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Needlefish Soldierfishes & Squirrelfishes

Lizardfish are part of the Synodontidae family and are commonly called 'Grinners' due to their large smiling mouths. There are around 65 species and most are found around shallow rocks and reefs or on sandy bottoms in tropical waters. It is these shallow water species that most divers and snorkelers see here on the dive sites off Koh Lanta.

With their slender bodies and tooth filled large mouths, these bottom dwellers are named due to their distinctive 'Lizard' like appearance. Some species like to bury themselves in sand, leaving only their head and eyes showing. Some like to perch on the tops of corals and rocks, propped up on their long pelvic fins.

Lizardfish have intricately patterned colours ranging from greys, browns, reds to blues, turquoise and greens. Many have a chameleon-like ability to change their colours, hiding them from larger predators such as Groupers, Octopus and Sharks.

Their mouths contain many rows of small needle-like teeth, there are even teeth on their tongue. They like to dine on, small fish, young cephalopods and invertebrates. Lizardfish will ambush the prey and attack with their mouths open, hooking it with all those formidable looking teeth.

1 species found on this page.

Variegated (Sand) Lizardfish

Synodus dermatogenys

Variegated (Sand) Lizardfish (Synodus dermatogenys) @ Koh Haa

Synodus dermatogenys @ Koh Haa

The variegated, sand or banded lizardfish can be found in sand-rubble areas of tropical lagoons and reefs down to 30m. Maximum recorded length is 24cm.

The body is brownish, with 5 - 6 irregular dark red/brown bars which intersect a red horizontal broken band on the side. Immediately below this band is a line of whitish dots.

There is a bluish-grey stripe along the side of the body at eye-level. The pelvic fin membrane has faint yellow streaks that are more obvious in males.

The variegated lizardfish is a predator of small fish and crustaceans, its mouth is full of sharp needle-like teeth This species buries itself in the sand while exposing its eyes and nostrils.

Find Out More: Marine Life References and Further Information

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Diving with Lizardfishes

Spot Lizardfishes around Koh Lanta on one of our high season dive and snorkel trips.

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