The FAMILIES table contains scientific and common names for all recent fish families together with a short description and the estimated number of Genera and Species.

Where available, the first appearance of the family in the fossil record is given. The habitats where members of a family can be found are classified as Marine, Brackish and Freshwater. A choice field indicates whether members of the family are used in the Aquarium trade, with choices being: none; some; many. A line drawing depicts the generalized shape of a typical member of the family when the Fish button is clicked on.


The scientific and common names as well as the classification into higher taxa follow the November 2000 update of Eschmeyer (1998), who kindly provided us with a copy of his Catalog databases (see below) for inclusion in FishBase. Descriptive information such as distribution and main diagnostic characters is based on recent family revisions or on Nelson (1984, 1994). Fossil records are based on Berg (1958) and other sources. The pictorials were digitized after similar drawings in FAO Identification Sheets, FAO Field Guides, Nelson’s Fishes of the World (Nelson 1984), and other sources.


So far, only about 120 families have been checked and not all recent revisions have been used. All family names and higher taxa as well as the genera assigned to a family have been matched electronically against Eschmeyer’s Catalog databases (this vol.) and should be free of errors.

It is planned to check all family information against recent revisions and against the 1994 edition of Nelson’s Fishes of the World (Nelson 1994), a task in which Joseph S. Nelson has kindly offered to assist us. We also intend to include new numeric fields for the latitudinal range of a family, which should prove useful in comparative studies. Already WinMap (see ‘The WinMap Software’, this vol.) can produce preliminary distribution maps which highlight all countries where members of a family occur and plots all available point data for a family.

Additional buttons let you create:

  • a list of all genera assigned to this family, based on Eschmeyer (1998); double-click a genus for more information;

  • FAO Catch data for this family (see ‘FAO Catches’, this vol.);

  • reports of ciguatera poisoning if available (see the ‘CIGUATERA table’, this vol.);

  • all references in FishBase referring to members of this family;

  • all taxonomic revisions used by FishBase for this family. Please let us know if we have missed important revisions.

How to get there

You get to the FAMILIES table by clicking on the Species button in the Main Menu, the Families button in the SEARCH BY window, and, after selecting a family, the Family info button in the SEARCH BY FAMILY window. If you have already selected a species, you can click on the Family button in the SPECIES window.


On the Internet, you get to the FAMILIES table by selecting a family in the ‘Information by Family’ section and selecting the Family information radio button. Alternatively, you can click on the family name in the ‘Species Summary’ page.


Berg, L.S. 1958. System der rezenten und fossilen Fischartigen und Fische. VEB Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin. 310 p.

Eschmeyer, W.N., Editor. 1998. Catalog of fishes. Special Publication, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. 3 vols. 2905 p.

Nelson, J.S. 1984. Fishes of the world. 2nd ed. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 523 p.

Nelson, J.S. 1994. Fishes of the world. 3rd ed. John Wiley and Sons, New York. 600 p.

Rainer Froese