Animal Species:Common Black Dragonfish, Idiacanthus atlanticus Brauer, 1906

The Black Dragonfishes are long, slender fishes which live in mesopelagic to bathypelagic waters down to depths of about 2000 m.

Head of a Common Black Dragonfish

Head of a Common Black Dragonfish
Photographer: Mark McGrouther © NORFANZ founding parties

Standard Common Name

Common Black Dragonfish

Alternative Name/s

Atlantic Dragonfish, Black Dragonfish


The Black Dragonfishes are long, slender fishes that are sexually dimorphic. The top two images show a female with its small eyes, chin barbel, and long fang-like teeth. The male is much smaller. It lacks teeth, lacks the chin barbel, has a non-functional gut, and is dark brown rather than black.

The species has tiny photophores scattered over its body and two rows of larger photophores along the side of the body. The chin barbel of the female has a a slender luminous tip. This may be used to attract prey.

Larval Black Dragonfishes are most unusual. They are long, slender, transparent fishes that have their eyes at the ends of long stalks which can be up to half the length of the body.

Size range

Females grow to 40 cm in length, but males reach a maximum length of only 5 cm.


The species occurs in subtropical and temperate marine waters of the southern hemisphere. The subfamily Idiacanthinae contains three species, two of which, Idiacanthus fasciola Peters, 1877 and Idiacanthus atlanticus occur in Australian waters.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Idiacanthus atlanticus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Black Dragonfish specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


Black Dragonfishes live in mesopelagic to bathypelagic waters down to depths of about 2000 m.

Feeding and Diet

It eats mostly other fishes.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Like many deepsea fishes, the Common Black Dragonfish has photophores that can produce light.



What does this mean?


  1. Brauer, A. 1906. Die Tiefsee-Fische. I. Systematischer Teil. In: C. Chun. Wissenschaftl. Ergebnisse der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition "Valdivia," 1898-99. Jena. v. 15: 1-432, Pls. 1-18.
  2. Gomon, M.F & E.M. Robertson. in Gomon, M.F, C.J.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  3. Harold, A.S. 1999. Idiacanthidae. in Carpenter, K.E. & V.H. Niem (Eds). FAO Species Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. Volume 3. Batoid fishes, chimaeras and bony fishes part 1 (Elopidae to Linophrynidae). FAO, Rome. Pp. iii-vi, 1398-2068.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fish, ichthyology, Black Dragonfish, Idiacanthus atlanticus, deepsea, mesopelagic, bathypelagic, photophores, Stomiidae, long and skinny, mesopelagic water, bathypelagic water, Atlantic Dragonfish, fang-like teeth, black, dark brown, unusual larvae, females 30 cm - 1 m, males < 10 cm, subtropical waters, temperate waters, marine,