Animal Species:Tommyfish, Limnichthys fasciatus (Waite, 1904)

The Tommyfish has a series of dark blotches on the back that give the fish a banded pattern.The species occurs in shallow tropical and temperate marine waters of the Western Pacific and Australia.

Tommyfish, Limnichthys fasciatus

Tommyfish, Limnichthys fasciatus
Photographer: Sascha Schulz © Sascha Schulz

Standard Common Name


Alternative Name/s

Barred Sand Burrower, Sand-diver, Striped Sand-diver.


The Tommyfish is an elongate fish that has a pointed snout and upwardly directed eyes. It can be recognised by its colouration. There is a series of dark blotches on the back that give the fish a banded pattern. It is pale below.

This species was described in 1904 by former Australian Museum Fish Curator, Edgar Ravenswood Waite. The syntypes are stored in the Australian Museum Fish Collection (AMS I.5854, I.5855, I.5856 and I.5858).

The Tommyfish looks similar to the Elegant Sandburrower, Limnichthys nitidus. They can be separated by the number of soft dorsal fin rays (49-55 in L. fasciatus vs. 44-51) and some of the dorsal saddles reaching a distinct lateral band versus no saddles reaching a lateral band.

Size range

The Tommyfish grows to 6 cm in length.


The species occurs in shallow tropical and temperate marine waters of the Western Pacific, including Australia, New Zealand, the Kermadec Islands and possibly Japan.

In Australia it is known from southern Western Australia to north-western Western Australia and the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, south to the southern coast of New South Wales and Lord Howe Island.

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.

Limnichthys fasciatus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Tommyfish specimens in the Australian Museum.

What does this mean?


It is usually found on sandy or gravely substrates near rocky reefs.

Other behaviours and adaptations

The Tommyfish can very rapidly bury itself in sandy substrates.



What does this mean?


  1. Glover, C.J.M. 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.
  2. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  3. Nelson, J.S. 2001. Creediidae (=Limnichthyidae). Sandburrowers. p. 3513-3514. In K.E. Carpenter and V. Niem (eds.) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vol. 6. Bony fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles. FAO, Rome.
  4. 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, Tommyfish, Limnichthys fasciatus, Creediidae, yellow, brown, long and skinny, < 10 cm, countershaded, blotches/mottled, rocky reef, marine, adult,