What fish is that?! Sites to help identify fish species

Having looked at a number of books anglers can use to assist in identifying species of fish caught it is also valuable to be aware of the range of resources available online that can help this same purpose.  

There are some fantastic sites which have been developed by fishing magazines, State and Commonwealth government agencies, industry bodies and other related organisations to help people identify fish and while this article doesn't set out to cover them all hopefully it will help put the reader on the right track.  

One of the primary issues with using these online resources is their lack of portability.  With a Fish ID book it is easy to drop it in the backpack or boat glove box and bring it out when the situation requires it.  Dragging your computer out to the end of the Rapid Bay Jetty or trying to get network coverage off the coast of Fraser Island isn't quite so easy.  

Unless you're Raymond Babbit from Rain Man (go Dustin Hoffman x 1 Oscar for Best Actor!) and have a photographic memory to recall the size, shape, colour and patterns of a fish when arriving home, the best way to capture the memory of that fish is by a quick photo which you can then refer to later to find out what it was.   

Taking the photo as soon as possible after bringing it from the water will help keep the colours as natural as possible.  Sometimes certain species have fright colours where their tones light up or fade out in response to the stress they are going through.  The incredible bright yellow and green fright colours of dolphinfish (mahi mahi) are a great example of how this works.  

So you've got your photos, you've removed the scales from under your fingernails and your curiosity is getting the better of you, what are some of the options available for identifying your fish?  


The Australian Museum's fish site is a large database of all things fish.  The website holds a host of information on Australian fish research, explanations of the make-up of fish, school assignment research and links to other fish bodies and research worldwide.

When attempting to identify a species of fish through this site the obvious heading is the one to go for - Identify a fish.  Through this page the user works through a series of questions and illustrations which eventually lead them to the species which best match the characteristics you have identified.  

It's easy to make a few wrong turns when navigating through this site for the first times but it doesn't take long to become familiar with the system and the way the information is presented.  


Fishbase is a global database of information about fish which has been in operation since around 1996.  There are hundreds of thousands of common names of species found on this site - something you get when it's global and not local.  

Navigation around this site can be a bit difficult but spend some time on it and its full power begins to be revealed.  Up front the user is greeted with a number of search categories but by scrolling to the Tools heading at the bottom of the page and clicking Identification will get the user heading in the right direction.  

At the top of the new page make sure to identify the ocean (Indian Ocean, Eastern) and  country (Australia) and from there a series of illustrations and categories will help lead to the fish you're looking for.

The site is an excellent resource for people wanting to research fish species and is doing its bit to ensure all information found on it is scientifically credible.

Written by Ben Derecki for Seabreeze.