Atlantic spadefish

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Atlantic spadefish[1]
Atlantic Spadefish PLW edit.jpg
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Superclass: Osteichthyes
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Acanthuroidei
Family: Ephippidae
Genus: Chaetodipterus
Species: C. faber
Binomial name
Chaetodipterus faber
(Broussonet, 1782)
  • Chaetodon faber Broussonet, 1782

The Atlantic spadefish (Chaetodipterus faber) is a species of marine fish belonging to the family Ephippidae.


The Atlantic spadefish has a very deep, compressed, disk-shaped body and a blunt snout. The second dorsal and anal fins of adults have long, trailing anterior lobes, giving an "angelfish-like" appearance. The body is silver in color with irregular black vertical bands that fade gradually with age. There are 4-6 black vertical bands on each side, with the first running through the eye and the last running through the caudal peduncle.[2] The mouth is small, with the maxilla of adults ending beneath the nostrils.[3] The teeth are small and brushlike, and there are no teeth on the roof of the mouth.[2][3] There are 9 dorsal spines and 21-24 soft dorsal rays, and there are 3 anal spines and 17-19 anal rays.[2][3] The fish has ctenoid scales covering the head and fins.[2] Specimens commonly weigh from 3 to 10 pounds (1.4 to 4.5 kg), although individuals as large as 20 pounds (9 kg) have been recorded.[3][4] Their maximum length is about 36 inches (91 cm).[4]


A large Atlantic spadefish caught off the coast of Virginia.

The fish feed on small, benthic invertebrates including crustaceans, mollusks, annelids, and cnidarians.[2][3] They also feed on plankton in the water column.[2]


The Atlantic spadefish inhabits marine and brackish waters typically in subtropical climates.[2] They are commonly found in shallow waters along coastlines with depths of 3–35 meters.[2] Juveniles commonly inhabit estuaries until maturity and adults prefer mangroves, beaches, and harbors.[3]

Reproduction and Life Cycle[edit]

Spawning season occurs from May to September. A female can release up to one million eggs per season.[2] The eggs hatch after 24 hours and the larvae feed on a yolk for two days before actively feeding.[2]


The species is endemic to the western Atlantic Ocean. They are commonly found in shallow waters off the coast of the southeastern United States as far north as Massachusetts, the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean.[2][3] They are also found in Bermuda and the eastern coast of Brazil.[2]

Importance to Humans[edit]

Atlantic spadefishes are not of much commercial value.[2] Due to their reputation as strong fighters, they are popular game fish, especially during the summer months when they are most active.[4][5] The Atlantic spadefish has become a popular target species for sportfishermen due to their abundance and the strong fight they have for their size. They are good table fare, especially if smoked or grilled. A common method of catching involves using small pieces of clam on a small circle hook.

Etymology and Taxonomy[edit]

Chaetodipterus faber is known by numerous colloquial names, including Atlantic spadefish, angelfish, white angelfish, threetailed porgy, ocean cobbler, and moonfish.[6][7] Their scientific name is derived from the Greek word "chaite" meaning "chair" and "dipteros" meaning "with two fins."[2] The Atlantic spadefish belongs to the genus Chaetodipterus, which includes two other species: the West African spadefish (Chaetodipterus lippei) and the Pacific spadefish (Chaetodipterus zonatus).[8] The Chaetodipterus genus belongs to the Ephippidae family, which includes spadefish and batfish.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chaetodipterus faber". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 25 June 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Chaetodipterus faber :: Florida Museum of Natural History". Retrieved 2017-05-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (2008). "Chaetodipterus faber". FishBase. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Ward, Artemas (1911). "Angel fish". Grocer's Encyclopedia. New York. 
  5. ^ Burleson, Jeff (19 June 2006). "Aces of Spades". Carolina Sportsman. 
  6. ^ "Common Names List - Chaetodipterus faber". Retrieved 2017-05-02. 
  7. ^ Cassidy, Frederic Gomes (2003). Dictionary of American Regional English. Harvard University Press. p. 288. 
  8. ^ "ITIS Standard Report Page: Chaetodipterus faber". Retrieved 2017-05-02.