Marine Life

The Red Indian Fish of Bare Island

RED INDIAN FISH (Pataecus fronto)

Red Indian Fish

Red Indian Fish

The Red Indian Fish is one of my favourite marine creatures to find while diving, they are definitely a unique species. My first couple of years diving I had only seen around two of these guys, knowing where to look and how to spot them is definitely key. Most dives I do around Bare Island I know where to look and generally find them on most dives. The Red Indian Fish can be found living in amongst sponge gardens where it camouflages very well against the sponges, making it extremely difficult to find. Most of us would’ve often swam over this amazing creature without even realising it was there!


The Red Indian Fish is an uncommon species with a compressed body and a long-based dorsal fin. Individuals are often scarlet, brick red or orange. Occasionally they may be pale or have black and/or white spots, mainly on the upper half of the fish. The species lacks pelvic fins and has no scales. The dorsal fin stretches the entire length of the body, and comprises an elevated spiny section. The Red Indian Fish is known to periodically shed its skin in one complete piece. This rids the fish of the encrusting algae that grow on the skin and improve its camouflage.

x-ray of ref indian fish

Bone Structure of Red indian Fish



It’s not very difficult to see how the Red Indian fish obtained its name; the fish’s dorsal fin stretches the entire length of its body and gives it the appearance of wearing a North American Indian chief’s headdress. Pretty cool looking hey?

 Red Indian Fish

Where to find them

The Best place to go and search for Red Indian Fish is in Botany Bay, like I was saying Bare Island is my favourite place to find them. If you dive on the western side of Bare Island or the deep southern wall this is where I generally find them at depths of 14-20m. I have seen one in Kurnell and Jamie has seen a fair few at Henry’s Head. So Botany Bay is the place to be!

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