Animal Species:Ringscale Triplefin, Enneapterygius atrogulare (Gunther, 1873)

The Ringscale Triplefin is a small, cryptic species that has three dorsal fins.

Ringscale Triplefin at 'The Pipeline'

Ringscale Triplefin at 'The Pipeline'
Photographer: David and Leanne Atkinson © David and Leanne Atkinson

Standard Common Name

Ringscale Triplefin

Alternative Name/s

Ring-scale Triplefin, Black Triple-fins, Eastern Australian Blackhead Triplefin, Eastern White-barred Threefin, Ringed Triplefin, Saddled Triplefin


The Ringscale Triplefin has a pointed snout and eyes placed high on the head. It has three separate dorsal fins (as do all fishes in the family Tripterygiidae), hence its common name.

Male and female Ringscale Triplefins look very different. Males are orange with white saddles on the back and a black head. Females are mottled brown with pale saddles on the back.

The species is often listed in publications as Enneapterygius annulatus (Ramsay & Ogilby, 1887).

Size range

5 cm


The species endemic to Australia. It occurs from northern Queensland to southern 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.

Enneapterygius atrogulare

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Ringscale Triplefin specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


The species occurs in estuarine and marine waters.



What does this mean?


  1. Fricke, R. 1997. Tripterygiid fishes of the western and central Pacific, with descriptions of 15 new species, including an annotated checklist of world Tripterygiidae (Teleostei). Koeltz Scientific Books. Pp. 607.
  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. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180. (as Enneapterygius annulatus )
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Crawford House Press. Pp. 437.
  5. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  6. 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 fishes, ichthyology, Enneapterygius atrogulare, Ringscale Triplefin, Tripterygiidae, red, black, white, green, 'noral fish', < 10 cm, stripes or bands, marine, adult,


Mark McGrouther - 8.03 AM, 15 March 2010

Hi Graham,  Thank you for submitting the image.  The Ringscale Triplefin is restricted to the east coast.  I believe that the fish in your image is the Blackhead Threefin, Enneapterygius larsonae.  This species occurs from south-western Western Australia to the Northern Territory.

GrahamMc - 4.03 PM, 12 March 2010
All of my reference books, and the Australian Museum website, show that the distribution of the fish Ring-scale Triplefin (Enneapterygius atrogulare) is along the East coast of Australia. I think I have identified it in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia,although it could be the Western White-barred Threefin (Norfolkia sp) . Please could you check the identification of the fish in the attached image taken on 28 Feb 2010 at a depth of 3m~5m (I've had to drop the resolution to 72dpi in order to upload it). Assuming it is the Ring-scale Triplefin, do you know of any other reported sightings from Western Australia?

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