Atlantic Spadefish

Atlantic Spadefish Chaetodipterus faber

Type of Animal:

Shallow marine/brackish waters-coastlines, beaches, harbors, mangroves, estuaries, wrecks, coastal waters, open waters, inshore/nearshore/offshore waters, over seagrass beds, areas around structure, subtropical reefs, coastal reefs, pilings, saltmarshes, offshore reefs, subtidal oyster reefs, sand/mud-bottom open ocean areas, coral reefs, near jetties, near wharves, offshore oilrigs, coastal river estuaries, juveniles found in shallower water than adults & more frequent in brackish waters than adults

W Atlantic from Massachusetts to E Brazil, also found in Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean

Deep compressed disk/spade-shaped body, blunt snout, silver w/ black barring, black forward edge to single dorsal/anal fins, small mouth, juveniles darker than adults (young fry often black) becoming lighter w/ age, small juveniles black to dark-brown

Crustaceans, mollusks, annelids, cnidarians, zooplankton, algae, algal plankton, benthic sponges, sea cucumbers, tunicates, feather stars, crustacean larvae

Status in Wild:

Not applicable

Schools of around 500 fish

Additional Info:

Young: Fry
Group: School
3-10 lbs

1 day

Life Span:
8-10 years

Body Length:
Adult: 1.6-3 ft
Young: 1-9 in

Main predators are sharks, larger fish, birds, & fish-eating mammals.
Sexually mature at a year old.
Fry feed on yolk sac for 1st 2 days of life.
Single female can release up to a million eggs per spawning season w/ eggs being deposited on offshore water surfaces.
Called spadefish due to spade shape. Other names are angelfish, Atlantic spade, butterflyfish, jackass, leathercoat, moonfish, ocean cobbler, pot cover, sea donkey, threebanded sheephead, threetailed porgy, tripletail, white angel, & white angelfish.
Feed throughout day but especially in middle of day.
Sometimes mistaken for sheepshead.
Active during the day (diurnal).
Spade appearance especially prevalent if laid on side.
Easiest way to differentiate spadefish & angelfish is counting dorsal fins-spadefish have 2 dorsal fins, angelfish have 1.

Fun Fact(s):
Juveniles often camouflage themselves as foliage/mangrove pods.
They’re very popular game fish for sportfishers due to tenacity & size.
Meat said to be firm/flaky but also sometimes associated w/ ciguatera poisoning from ciguatoxins grown on algae. Due to this, it’s not highly popular for consumption purposes.
Sometimes used as bait for catching amberjacks.
They’re very curious fish.

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