Sunday, 2 January 2011

Spotted handfish, the fish that walks

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lophiiformes
Family: Brachionichthyidae
Genus: Brachionichthys
Species: Brachionichthys hirsutus
Common Names: Spotted handfish, Prickly-skinned Handfish, Tortoiseshell Fish

The Spotted Handfish is a rare and endangered fish that belongs to the Brachionichthyidae family. It can only be found in south-eastern Australia and more specifically in the lower Derwent River estuary, Frederick Henry Bay, D'Entrecasteaux Channel and the northern Storm Bay regions. This strange animal actually prefers to use its "hands" to "walk" instead of just swimming!

Spotted Handfish Description 
The spotted handfish is a benthic (living in the sea bottom) animal usually found walking in coarse to fine silt and sand at depths of 5-10 meters although have been reported sightings of the animal to depths of up to 30 meters. They are really slow animals that can easily be approached. Their pinkish to white body is covered by small spines and black, brown and orange spots with orange borders. These markings are different from individual to individual.

The handfish has a really small size and it can reach up to 12cm in length. It has highly adapted pectoral fins that look like hands, which are used for walking on the sea floor.

Spotted Handfish Diet 
Their diet consists of crustaceans, polychaete worms and small shells.

Spotted Handfhish Reproduction 
Spawning takes place from September to October. Females lay about 80–250 eggs on various vertical objects including:
  • Sea grasses 
  • Sponges 
  • Stalked ascidians 
  • Macrophytic algae 
  • Polychaete worm tubes 
It is believed that females reach sexual maturity after 2 to 3 years of age.

Spotted Handfish Conservation Status 
The Spotted Handfish has been classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List 2002 as well as the ASFB Threatened Fishes Committee. Currently it is protected by Tasmanian law and the Common wealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The main factors responsible for their continuous decline are believed to be the following:
  • Predation and fishing
  • Habitat modification 
  • Heavy metal contamination 
  • Reduced numbers of benthic organisms which are suitable for egg mass attachment 
  • The increasing numbers of the Electroma georgiana oyster that attaches itself to its egg masses. 
However it should be noted that these are just assumptions as no real research has ever been performed on

I found only one video featuring the spotted Handfish . Actually I am not sure if it is the Spotted Handfish or some other "walking" fish because the video quality is quite bad..  .Please let me know if you have found a better video by posting a comment !


  1. i dont think its the spotted handfish, its body is round compared to the picture above.

  2. I have helped alot though!!

  3. Wow so true!

  4. The fish in the video is a frogfish

    1. Indeed, the video features another species of fish. Removed and replaced with a proper video