© Johan Boshoff

Common family name



Foolfish, Leatherjackets or Shingles

Scientific name



Filefish measure 20 cm in length on average, but can be up to 110 cm.


Filefish have deep bodies, flattened on each side. The frontal part of the body is very deep which gives the fish a triangular appearance. The head narrows to the mouth, which is small and holds its incisor-like teeth. The first dorsal spine is long, and the tail fin shortened. The colour of males and females differ, and can have distinct camouflage and patterns.

General Info

Filefish belong to the Monacanthidae family which comprises of 31 genera and 95 species. They usually occur in pairs and can be found near reefs, in cracks or lagoons. The name ‘filefish’ derives from the sandpaper-like texture of its skin. Juvenile filefish hide is seagrass, and both parents will watch over the eggs which are spawned on bottom sites.


The food of filefish differs from specie to specie, and can include algae, seagrass and small invertebrates such as gorgonians and hydrozoans. Certain species only feed on corals and zooplankton.


This fish can be found in all temperate and tropical oceans across the world.

Common Species

Blacksaddle mimic filefish (Paraluteres prionurus)
Harlequin filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris)
Honeycomb filefish (Cantherhines pardalis)