The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Platax orbicularis
Platax orbicularis
(orbicular batfish)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Platax orbicularis (Forsskål, 1775)

Common name: orbicular batfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Juveniles have broad, elevated dorsal and anal fins while adults are orbiculate (i.e., nearly circular).  The body color of juveniles is light reddish brown to brownish yellow with a brown bar through the eye.  Adult body color is silvery grey with black bars through the pectoral fin and eye.  Anal and dorsal fins have a black margin.  Small black spots sometimes scattered along side.  Concave snout profile with large bone between eyes.  Dorsal fin V (34-38), anal fin III (26-28).  From Randall et al. (1996); Heemstra (2001).

Similar species: Atlantic spadefish (Chaetodipterus faber) has multiple dark body bars, and pointed dorsal and anal fins.

Native Range: Orbicular batfish is distributed in the Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea and eastern Africa to Indonesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.  It is also from southwest Japan to northeast Australia and New Caledonia.  From Allen et al. (2003).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The species has been observed at numerous locations in South Florida and the Florida Keys since 1996.  It has been seen once in the Gulf of Mexico off Cape Coral in 2003. REEF divers removed four orbicular batfish from the Florida Keys, two in 1999 and two in 2004. One individual was removed from Key Largo in 2018.

Two individuals were reported to REEF from Bonaire. One at Bari reef in 2004 and the other at Petries Pillar in 2005. 

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Platax orbicularis are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL199620183Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Orbicular batfish inhabits shallow and deeps reefs with juveniles occurring in small groups among mangroves and also within inner lagoons.  Juveniles resemble a floating leaf in appearance and behavior.  Young adults are found in channels and lagoons where they sometimes form schools.  The diet consists of algae, invertebrates, and small fishes.  From Myers (1999).

Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.

Status: Reported from Florida.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

References: (click for full references)

Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann and N. Deloach.  2003.  Reef Fish Identification.  Tropical Pacific.  New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, California.

Associated Press. 2004. Divers recapture exotic fish seen as threat to Keys reef natives. Herald.com. Miami Herald. June 8, 2004.

Heemstra, P. C.  2001.  Ephippidae. Spadefishes (batfishes). Pp. 3611-3622 in: Carpenter, K.E. and V. Niem (Eds.).  FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific.  Vol. 6.  Bony fishes part 4 (Labridae to Latimeriidae), estuarine crocodiles.  FAO, Rome.

Myers, R. F.  1999.  Micronesian Reef Fishes.  A Field Guide for Divers and Aquarists.  Coral Graphics, Davie Florida.

Randall, J. E., G. R. Allen and R. C. Steene.  1996.  Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.  Second Edition.  University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).  2008.  Exotic species sighting program. Available URL http://www.reef.org/exotic.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Morris, J.A., Jr., and Schofield, P.J.

Revision Date: 2/18/2020

Peer Review Date: 4/27/2008

Citation Information:
Morris, J.A., Jr., and Schofield, P.J., 2024, Platax orbicularis (Forsskål, 1775): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=2309, Revision Date: 2/18/2020, Peer Review Date: 4/27/2008, Access Date: 7/17/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/17/2024].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted.

For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.