Native Fish In The Philippines

With more than 20,000 miles of marine coastlines and an abundance of freshwater resources, the Philippine archipelago houses many native fish species.


With more than 20,000 miles of marine coastlines and an abundance of freshwater resources, the Philippine archipelago houses an astounding collection of native fish. The many islands, reefs, and the Philippines continental plate provide habitat to many fish species both endemic and native. The Speckled goby fish finds a home in the marine, brackish, and fresh waters found along the country’s coastline. The mouth-brooding endemic fish species Manila Sea Catfish has lived for many years in the Luzon Island. Another native fish species in the Philippines is the sole species of Chanos chanos belonging to the Chanidae Family. These species and others like the colorful, picturesque dragonet have found refuge and a home in the Philippines.

Speckled Goby (Redigobius bikolanus)

Redigobius bikolanus, commonly known as the speckled goby, is a goby fish species native to the brackish and fresh marine waters off of the Philippines' coast. The species habitual ranges extend along the shores of Asia to Australia, then to the Pacific islands of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and finally to the coasts of the Seychelles and South Africa. The Speckled goby inhabits estuaries, streams, and creeks. Often, they inhabit the tidal zones of rivers. It lives in a depth range of 0 to 5 meters where temperatures range from 21 Degrees Celsius to 28 Degrees Celsius. The following features distinguish the species the caudal base has 2 to 3 dark spots, and has a network of dark scale margins. Dark brown blotches are seen on one side of the body, and there is one blackish, narrow bar, slightly oblique on the upper body and a second bar on the lower half of the body, and four distinct blackish or dark brown patches at the anal fin. The species diet includes smaller fishes and invertebrates. Due its wide distribution, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) describes the fish as being of least concern. The species has no significant benefit to humans and thus human do not pose as threat. Potential threats include habitat degradation and destruction from the occurring coastal rivers and mangrove damages. The aquarium also threatens this species. In the Philippines and Singapore development and clearing threatens the habitats of these species.

Bangus Milkfish (Chanos chanos)

Chanos chanos, commonly known as the Milkfish, is the only living species of Chanidae Family, with more than five extinct genera from that family belonging to the Cretaceous Period of long ago. In the Philippines, the locals call the fish bangus, and it is the national fish. Chanos chanos has a broad distribution range from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, then to South Africa, the Galapagos, California, Hawaii, and Marquesas. The Milkfish species prefer to live in the tropical offshore marine waters and along continental shelves. A habitual range is usually 1 to 30 meters. They also frequent estuaries and rivers. Distinguishing features of the fish include the almost compressed elongate body. It has a symmetrical and streamlined appearance with a dorsal fin, a sizable caudal fin, and falcate pectoral fins. The species has small mouth and is toothless. It has an olive green background with silvery flanks with bordered fins. Chanos chanos feeds on cyanobacteria, small invertebrates, and algae. The eggs and larvae live at sea in the first two or three weeks before they migrate to the mangrove swamps, lakes, and estuaries, and returning to the sea to mature and reproduce. A female milkfish lays about five million eggs in fully saline shallow waters.

Manila Sea Catfish (Arius manillensis)

Arius manillensis, commonly known as the Manila Sea Catfish, is an endemic marine fish found off of the coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines. The species habitual range extends from Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Rozal, and Cavite, and the Laguna de Bay, and Pasing River. It prefers to live in the brackish, marine, and freshwater waters and also Benthopelagic habitats. Arius manillensis are mouth brooders. Once the females lay the eggs, a male species incubate the eggs in its mouth for six to eight weeks. When the eggs hatch, males provide shelter to the hatchlings. The young one forages for plankton for a short time before returning to safety in the mouth of an adult. Upon reaching a size of 30 to 44 millimeters, the juveniles become independent and may swim away to new environments. During this period of the time of incubation to independence, the adults do not eat which shrinks their stomach.

Picturesque Dragonet (Synchiropus picturatus)

Synchiropus picturatus, commonly known as the picturesque dragonet, is a brightly colored fish of the Dragonet Family. Synchiropus picturatus is native to the Philippines, northwest Australia, and eastern Indonesia. Picturesque dragonet has thick slime on its body which harbors many parasitic infections. The slime protects from disease following physical trauma and stress. The adaptive feature also protects it from more aggressive fishes. The head, body, and fins have a psychedelic combination of orange, blue, and black spots resting on a green base. The species is a reef dweller naturally feeding on copepods and small invertebrates. It prefers to peck on live rocks. The Picturesque dragonet is a peaceful species and hardly engages in any aggressive behavior.

Marine Conservation in the Philippines

The Philippine archipelago provides ample sources of small invertebrates which become food for these and many other native fish species. The extensive coastlines of marine, brackish, and freshwater rivers and streams emptying into the sea provide ideal habitats for spawning, maturing, and feeding. However, the ongoing developments in the country may pose a threat to the coastline ecosystem. Habitat destruction resulting from the damaged coast is a key risk. The country ought to focus on maintaining and protecting the coastline least these native species lose their homes.

Native Fish Of The Philippines

Native Fish of the PhilippinesScientific Name
Manila Sea CatfishArius manillensis
Arahan Roughback Sea CatfishPlicofollis tonggol
Speckled GobyRedigobius bikolanus
Picturesque DragonetSynchiropus picturatus
Tikos Rough TriggerfishCanthidermis maculata
White SardineEscualosa thoracata
Bloch's Gizzard ShadNematalosa nasus
Longspine PonyfishLeiognathus longispinis
Bangus MilkfishChanos chanos
Philippine Luminous RoughyAulotrachichthys latus


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