Smallscale Scorpionfish

Scorpaenopsis Oxycephala
Smallscale Scorpionfish - Marinewise © 2023 MarineWise

Quick Facts

Scientific name Scorpaenopsis Oxycephala
Other names Tassled Scorpionfish, Oxycephala Scorpionfish, Papuan Scorpionfish
Size Up to 36 cm (14 in)
Weight Up to 2.5 kg (5.5 lb)


Habitat & AU Distribution Coastal & offshore waters amongst rocky & coral reefs
Depth Range 3 - 50 m (164 ft)
Smallscale Scorpionfish Distribution

Interesting Info

  • The Smallscale Scorpionfish is primarily found in the waters of Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland. These regions provide suitable habitats for the species, including coral reefs, rocky reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove ecosystems. While occasional sightings have been reported in other areas, such as southern Australia.
  • They have a distinct appearance. It has a stocky body covered in bumpy skin and is often adorned with intricate patterns and colours. Its coloration can vary from reddish-brown to greenish-brown, with darker markings and spots that help it blend into its surroundings.
  • Smallscale Scorpionfish are ambush predators, relying on their camouflage to hide and wait for unsuspecting prey to come within striking distance. They mainly feed on small fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates, using their large mouth to engulf their prey.
  • Like other scorpionfish species, the Smallscale Scorpionfish possesses venomous spines on its dorsal fin. These spines contain venom glands that can cause intense pain and tissue damage if stung. Caution should be exercised when handling or approaching this species in the wild.
  • The specific breeding season for the Smallscale Scorpionfish in Australia is not known. However, scorpionfishes in general tend to reproduce during warmer months when water temperatures are optimal for egg development and larval survival.
  • Scorpionfishes in general tend to be egg-layers, with the female releasing eggs that are fertilised by the male externally.
  • Estimates of lifespan are between 4 – 6 years.
Species Interaction

Recreational Fishing, Snorkeling & Diving

Smallscale Scorpionfish can be incidentally caught by anglers targeting other species. It is important to handle them with care, as their venomous spines can cause painful stings. They are not specifically targeted for recreational fishing. Observing Smallscale Scorpionfish in the wild can be challenging due to their excellent camouflage and secretive nature. They rely on their ability to blend into their surroundings, making them difficult to spot even for experienced divers or snorkelers.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Scorpaeniformes

Family: Scorpaenidae

Genus: Scorpaenodes

Species: Scorpaenopsis Oxycephala

Conservation Status

The Smallscale Scorpionfish is not listed as a threatened species in Australia. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), its conservation status is currently assessed as “Least Concern.” However, local populations may be affected by habitat degradation and overfishing.

Fish Taste Quality

Smallscale Scorpionfish are not commonly targeted for consumption, due to their venomous spines. However, they are known to have firm, white flesh with a delicate flavour.

Taste Rating: 2/5

How to catch
Smallscale Scorpionfish

Catch Difficulty: Intermediate

Tackle: Running Sinker Rig

Bait: Crab, Fresh cut flesh baits, Pilchards, Prawns, Squid, Worms

Technique: Keep bait close to the reef/structure

Popularity: Not targeted - Bycatch

Recreational Viewing
- Snorkeling & Scuba

Finding: Difficult

Temperament: Shy

Location: Inner Reef, Outer Reef, Caves, Lagoon

Danger: Venomous Spines

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