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What is a Razorfish?

Melanie Smeltzer
Melanie Smeltzer

The term razorfish may refer to any of the five small species in the Centriscidae family. These fish, also known as shrimpfish, are divided into three genera: the Aeoliscus, Centriscus, and Centriscops, though some are also occasionally placed into the Macroramphosinae subfamily. Razorfish are usually small, slim and transparent, with blade-like bellies and long snouts. Most varieties may be found in the shallow depths of the Indo-Pacific, while others occur in the deeper waters of southern oceans.

Razorfish, which are closely related to the seahorse, are marine fish that generally live in shallow areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans, but may also reside in deeper waters. Most groups of razorfish are nearly transparent in appearance, but sport a thin, colorful stripe along their sides. They have flattened sides, and a sharp-edged appearance to their underbellies. The fish are also covered in a see-through, fused armor plate that ends in a long dorsal fin spine.


One of the better-known species is called Aeoliscus strigatus, or the striped shrimpfish. This fish can vary in color depending upon habitat, but is generally light silver with either a deep red or green-yellow stripe along the top and bottom of their bodies. The Centriscops humerosus, or banded bellowfish, is another well-known species. This group differs from the striped shrimpfish in length and the unusual hump that forms just behind the head. It also bears light orange or dusky yellow stripes.

Behaviorally, most species of razorfish act in a similar manner. One of their most recognizable habits is to swim head down in a synchronized fashion. They also tend to hide in the spines of sea urchins as a means of self-preservation and food gathering. Larger fish are wary of being stung by the sea urchin, so when threatened, razorfish will generally hide among the spines to protect themselves. Razorfish also hide within the spines to cloak themselves from their own potential prey, darting out only when tiny invertebrates are within their reach.

Although the razorfish thrives best in an ocean setting, it can also be kept in a home aquarium. These fish can be difficult to keep, but can survive in an aquarium with algae, live rock, and plenty of places to hide. They may be placed with similar species such as pipefish, but will not fare well with more aggressive fish like wrasses.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Razorfish?

A Razorfish, also known as a Shrimpfish, is a slender, elongated fish belonging to the family Centriscidae. It is characterized by its razor-like body and unique swimming style, which is vertical and head-down. This adaptation allows it to blend in with sea grasses and other vertical structures, providing camouflage from predators.

Where can Razorfish be found?

Razorfish are typically found in warmer waters, such as those of the Indo-Pacific region. They inhabit shallow coastal environments, often associating with coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves. Their distribution ranges from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Pacific Ocean, as far as Japan and Australia.

What do Razorfish eat?

Razorfish primarily feed on small crustaceans like planktonic copepods and amphipods. They use their snouts to pick these tiny organisms from the water column or substrate. Their diet helps control the populations of these small invertebrates and contributes to the balance of the ecosystem they inhabit.

How do Razorfish reproduce?

Razorfish engage in a unique reproductive behavior known as broadcast spawning, where females release eggs and males release sperm into the water column simultaneously. This method increases the likelihood of fertilization. The eggs then float freely until hatching, with the larvae eventually settling to the bottom as they mature.

Are Razorfish endangered?

While Razorfish are not currently listed as endangered, their populations can be affected by habitat destruction, particularly the degradation of coral reefs and seagrass beds. Conservation efforts aimed at preserving these habitats are crucial for maintaining healthy populations of Razorfish and other marine species that rely on these environments.

What is the significance of Razorfish in their ecosystem?

Razorfish play an important role in their ecosystem as both predator and prey. By feeding on small invertebrates, they help maintain the balance of plankton populations. Additionally, their unique body shape provides a model for biomimicry in design and engineering, inspiring structures that mimic their hydrodynamic and camouflage properties.

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