Animal Species:Estuary Cobbler, Cnidoglanis macrocephalus (Valenciennes, 1840)

Estuary Cobblers have dorsal and pectoral fins with an embedded spine. These serrated spines are poisonous and the puncture wounds can be very painful. Skulls of this species are sometimes found washed up on beaches.

Standard Common Name

Estuary Cobbler

Alternative Name/s

Cobbler, Estuary Catfish, South Australian Catfish


The Estuary Cobbler is has mottled brown and yellow colour pattern. Ithas a large flattened head and a body that tapers to a pointed tail. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are continuous.  The dorsal and pectoral fins each have an embedded, serrated spine. These spines are poisonous. The species has a relatively small mouth that is surrounded by four pairs of barbels. A fifth pair of barbels is present above the snout.

Size range

The species grows to around 60 cm in length.


It occurs in temperate marine waters from southern Queensland to southern Western Australia.

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

Cnidoglanis macrocephalus


The species is usually found in estuaries and silty bays. The video below was taken in the breaker zone at a sandy beach.

Mating and reproduction

Adult males guard newly hatched larvae between the pelvic fins.

Danger to humans and first aid

The dorsal and pectoral fins each have an embedded spine. These serrated spines are poisonous. Puncture wounds from an Estuary Cobbler spine can be very painful.



What does this mean?


  1. Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.
  2. Gomon, M.F. 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.
  3. 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.
  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.
  7. Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. and Trnski, T. 1998 Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: Laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University Western Australia Press. Pp. 474.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fish, ichthyology, Estuary Catfish, Cnidoglanis macrocephalus, sandy bottom, Plotosidae, poisonous, flattened head, small mouth, barbels, blotches/mottled, brown, yellow, 30 cm - 1 m, temperate water, marine,


Mark McGrouther - 12.02 PM, 08 February 2010

Hi Will, Sure.  As stated in my previous post re Spotted Wobbegong, just email the images to me and I'll do the rest.  Thank you, Mark

Will Teo - 6.02 PM, 05 February 2010
I saw a really long estuary catfish at shelly beach in Nov last yr and also in Jan this year..can I have my photos posted? they are quite clear and the catfish i saw was about 80cm i reckon!

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