Animal Species:Fanbelly Leatherjacket, Monacanthus chinensis (Isbeck, 1765)

The Fantail Leatherjacket is generally has light to medium brown tones but is able to alter to a darker to blend in with certain environments.

Standard Common Name

Fanbelly Leatherjacket

Alternative Name/s

Fan-bellied Leatherjacket, Fantail Leatherjacket


The Fantail Leatherjacket can be recognised by the large skin flap on the belly, the concave snout profile, the caudal filament, and by the triangular profile of the back.

It is cream to brown with brown blotches and mottling on the body, and brown bands on the caudal fin. When swimming above mussel beds, or crinoids, it can assume a dark colouration.

Size range

The species grows to 40 cm in length.


The Fantail Leatherjacket occurs throughout the Western Pacific.

In Australia it is known from tropical and temperate waters from south-western Western Australia, around the north of the country and south to the southern coast of New South Wales.

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.

Monacanthus chinensis

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Fanbelly Leatherjacket specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


It occurs in depths from 5 m to 50 m. It is commonly seen by divers in rocky and weedy areas, but is also caught in deeper waters by trawlers.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Allen, G.R. & R. Swainston. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 201.
  3. Edgar, G.J. 1997. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Reed Books. Pp. 544.
  4. Hutchins, J.B. 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.
  5. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  6. Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
  7. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  8. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags ichthyology, Fan-bellied Leatherjacket, Monacanthus chinensis, weed, seaweed, seagrass, kelp, ecklonia, Monacanthidae, fishes, cream, brown, flatfish, 30 cm - 1 m, blotches/mottled, marine, brown blotches, yellow, black, white,