nostrils - wormy-looking things
next to the eyes.
Features of the Longnosed stargazer: Up to 30cm long! It is basically a bulky head with a tiny body. As its name suggests, its bulbous eyes stare fixedly skyward. Its scientific name is derived from the Greek 'ourannos' which means 'sky' and 'skopein' which means 'to watch'. Its huge mouth that also faces upwards, set in a permanent frown. It is identified by diagonally elongated nostrils (looks like a pair of worms near and between the eyes). Body said canary yellow on the underside, upperside brown with irregular white round or oval spots. Pectoral and tail fins bright yellow with dark brown base.

What does it eat? The Longnosed stargazer lurks buried in sand, only its eyes peeking out and the huge mouth just beneath the sand. Here it lies in wait, for unsuspecting fishes, octopuses and squids to wander by. On its lips, there are filaments and on its nose, elongated protrusions that resemble worms. These are probably used to lure prey. The prey is sucked up whole into its enormous mouth that can extend outwards (protrusible).

Longnosed stargazers on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Was trapped in a driftnet and released alive.
Changi, Jul 11

East Coast Park, May 21
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Family Uranoscopidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
in red are those listed among the threatened animals of Singapore from Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore.
+from our observation

  Family Uranoscopidae
  +Ichthyscopus lebeck (Longnosed stargazer)

Uranoscopus cognatus
(Two-spined yellow-tail stargazer)
Uranoscopus japonicus

Grateful thanks to Kelvin K. P. Lim of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research for identifying this fish.



  • Tan Heok Hui and Chan Sow Yan. A longnose stargazer at Changi Beach. 31 January 2019. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2019: 8-9 ISSN 2345-7597. National University of Singapore.
  • Ria Tan & Kelvin K. P. Lim. 6 Dec 2013. Longnosed stargazers (Ichthyscopus lebeck) at Changi. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2013: 90-91.
  • 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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