Spinefoots


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Spinefoots or rabbit fishes are members of the Siganidae family. They are found in the Indo-Pacific and eastern Mediterranean oceans, living in shallow coastal waters to a depth of 50 meters. They can be recognized based on pelvic fins with 2 spines (one strong inner and one outer spine, with 3 soft rays in between).

Spinefoots are diurnal herbivores that feed on benthic algae. They can be found living in pairs or in school of up to 15 fishes. They have very sharp, stout and venomous spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. The spines can cause a very sharp pain, bleed and numbness but not fatal. Handling of the fish with hand is done by holding the gill covers.

Rabbit fish is used for praying during the Chinese New Year in the month of January or February. They are said to taste best during the Chinese New Year which otherwise is bitter in taste and pungent in smell.

There is only a single genus and 32 species worldwide. In Malaysia there are 17 species of spinefoots.


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Scientific Name: Siganus canaliculatus  (Park, 1797)
English Name: White-spotted Spinefoot, Rabbit fish
Mandarin Name | 鱼类中文名: 白肚鱼 (Bái dù yú), 拜年鱼(Bài nián yú), 长鳍篮子鱼 (Zhǎng qí lánzi yú)
Local Malay Name: Ikan Capok, Dingkis, Dengkis, Ketang Surat
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาสลิดทะเลจุดขาว (Plā s̄lid thale cud k̄hāw), ปลาสลิดหินจุดขาว (Plā s̄lid h̄in cud k̄hāw)
Local Hokkien: Peh Tor, Bai Jia Heurr
Local Teochew: Pek Touw, Bai Jia Hu
Main Identification Features: Body compressed, moderately slender. Breast in front of pelvic fins without scales. Numerous pale bluish to whitish spots. Colour of body highly variable, affected by mood of fish, commonly greenish grey to yellow brown. Dark eye-sized spot usually just behind upper end of gill opening. A narrow bar along upper edge of gill cover.
Size: Maximum total length 40 cm, commonly to 20 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Seagrass and sandy bottoms, to 50 m depth. Form large schools. School size reduce with age. Feed by scraping algae from rocks and corals and to a lesser extent on seagrasses.
Remarks: Venomous spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. Can cause sharp pain, bleed and numbness.






Scientific Name: Siganus fuscescens  (Houttuyn, 1782)
English Name: Mottled Spinefoot, Rabbit fish
Mandarin Name | 鱼类中文名: 白肚鱼 (Bái dù yú), 拜年鱼(Bài nián yú), 褐篮子鱼 (Hè lánzi yú)
Local Malay Name: Ikan Capok, Dingkis, Dengkis Turus
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาสลิดทะเลจุดขาว (Plā s̄lid thale cud k̄hāw)
Local Hokkien: Peh Tor, Bai Jia Heurr
Local Teochew: Pek Touw, Bai Jia Hu
Main Identification Features: Body compressed, fairly slender. Body olive green or brown above, silvery below; become mottled when frightened. A dark patch below origin of lateral line.
Size: Maximum total length 40 cm, commonly to 25 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Seagrass and sandy bottoms, to 50 m depth. Form large schools. School size quickly reduce with age. Adults feed on brown and green algae, juveniles on filamentous algae and seagrasses.
Remarks: Venomous spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. Can cause sharp pain, bleed and numbness.






Scientific Name: Siganus guttatus  (Bloch, 1787)
English Name: Goldlined Spinefoot
Local Malay Name: Ikan Dengkis, Dengkis Tompok Oren
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาสลิดทะเลจุดส้ม (Plā s̄lid h̄in cud s̄̂m)
Main Identification Features: Body deep, silvery blue with large brownish orange spots. Head golden with bluish lines from mouth to eye and on cheek.
Size: Maximum total length 42 cm, commonly to 25 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Soft and rocky bottoms, to 35 m depth. Form schools. Feed on benthic algae. Unlike other siganids, the species is active at night.
Remarks: Venomous spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. Can cause sharp pain, bleed and numbness.






Scientific Name: Siganus javus  (Linnaeus, 1766)
English Name: Streaked Spinefoot, Java Rabbit Fish
Mandarin Name | 鱼类中文名: 泥孟 (Ní mèng), 臭肚 (Chòu dù),爪哇篮子鱼 (Zhǎo wā lán zi yú)
Local Malay Name: Ikan Capok, Dengkis Jawa
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาสลิดหินลายขาว (Plā s̄lid h̄in lāy k̄hāw), ปลาสลิดทะเลลายขาว (Plā s̄lid thale lāy k̄hāw)
Main Identification Features: Ventral area in front of pelvic fins scaled. Body brownish grey above with many silvery bluish spots joined to form wavy lines on lower sides. Caudal fin dusky. Cheek often yellowish.
Size: Size: Maximum total length 55 cm, commonly to 30 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Soft and rocky bottoms, to 25 m depth. Adults form small schools of up to around 10 individuals. Feed on bottom-growing algae and seaweeds.
Remarks: Venomous spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. Can cause sharp pain, bleed and numbness.








Scientific Name: Siganus virgatus  (Valenciennes, 1835)
English Name: Barhead spinefoot, Two Barred Rabbitfish
Local Malay Name: Ikan Dengkis, Dengkis Kepala Jalur
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาสลิดทะเลคอแดง (Plā s̄lid thale khodæng), ปลาสลิดหินแถบกว้าง (Plā s̄lid h̄in t̄hæb kŵāng)
Main Identification Features: Body deep. Breast in front of pelvic fins scaled. 2 dark brown oblique bands on head and anterior body.
Size: Size: Maximum total length about 33 cm, commonly 20 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Coral reefs and adjacent sandy areas, to 12 m depth.Tolerates murky waters and reported to enter even fresh water. Often found in groups or pairs. Feed on benthic seaweeds.
Remarks: Venomous spines on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. Can cause sharp pain, bleed and numbness.





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