Family: Enoplosidae Picture of an Oldwife, Enoplosus armatusEnoplosus armatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
Hello, I have an 2inch long old wife and it sometimes eats plankton. It is not taking flakes, but I hope it will soon.   Tony

  Enoplosus armatus is the only species in the family Enoplosidae. This "Oldwife" was a "new" addition to us and we were very excited to be able to enjoy it!. They are rarely available - this is the first one we've been able to get.

The name "Old Wife" was given in reference to the sound it makes by grinding its teeth after it is caught.

 The Old Wife is easily recognised by its distinctive shape and colouration. It has a deep body, and two separate dorsal fins, the second fin is sickle-like. The body is silver-white to brown and has six to eight black bands of variable width. Juveniles are more elongate than adults and have a blotched colour pattern and a white-rimmed spot on the soft dorsal fin.

The Oldwife makes a nice addition to the marine aquarium. They are interesting to watch and easy to keep! Dorsal spines carry a poison, we assume it is similar to the lionfish, but this is not confirmed.

For more Information on keeping marine fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Enoplosus armatus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Enoplosidae
  • Genus: Enoplosus
  • Species: armatus
Oldwife, Old Wife Fish, (juveniles) Enoplosus armatus

Report Broken Video
School in captivity

This fish has earned the name Oldwife for the sound it makes when it is captured. The noise? Well, they grind their teeth! These peaceful and very unique looking fish will reach 1' 8" and need a tank that is at least 180 gallons and is best kept by intermediate aquarists. They are from Australia and are seasonal, so coming by one is a rather rare experience! They have a venomous first dorsal spine, much like the Lionfish and if stung, soak the wound in hot water (100 to 110˚F). This carnivore does well with any meaty marine flesh.

Popular Searches

Maintenance difficulty:    The Oldwife is easy to keep. They will readily eat most anything you feed them.

Maintenance:    Feed all kinds of live, frozen, and flake foods. It is best to feed small amounts several times a day. We generally feed squid, shrimp (the same kind people eat), mussels, and all kinds of chopped up fish. A good vegetable formula like Formula II is also beneficial.

Habitat: Natural geographic location:    Oldwife are found in Southern Australia where they are endemic.

Foods:    All kinds of meaty foods and greenstuffs. A bottom feeder.

Social Behaviors:    Juveniles live in estuaries while adults occur in estuaries and on inshore and offshore rocky reefs and seagrass beds. These fish are found either in large schools, in pairs or as solitary individuals. In the aquarium, this fish is sometimes aggressive and sometimes not. Keep an eye on newcomers and established fish in the aquarium.

Sex: Sexual differences:    We have not found this information.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

Temperature:    No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Oldwife adults can grow to about 25 cm (9.8 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:    A minimum 30 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong    No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom    No special requirements.

Availability:    This fish is rarely available.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
Lastest Animal Stories on Oldwife

Tony - 2004-01-15
Hello, I have an 2inch long old wife and it sometimes eats plankton. It is not taking flakes, but I hope it will soon.

Callum - 2007-12-06
Old wife are found along the east coast right up to southern Queensland. They are supposed to be really common but i haven't seen one yet. p.s. i thought they grow to 25cm, that's what it says in my Australian sea fishes book.

Petar - 2005-03-03
Just like to add that these fish are not limited to South Australia. I have been snorkeling on the NSW coast and frequently encounter an old wife. The other posters statement is true, they are very timid and every time i see them while snorkeling they seem to hide/hang around weedbeds

Tony - 2004-01-17
hello, I found out that they are sometimes extremely timid, I tried to feed it live fish and it ate it with no problem. I have a rather small tank so my 2inch old wife could catch its prey( they are very slow!)