Facts and Tips About Sea Robins

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Flying Gurnard fish

Dactyloptena Orientalis species is found in Hawaiian waters. The distribution of this fish extends from Hawaii and Japan southward to central Polynesia, westward through Micronesia and Melanesia, through the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa.


The body of the Eastern gurnard is elongated, nearly round, and tapers to the tail. The head and eyes are quite large, and the mouth is small. From a side view, the head looks like a frog. The body has what you might call armor, as the fish is covered with tough scales that are rather prickly. Near the gills are two large hook-like spurs.

It has enormous fan-like pectoral fins. The top dorsal fin is split. The two pelvic fins are far forward under the body and the fish uses them as “legs” to walk on the ocean bottom. On the top of the head behind the eye area, it has a long, flexible moving appendage.

The body can appear to be a light-hued greenish color or mixed light and dark tan colors with a white underbelly, and the body is marked with darker spots. The pectoral fins are marked with dark spots that have orange edges.


This fish likes to inhabit areas of shallower waters where there are sandy bottoms. It walks along the bottom with the two small leg-like pelvic fins looking for food. The pectoral fins are not actually "wings" and it does not have the capability of flying, but it can use its "wings" to move through the water in quick, short, "flights." 

When alarmed it spreads its "wings" increasing its appearance in size as a threat to predators. This also helps the fish blend into its bottom surroundings. Be sure to keep a cover on the aquarium. If the fish is startled or excited it can jump out of the tank easily.

Flying Gurnard hunting in sand

Flying Gurnard hunting in sand

Stephen Frink/Corbis/Getty Images

Diet and Feeding

It is a carnivorous bottom-dweller eating inverts, crustaceans, and possibly other smaller fishes. In tank life, there has been success with feeding this fish dried or frozen (thawed) shrimp, shells included, along with pieces of fish, crab, etc. This fish is a good scavenger and can help keep the tank bottom cleaned.


The flying gurnard is a fascinating fish to keep. It is a beautiful, entertaining fish to watch and easy to care for. However, because this fish can grow to a large size, it should only be kept if you have a big aquarium to give it the room it needs.

Use caution when handling this fish. Whether small or large, this fish is extremely strong and can thrash around a lot. The prickly like armor can cut or scrape a person causing injury. Because of the characteristic armor and the two hook-like spurs near the gills, this fish gets snagged in nets easily and may need to be cut out.

Scientific Name

Dactyloptena orientalis

Other Common Names

Sea robin

Average Size

This fish can grow quite large, up to 16 inches.

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