The Handfishes.

'If you’ve never seen a handfish before, imagine dipping a toad in some brightly coloured paint, telling it a sad story, and forcing it to wear gloves two sizes too big'.

Meet the Handfishes

True to their name, the handfishes are a family of fishes that walk with their over-sized "hands" rather than swim. 
There are fourteen handfish species in total, all of which are found only in southern Australia - predominantly in Tasmania. 

Very little is known about handfish in general, but we do know that the Spotted, Red, and Ziebell's handfish are critically endangered and are faced with increasing levels of habitat destruction and loss, pollution, and changing climate. 


Spotted Handfish, 

Brachionichthys hirsutus

Spotted Handfish are the most common and well understood of all the handfish species.

Found only in the Derwent Estuary in Tasmania, there are thought to be fewer than 3000 individuals remaining in the wild (although these numbers may have since declined) and they are considered Critically Endangered. 

The major threats to the recovery of the Spotted Handfish include pollution and habitat loss due to sedimentation. You can download a fact sheet HERE.

Red Handfish,

Thymichthys politus

Red Handfish are currently known from only two small 50m long patches of reef in south-eastern Tasmania, and are thought to have a total population of approximately 100 adults. 

They vary in colour from bright-red to light pink/ brown and are typically less than 10cm in length. Habitat loss and destruction, pollution and urban developments are the main threats to the recovery of the Red handfish population. 

Given their size, and their small range, Red Handfish are extremely difficult to find. We therefore rely heavily on the public for any reports of sightings. If you see a Red Handfish - or you think you might have seen one but you're not 100% sure - please get in touch! 

You can download a fact sheet HERE

Red Alert
Sympterichthys-sp-TAFI-Waterfall-Bay AJG

Ziebell's Handfish,

Brachiopsilus ziebelli

The Ziebell's Handfish is the most elusive of the three handfish species covered by the Handfish Conservation Project, with no confirmed sightings of a Ziebell's since 2007. 

They can be purple/ brown in colour, often with lighter patches on fins, or, in a second form, with bright yellow fins and pale cream to grey body. They grow to a maximum length of 15cm. 

They have mostly been found on rocky reefs - often near sponges and algae - on the Tasman Peninsula at around 20m depth.

If you see a Ziebell's Handfish, please report it here!

Report a Ziebell's

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