Harlequin Fish - Busselton Jetty
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Harlequin Fish

Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty

Throughout the summer season of the 2007/08, Harlequin fish have been spotted on a daily basis. Often they are observed perched motionless on a fallen pile, or swimming close to the seafloor where they settle within a crevice. Their base colour can vary from a bright red to almost brown. Today, sighting a Harlequin Fish is an occasional occurrence from the Observatory.

Othos dentex
Harlequin Fish

The Harlequin Fish is one of the more colourful fish that inhabit temperate Australian waters, with bright blue spots marking its red and yellow body. Larger yellow spots on the lower half of the body set it apart from the similar looking tropical coral trout. This colourful pattern allows them to blend in well amongst other invertebrates on the reef.

The Harlequin Fish is endemic to Australian waters and occurs from Jurien Bay, WA to Victor Harbour, SA. They inhabit shallow rocky reefs to a depth of 30 metres and are often observed sitting motionless on the reef, waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey that come within striking distance. They are often found resting alone or in caves. Harlequin fish are quite inquisitive which made them vulnerable to spearfishing in the 1960’s and 70’s, to such an extent that current stocks have not recovered to previous levels. Harlequin fish grow to a maximum length of 76 centimetres.

Other common names include Chinese Lantern and Harlequin Rock Cod.


Edgar, G. (1997) Australian Marine Life: The Plants and Animals of Temperate Waters. Australia
Hutchins, B and Swainston, R. (1986) Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Swainston Publishing, Australia
Kuiter, R H. (1996) Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland Publishers, Australia
Morrison, S and P., Storrie, A. (2003) Beneath Busselton Jetty. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia
Morrison, S., Storrie, A. (1999) Wonders of Western Waters. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia

Image: www.underwater.com.au