Slender Squirrelfish (species: Neoniphon sammara) in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Neoniphon sammara
Slender Squirrelfish

©Andy Lewis: An adult Slender Squirrelfish

©Graham Edgar: Neoniphon sammara in the Lizard Island lagoon.

©Andy Lewis: A group of Neoniphon sammara aggregating over Acropora coral at Watsons Bay
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Beryciformes
Family Holocentridae
Genus Neoniphon
Species Neoniphon sammara



Distinguishing features

A small to medium sized fish with very large eyes. The body is gold above, fading to white below, with a series of maroon lines running horizontally along the flanks. The large black spot at the front of the dorsal fin is a diagnostic character. During the daytime usually seen singly or in small groups hovering head down near or in caves and coral overhangs.


  • Up to 32 cm (Standard length)

Depth range

  • Depth range data is not yet available.



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

Areas of branching coral are the daytime resting sites. Roams over the reef at night time to feed.

Can be found in most locations around the island, although prefers lagoonal areas.


An active nocturnal predator on large crustacean zooplankton such as crab and shrimp larvae, these fish rest near shelter during the day and are quite shy. They reach maturity at about 6 years of age. The liver of these fishes contains exceptionally high levels of zinc, which seems to be related to the normal metabolic processes. Squirrelfishes communicate with sounds underwater, using muscles to vibrate the swimbladder.

Web resources


References that assist with identification

  • Randall, J.E., G.R. Allen and R.C. Steene (1990). Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Other references

  • Caley, M.J. (1991). Mechanisms of coexistence in communities of coral-reef fishes, Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney. LIRS catalog number 307.
  • Caley, M.J. (1995). Reef fish community structure and dynamics: in interaction between local and larger-scale processes? Marine Ecology Progress Series, 129: 19-29. LIRS catalog number 448.
  • View all references