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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes
Family Uranoscopidae
updated May 2018
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They have 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. 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. One genus, Astroscopus, has electric organs!

It can grow quite large. One stargazer we saw was nearly 30cm long! A stargazer is basically a bulky head with a tiny body. As its name suggests, it has bulbous eyes that stare fixedly skyward. Its scientific name is derived from the Greek 'ourannos' which means 'sky' and 'skopein' which means 'to watch'. It has a huge mouth that also faces upwards, but set in a permanent frown. 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.

What does it eat? The fish 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. 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. The prey is sucked up whole into its enormous mouth that can extend outwards. (protrusible).

Usually half buried in the sand.
Chek Jawa, Apr 03

Changi, Jul 11

Changi, Jul 11

Protrusible mouth!

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



  • 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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