British Marine Life Study Society

Small-headed Clingfish

Photograph by Robert Jones (Trowbridge)
Common Name(s):
Small-headed Clingfish
Scientific Name: 
            Apletodon dentatus
(=A. microcephalus
Family:  Gobiesocidae

Usual Size: 40 mm 



Identification:  A very small flattened fish with a triangular head. A single dorsal fin at the rear of the body opposite the anal fin. Pelvic fins fused into a suction cup. Variable bright colours, often an olive green with a white band across the head when looking down from above and a stripe through the eye. 

Similar species: Two-spotted Clingfish, Diplecogaster bimaculata has a broader head. 

Underside of the Clingfish (Photograph by Ray Hamblett)Breeding:
Kelp holdfasts. 
Small crustaceans (probably). 
South and west of the British Isles. No BMLSS records from the east coast. 
Additional Notes
Inadequately recorded with records of the Two-spotted Clingfish prior to 1971 may be this fish. Probably quite common throughout its range but easily overlooked because of its small size. 
This very small fish (max size 40 mm) is found in the shallow seas and between the tides in the south and west of Britain. It is under-recorded and only receives the attention of 'rockpoolers'. It is the most widespread of four species of clingfish in the family Gobiesocidae found in British seas. It was recently known as Apletodon microcephalus. This specimen was captured and photographed by Robert Jones (of Trowbridge) from the shore at Dorset. Young specimens have been caught by John Barker and Andy Horton off Sussex. This species has been confused with Diplogaster bimaculata, the Two-spotted Clingfish. 

Information wanted: Please send any records of this fish, with location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to Shorewatch Project   EMail 

Notes on facebook (August 2014)

Small-headed Clingfish with a weedy Grey Topshell (Photograph by Ray Hamblett)Reports:

11 September 2002
The tide receded beyond the pier on Worthing beach which was rather scantily inhabited by mobile fauna of interest to the rockpooler. However, of special interest was the discovery of a young Small-headed Clingfish, Apletodon dentatus in a shallow weedy pool south of the pier. 

4 November 2002
Rockpooling under Worthing Pier
It is getting dark as the tide reached its lowest point. When I delved around in the bucket at home a Small-headed Clingfish, Apletodon dentatus, stuck to my hand. 

Clingfish (Photograph by Andy Horton)

Clingfish on bryozoans
 The clingfish is about 10 mm long

19 March 2003
The low equinoctial spring tide receded as far as I have known it uncovering all the rocks on Lancing Beach. It was too dark to explore the exposed shore properly, but juvenile Small-headed Clingfish (probable ident.) were present under rocks.

QX3 image of the Clingfish above (by Andy Horton)
QX3 image of the Clingfish above (by Andy Horton)

The container containing the Clingfish was inverted and the pelvic sucker kept the fish in place

December 2009
A Mantis Shrimp, Rissoides desmaresti, and a Small-headed Clingfish, Apletodon dentatus, were also discovered in the stomach of a Whiting caught off Brighton, Sussex. 
Full Report & Photographs

5 June 2012
Whilst looking for welks on Harlosh Island, Loch Bracadale, Isle of Skye, I came across what I have identified as the Small-headed Clingfish, Apletodon dentatus. It had significant blue spots down either side, which i cant see on any of the reference pictures, but had the same shape with its beak like head and amazing sucker on its belly.  I have been looking in rockpools since I was a boy and have never seen suck a cool wee fish. There were a few of these wee fish between 40 mm and 65 mm long. 

                                     ..      Report by Keith Jackson, Orbost Farm, Isle of Skye 

26 May 2013
The most interesting discovery on an early morning low spring tide at Lancing Beach were two Small-headed Clingfish, Apletodon dentatus, which I had not seen since 2005.

Notes on other species:


one of my former students, Robert Hofrichter, has done a lot of work on
gobiesocids (clingfish) in the Mediterranean and also some in the northern 
Atlantic (Brittany, France).
We have published some papers, some others are in  preparation as well as a 
web page on Mediterranean clingfish.
Concerning L. candollei: this species has a well developed sexual 
dimorphism. Males have strong red spots - mainly during spawning - on the 
cheeks and on dorsal fins, females no or only very weak ones. If you need 
more informations please contact Robert Hofrichter:

Hofrichter R., Breining T., Patzner R.A., 2000: Habitat selection and 
feeding ecology of two Atlantic clingfish species, Apletodon dentatus and 
Diplecogaster bimaculata at Brittany, France. Z. Fischkunde 5: 71-81.
Hofrichter R., Patzner R.A., 1997: A new species of Apletodon from the 
Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic with notes on the 
differentiation between Apletodon- and Diplecogaster-species (Pisces: 
Teleostei: Gobiesociformes: Gobiesocidae). Senckenbergiana biologica 77 (1) 
Hofrichter R., Patzner R.A., 2000: Habitat and microhabitat of 
Mediterranean clingfishes (Teleostei: Gobiesociformes: Gobiesocidae). 
P.S.Z.N. Mar. Biol.21: 41-53.
Hofrichter R., Patzner, R.A., 1996: Die Schildfische des Mittelmeeres. 1. 
Arten in Block- und Geröllfeldern. Das Aquarium 327: 30-35.
Hofrichter R., Patzner, R.A., 1996: Die Schildfische des Mittelmeeres. 2. 
Arten in Seegraswiesen und anderen Lebensräumen. Das Aquarium 329: 40-44.
Hofrichter R., Patzner, R.A.: Schildfische des Mittelmeeres im Aquarium.
DATZ 48: 1993, 288-290.
PATZNER R.A., HOFRICHTER R.: Schildfische in den Seegraswiesen des 
Mittelmeeres. DATZ 46: 1993, 440-443.

With best wishes
Robert Patzner

Lepadogaster candollei

Lepadogaster candollei  Risso, 1810 Connemara Clingfish. 
Photograph by David Fenwick Snr. (Aphotofauna)

Moderately rare on north European coasts. 

Fishbase entry


Lepadogaster lepadogaster

Lepadogaster purpurea


Lepadogaster lepadogaster (Bonnaterre, 1788) Shore Clingfish, Cornish Sucker
Lepadogaster lepadogaster purpurea is the area subspecies. 
Photograph by David Fenwick Snr. (Aphotofauna)

This fish is very similar to the Connemara Clingfish, Lepadogaster candollei Risso, 1810 but can be distinguished from it by the two fringed flaps by each nostril which are clearly visible (Frances Dipper).

Lepadogaster lepadogaster is now regarded as Mediterranean species, and that our species is Lepadogaster purpurea (David Fenwick Snr) 

British Clingfish
Shorewatch Project
Information supplied by Andy Horton (British Marine Life Study Society
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