Animal Species:Eastern Kelpfish, Chironemus marmoratus (Günther, 1860)

The Eastern Kelpfish has a pointed snout and a small mouth. The species occurs in shallow, often intertidal waters of eastern Australia and New Zealand.

Eastern Kelpfish at Bass Point

Eastern Kelpfish at Bass Point
Photographer: Erik Schlögl © Erik Schlögl

Standard Common Name

Eastern Kelpfish

Alternative Name/s

Smallscale Kelpfish, Hiwihiwi, Kelpfish, Large Kelpfish, Surgefish


The Eastern Kelpfish has a pointed snout and a small mouth. It has large pectoral fins with branched rays above and thickened unbranched rays below. The species is grey, brown, green or pinkish with large dark blotches on the body. There are numerous small white spots on the body and fins.

Size range

The species grows to 40 cm in length.


The species occurs in south-eastern Australia from southern Queensland to northern Tasmania and eastern Victoria. It is also known from New Zealand.

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.


Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Eastern Kelpfish specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


The Eastern Kelpfish lives in shallow marine waters between the intertidal zone and about 20 m. It is usually found in areas of high wave action or currents.

Feeding and Diet

Kelpfishes eat invertebrates.



What does this mean?


  1. Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.
  2. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen. 2006. Fishes. In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, pages 1-2178.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  4. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  5. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  6. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Kelpfish, Chironemus marmoratus, Chironemidae, grey, brown, green, pink, deep-bodied, 30 cm - 1 m, blotches/mottled, intertidal, marine, adult,


Mark McGrouther - 8.03 AM, 29 March 2010

Hi Peter,  I agree that Kelpfish can often be tempted by oversized meals on hooks.  I hadn't heard that this fish is sometimes called a 'bowtie'.  Thanks for your comment.

Narpete - 12.03 AM, 29 March 2010
These fish are a real nuisance to rock fisherman, and it is incredible how large a hook they can swallow. Some fisherman refer to them as Bowties, because when caught they hold there pectoral fins out at right angles to their body and it looks like a bow tie.
Mark McGrouther - 1.08 PM, 03 August 2009
Hi Sunny, Thanks for your comment. The Kelpfish has a one star edibility rating. In other words, it is a poor eating fish. Have you tried it?
sunnyjeng - 1.08 PM, 03 August 2009
Is it edible? What's the quality?

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