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How to Identify Poisonous Toadfish of the Great Barrier Reef

Updated on March 15, 2012

Toadfish Pufferfish Stars Stripes and Common

Reminds me of the Dr Seuss classic, one fish two fish three fish go fish. But the gist of these fish – toadfish, pufferfish, common toadfish or stars and stripes is their one shared factor - they are all poisonous. It is not through stepping on their backs or handling the spikes that causes harm as with the deadly stonefish but through eating the flesh. Fishing is a favourite pastime for anyone who lives or visits the Whitsundays, Great Barrier Reef or any of the magical spots along the north Queensland coast. Picking the wrong fish to catch and eat can be disastrous for what will otherwise prove to be the holiday of a lifetime.

Start with a snorkel adventure and go underwater. See for yourself the beautiful colours of the tropical fish and live coral on the base of the ocean floor. As long as you are aware of the dangers of the reef, all will be well. It will be an experience to cherish and remember with beautiful photos and memories of the life beneath the surface of the crystal clear waters.

Safest Eating is at the Local Restaurants

Of course, the best advice for ensuring the fish is not of the toxic variety is to eat at any of the dozens of local restaurants in Airlie Beach. Fish freshly caught and delicately prepared is a special treat of the region. Check with your accommodation staff for tips on the best places to dine.

The Dangerous Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef Series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.


Stars and Stripes Toadfish found in northern Australian waters
Stars and Stripes Toadfish found in northern Australian waters
Locations of Toadfish throughout Australian waters
Locations of Toadfish throughout Australian waters

Where are the Poisonous Toadfish?

Toadfish mostly frequent the shallow, tropical waters but can be found in marine waters to a depth of over 100 metres. This means that poisonous fish may be found either side of the Great Barrier Reef.


Toadfish Found in North Australian Waters

  1. Common Toadfish are about 13 cm (just over 5 inches) in length. This fish is pale in colour, light brown to whitish with brown spots and small prickles.
  2. Smooth Toadfish is similar to the Common Toadfish but can be identified by the spots which are much larger and the smooth texture of the skin.
  3. Pufferfish are from the same family as the Toadfish known as Tetraodontidae– both have beak shaped jaws.
  4. Stars and Strips Toadfish - are predominantly found in the northern waters. No confirmed sightings have been registered in the Great Barrier Reef.

Any time spent in the Whitsunday region of north Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef is a paradise waiting to unfold. Taking precautions to be aware of the local hazards will ensure your stay lives up to your expectations. Get to know the locals, people and wildlife so there are no disappointments. Enjoy!

Sources: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Common-Toadfish-Tetractenos-hamiltoni-Gray-Richardson-1843

Images supplied by Wikimedia under the Commons Licence

The Dangerous Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef Series has been commissioned by Toscana Village Resort, Airlie Beach Accommodation.


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    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Thanks channelwhitsunday, it has been quite an eye opener for me researching and writing about the Dangerous Marine Creatures of the Great Barrier Reef. All the men in my family are keen fishermen and enjoy getting out on the water as much as they can. It has been comforting to find out the beauty of the reef far outweighs any real dangers to them.

    • channelwhitsunday profile image

      channelwhitsunday 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for another great report Karanda. Your work is building into an informative tour of the GBR dangers. I would hope that it continues!

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      JKenny the more I find out about the amazing life under the sea makes me want to learn more. The ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef is in danger though so hopefully through promoting the area and tourist interest the work being done to preserve such a diverse marine life may keep the area for future generations to admire. Hope to see you this way soon.

    • Karanda profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Wilton 

      6 years ago from Australia

      Nice to see you are still following the dangerous marine creatures series AliciaC. It was tough finding a photo of a toadfish, they tend to keep themselves hidden, which is a good thing. Thanks for the comment.

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, England

      What a fascinating creature, its amazing just how diverse fish are, from sharks to sea horses. The Great Barrier Reef is one of those places I hope to visit one day. Although, like Alicia I wouldn't explore it without a local expert on hand.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the information as well as the photo of a toadfish, Karanda. The jaw of the fish does have a very unusual shape! I very much want to visit the Great Barrier Reef after reading your hubs about the area. I don't think that I would go into the water without a guide, though, just to make sure that I don't get too close to one of the interesting but dangerous creatures that you've been describing!

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