Animal Species:Red Morwong, Cheilodactylus fuscus (Castelnau, 1879)

The Red Morwong is common in coastal New South Wales waters, where it is seen regularly by divers.

Standard Common Name

Red Morwong


The Red Morwong can be recognised by its colouration and extended lower pectoral fin rays. Adults are orange-brown to dark brown above and pale below. Small juveniles are silvery with dark bands crossing the upper sides and dorsal fin.

Adults have large fleshy lips and a forked caudal fin. There are horn-like bumps in front of the eyes.

The Red Morwong occasionally has a banded pattern and looks similar to the Banded Morwong. The lack of bumps on the front of the head in the Banded Morwong can be used to separate the two species.

Size range

It grows to 65 cm in length.


The Red Morwong occurs in warm temperate waters of Australia and New Zealand. In Australia it is known from southern Queensland to eastern Victoria. It is common in 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.

Cheilodactylus fuscus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Red Morwong specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


Adults are usually seen in aggregations on rocky reefs to about 30 m in depth. Juveniles live on algae covered reefs.

The video below shows typical habitat for the species in the Sydney area.

Feeding and Diet

Kuiter (2000) states "They (morwongs) feed on worms and small invertebrates which are filtered through the gills from randomly-taken mouthfuls of sand or matter scraped from the rocks".

Other behaviours and adaptations

Red Morwongs are commonly seen resting on the bottom, perched on their long thickened pectoral fin rays.



What does this mean?


  1. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. in Gomon, M.F., J.C.M. Glover & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.

Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Red Morwong, Cheilodactylus fuscus, Cheilodactylidae, red, pink, black, 'normal fish', 30 cm - 1 m, blotches/mottled, rocky reef, marine, adult,