British Marine Life Study Society

 Boar Fish (This name was a mistaken transcription in the old books)
 Zulu Fish (Colloquial from Cornwall)
 Common Name(s):
 Boar Fish, Zulu Fish
 Scientific Name:
 Capros aper


 Weight: > 85 g ?

              Photograph by  Andy Horton
Photograph by Andy HortonRhomboidal body shape
Pretty little red and silver fish about 55 mm long, excluding its caudal fin, large eye and protractile mouth, with a spiky first dorsal and vibrating second dorsal and second anal fins (vibrating like the dorsal fin of a pipefish).
"Compressed from side to side so it looks like a flatfish set on edge." (Brightwell)

Fishbase entry
Fishbase Video

A.Wheeler-1 (CD-ROM) only
A.Wheeler-2 (CD-ROM) only

Record Angling catch:
    Boar Fish  Capros Aper
        3-00 oz    85 g      Rinsey, Porthleven, Cornwall   Mrs R K Bennett  1983

Shallow water specimens of the Boar Fish can be a straw-yellow colour instead of red. 

Comments on the Common Name:
A most unfortunate mix-up seems to have occurred over the name of this fish. 
Capros = boar from the Greek kapros
aper = boar from the Latin.

Aristotle (Aristotle 535b, 18) described Capros as a river fish that made a grunting noise.
This must be an even more unusual fish in British seas and estuaries with the scientific name of 
Argyrosomus regius (=Sciaena aquila) a drumfish known by the even more unfortunate common name of Meagre.
Now as the fish known as Capros aper, Boar Fish or Zulu Fish, seems to have acquired the name of another fish by accident. Meagre for the meagre meal it makes seems to be most likely name for this fish. Or Maigre from the French for thin. It has shown no signs of grunting. 
What to do now as all the books have inappropriate names.
The Meagre, I call the Drumfish, leaving a name needed for Capros aper. Zulu Fish is OK when they are stripy and when washed up in a net or on the shore. Cuckoo Fish would get confused with the Cuckoo Wrasse. The first thing Peter Weight who caught the Sussex fish said when I told him the common names was that it was an unimpressive name.

Discussion on Fishing News facebook 
EUO © OCEANA 35382
School of boarfishes (Capros aper). Ses Olives, Majorca Channel, Balearic Islands, Spain. Expedition Oceana Ranger 2010: Discovering seamounts. August 2010.

Banco de chavos (Capros aper). Ses Olives, Canal de Mallorca, Islas Baleares, España. Expedición Oceana Ranger 2010: Descubriendo montañas submarinas. Agosto 2010.

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EUO © OCEANA 44889

Boarfish (Capros aper). Seco de los Olivos, Almería, Spain.. Expedition Oceana Ranger 2010: Discovering seamounts. Junio 2010.

© OCEANA 20130814_3

Boarfish (Capros aper) and "lollipop" sponges. Emile Baudot escarpment, Balearic Islands, Spain. Oceana Ranger Expedition 2013: Study unknown Emile Baudot escarpment. August 2013.


Abundant on the edge of the Continental Shelf at depths of about 100 metres in the south-western approaches to the English Channel. But this fish is uncommon in shallow water. 
Associated with red and yellow coral (A. Wheeler).
Probably found at similar depths off Ireland and Southern Scotland. Certainly, also abundant off Portugal, perhaps even in shallower water. 
Copepods, mysids.
Benthic crustaceans and worms. 


Does NOT make grunting noises (as reported in J R Norman).
Can swim backwards as readily and even more effective and speedily than wrasse.

Additional Notes:
Enemies: sea birds, larger fish, squid.

Cory's Shearwater
Photograph by Justin Hart

Afterthought: this may be a discarded catch? 

Aquarium Observations: 

Capros aper shoaling 
Aquarium Photographs by Sabine Penisson

Monaco Public Aquarium Set (by Sabine Penisson)

Aligns itself at an oblique angle to the current at night and sometimes at other times. Very nervous disposition and will not feed for several days if netted and moved or after being caught. This is a slight problem.
Feeds on live daphnia and frozen brine shrimp, but needs encouragement to feed and this is a worry at first. Finicky feeder, usually taking food only of its preferred size, e.g. my small 55 mm fish will prefer frozen Artemia to frozen mysis. After a bit (2 weeks), the fish will now take frozen mysis as readily as Artemia (brine shrimp).
Will feed constantly and becomes a more aggressive feeder after a month in captivity. 
Very sensitive to light levels, attracted to low levels of light when its tank light is off.  (February - April 2003)
Has been observed eating large particles of boiled mussel which it can chop off so it does not need to eat the whole bit, (if it contains the byssus threads etc.) (May 2003)
The BOAR FISH died on 3 June 2003 after the tank sprung a leak. The fish weighed 22 grams (fatter than when caught when it looked slightly malnourished). (The fish was transferred to another tank, which probably had insufficent oxygen during the emergency flooding (which threatened the electrical supply). The tank had Corkwing Wrasse, Symphodus melops, and Bullhead, Taurulus bubalis, at 22° C so the oxygen requirements are high and it appeared OK at first. By the time I had gone out of the room to set up an additional air pump it had keeled over and could not be revived. (This is unusual.)

Fishbase Morphology

23 March 2014
A Zulu Fish, Capros aper, was discovered by Ian Yeomans washed up dead on the shore at St. Ives, Cornwall.
Photograph by Ian Yeomans
7 March 2014
A Zulu Fish, Capros aper, was discovered by Roger Woonacott washed up alive but injured in a rockpool at Portreath, Cornwall.
Photograph by Roger Woonacott
24 February 2014
A Zulu Fish, Capros aper, was discovered by Jess Hughes washed up dead on the shore at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall.
26 January 2013
A Zulu Fish, Capros aper, was discovered by Tracey Williams washed up dead on the shore at Porth, Cornwall.
Report and Photograph by Tracey Williams

27 September 2012
A Boar Fish (or Zulu Fish), Capros aper, was discovered by Nigel Mortimer washed up dead on the shore at Salcombe, south Devon.

21 April 2011
A Boar Fish (or Zulu Fish), Capros aper, was behaving strangely, swimming near the surface on an exposed rockpool at Challaborough Beach, south Devon, and we moved it from where we found it to a more secluded pool.
Report by Victoria Shore

10 April 2009
Guernsey commercial fisherman 'Chancre' Downes landed a Boarfish (or Zulu Fish), Capros aper, while trawling for sand eels on Great Bank outside St. Peter Port harbour.  The fish had a total weight of 38 grams and a total length of 13.2 cm. and was brought to the Guernsey Aquarium. David Miller called me to identify it.

Capros aper:  Photograph © by Richard Lord (Guernsey)

This is only the second Boarfish I have seen from Guernsey waters.  The first one I saw was landed by Guernsey commercial fisherman Shane Petit on 23 February 2002.

Boarfish are common in deep water of the western English Channel but rarely strays east up the Channel. The fish's large eye and the orange/ red colour is well suited to deep water as the longer wave length of red light is absorbed by water before the blue and greens (which are reflected) and therefore red coloured marine species appear dark or black at depth.  The Boarfish, like the John Dory, has a protrusible (telescopic) mouth, which is used for catching small species.

Report, Photograph & Comments by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
Sealord Photography

29 July 2007 
An astonishing bright red fish misnamed as the Boar Fish, Capros aper, was discovered swimming around in a pool when the tide was out on Littlehampton main beach (east of the River Arun), Sussex. It was about 75 mm long, and I was able to scoop the rhomboidal fish up in a shell, before I allowed it to swim away.

Report by Mark Wright
21 January 2006
A Boar Fish, Capros aper, was washed up alive on on at Branksome Chine, Dorset (near Bournemouth). It was thrown back in the sea but it may get washed up again.

Boar Fish (Photograph by Robert Aquilina)

This attractive deep water fish is very occasionally washed up alive or found in rock pools and very occasionally caught by anglers. 

Report and Photograph by Robert Aquilina (Oxford Brookes University)
via Julie Hatcher (Secret Life at Low Tide)
and Doug Herdson (National Marine Aquarium at Plymouth

19 November 2002
A dead Boar Fish, Capros aper, was brought into the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth for identification. The fishermen call them "Zulus" and used to catch them regularly, but they are now almost unknown in the local catches, but I am told that lots are caught by the beam trawlers fishing for Sole in deep water on the Parson's and Great Sole Banks about 120 miles SW of the Lizard, Cornwall.

Boarfish from Hove (Photograph by Peter Weight)

2 November 2002
The capture on rod and line by Peter Weight of a Boar Fish, Capros aper, from Hove beach is the very first record of this fish caught from the shore off Sussex. The books say that this fish lives in depths of over 100 metres and there are no seas of this depth on the English side of the English Channel. This pretty little red and silver fish about 55 mm long, excluding its caudal fin, large eye and large protractile mouth, laterally compressed (very thin and narrow profile), with a spiky first dorsal fin rays and vibrating second dorsal and second anal fins (vibrating like the dorsal fin of a pipefish). Although this fish is rarely caught, it is abundant in deepish water (on the edge of the continental shelf in the western approaches of the English Channel) and it is just that normal fishing methods do not capture this small fish. All  records and especially all live records from the shore or on dives, and all Sussex records are newsworthy. 
This fish is thriving in the BMLSS private aquarium (Shoreham-by-Sea). This fish is rarely on display in British Public Aquaria and the only known display of this fish was for several years at Mevagissey Harbour Aquarium
This specimen appeared live on Meridian TV Southern News on 6 November 2002.

Boar Fish (Photograph by Paul Parsons)On 10 November 2002, after a week in captivity, the Boar Fish commenced to feed on frozen brine shrimp after being initially encouraged with live daphnia. It ignored other alternative foods like boiled mussel flesh, very small live prawns (mysid-size), micro trout pellets (formed into a ball). It seemed initially to feed better when the circulatory water pump (powerhead) was turned off, but within an hour it recognised the food and fed when the pump was on. Feeding was observed when the aquarium fluorescent light was on and was continuous swallowing of very small particles of shrimp collected in mid-water, and the water was kept in motion by the use of an airstone attached to a powerful diaphragm air pump. If the particle was disliked it would be examined and ignored, very occasionally it would be swallowed and spat out again. 
Previous Sussex Record of a Boar Fish
Previous Report from the Channel Islands

Late October 2002
A Cornish fisherman reported netting a shoal of 10 stone (140 lb = 64 kg) of these small Boar Fish, Capros aper, just 10 miles off the Isles of Scilly whilst fishing for squid. 

May 2002
Boar Fish (Photograph by  Chris Gilbertson, Mevagissey Aquarium)A Boar Fish, Capros aper, was also caught close inshore to Mevagissey, Cornwall, in a Pilchard net and it is one of two of these attractive fish on display in the aquarium.

22-23 February 2002
A Boar Fish, Capros aper, was brought up in a net set for Red Mullet, Mullus surmulatus, at 12 metres off the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. The Boar Fish is rarely caught because it is small (59 grams and a total length of 153 mm) and escapes the nets and because it usually lives at greater depths than most nets are set. 

Report by Richard Lord (Guernsey)

Chesil Cove, Dorset Report (link to)

A diver also thought he spotted a Boar Fish (2001 ?) off the Isle of Wight. 

26 December 2001
  1 Boar-fish or Zulu - Perranporth, Cornwall - reported by: Tony Davis
 Freshly dead 

20 November 2000
 1 Boar-fish or Zulu - Porth Kidney beach, Cornwall - reported by: Alan Matthews
 Bright orange specimen dead on strandline

Narrow Profile (Photograph by Paul Parsons)2000
Two years ago whilst doing some intertidal surveying at Wembury, South Devon, we found one struggling in a rock pool after some stormy weather.  Does anybody have any ideas on how this might happen? 

c. October? 1998
A Boar Fish, Capros aper, was washed up dead on Shoreham beach, Sussex, with the identity confirmed by the Natural History Museum in London. The dried fish has been preserved as an ornament.

Report on 7 November 2002 by Mr. Viv Smith (Shoreham beach)
In April 1991, a small Boar Fish was caught by a fisherman off south Cornwall and spent several years in Mevagissey Aquarium.

The late John Barker wrote:
An 18 cm specimen of this attractive little fish was given to me in March 1990 by Freddy Flowers, the skipper of the fishing vessel (static netter) "The Two Brothers". It was taken eight miles south west of Brighton in 30 metres, close to rocks. After preserving, the fish was given to the Natural History Museum for their collection.

Historic Record:
A bright orange and lake Boar Fish was captured alive at Brighton in March 1842 (Yarrell).

I  have traced just over 20 records form Cornwall (on the databases held by the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) which, include one or two from the Scillies, ranging from 1825 to 2001, Some years it is very common (over 1000 trawled in one week in September 1983) but it seems to be very variable in numbers and may be absent over a span of years, or just found in ones and twos.  Some are strandings, kept on the Strandings Database, and one was still live in a rock pool - but usually they are in deeper water.

Boar Fish from Hove (d. June 2003)


Numbers is smaller font are the numbers assigned on the ERICA database (so I can check any queries about the entries). A couple without numbers are on the strandings database.

1825 One in Mount’s Bay, sent to the Zoological Society as a very rare fish (Yarrell 1841) (Y93794)

One of rarest fish since 1843 when it appeared in large numbers from Plymouth westwards. There were none in 1844, and since then it has been present only in small numbers (Clark 1909) (10482 -10483)

Plentiful in 1870 and "a veritable pest" from 1870-1879, often filling the trawls. There was a violent storm in 1879 and then it did not appear again until 1894 (Clark 1909) (10484, 10485- 10486)

1870s Off Prussia Cove (SW52) – described as one of our rarer fish (Cornish 1878) (10494)

Frequent in early 1900s especially in crab pots set with spider crab bait (Clark 1909) (10488)

One in St Ives Bay *(SW54), early 1900s. (Vallentin 1907) (10489)

Oct.1951-March 1952 Large numbers on several occasions. Since then only 1 2o 3 a year. G. A. Steven in Plymouth Marine Fauna (1957) (10479)

1964 Isles of Scilly (Isles of Scilly Museum list of fish1988) (I229)

1975 One 10 cmsalive in rock pool, Prussia Cove (SW52) (Derrick Potton) (1475)

1983 Three trawled 10 miles S. of Falmouth (P. A. Gainey) (19496)

19/9/1983 After several days of storms, over 1000 trawled 25-40 m. off Falmouth in one week (P. A. Gainey) (10492)

1983 Taken by angler off Rinsey Head (SW52) (Y63638)

April 1989 Off Fowey )SX15) (Sarah Matthews) (C791)

Feb. 1991 Stranded at Downderry(SX£65) photographed by S. C. Madge (P103835)

20/11/2000 One stranded at Porth Kidney, Lelant )SW53) (Alan Matthews)

26/12/2001 One dead on strandline, Perranporth (SW75) (Tony Davis) 

J.T. Cunningham in the Victoria County History of Cornwall (1906) mentions it being found on the beach at Brighton in 1842. It was sent to Buckingham Palace (for some reason) where the Prince Consort identified it.

Clark, 1909. Reprinted from ‘Zoological Papers’ in Zoologist 1907 and 1908.

Yarrell, W., 1841. British Fishes. London: van Voorst.

Report from Stella Turk
 I'm not too surprised by the presence of the Boar
Fish (Capros aper), off Sussex. A few years ago I was carrying out
some research work off the Irish coast aboard a super crabber, they
loaded boxes of Boar Fish (Capros aper) for use as bait!! which puzzled
me at the time as the size would hardly put out a significant scent to
entice macro-crustacea. However, once the pots had begun to be hauled
and nearly every other pot had a conger eel in, the reasoning became
clear. The conger eel were cut up into steaks/chunks and used for bait
with the Boar fish (Capros aper) merely used to bulk out the bait. I
questioned the skipper as to the source of the Boar fish (Capros aper),
and he replied that they bought them off local trawlers who landed
specifically for pot bait and they were a significant component of the
bycatch in local waters. At the end of the trip most of the bait went
over the wall as the fresh conger eel provided the main bait source.

N.V.Proctor BSc.(Hons) CBiol MIBiol
> Benthic Projects Manager
> Institute of Estuarine & Coastal Studies,
> University of Hull, Cottingham Road,
> Hull, HU6 7RX.
> Tel 01482 465661/465667
> FAX 01482 456001

Discussion on Capros aper

Order:  Zeiformes
Family:  Capriodae
Boar Fish,  Capros aper,


A small family, Caproidae, of marine fishes comprising two genera and 12 species. They were formerly placed in the order Zeiformes with the dories, but are now placed with the Perciformes since they have many perciform characteristics, for instance in the caudal skeleton.

Family:  Zeidae
John Dory,  Zeus faber
Sailfin DoryZenopsis conchifer

14 September 2016
A Silver Dory (=Sailfin Dory), Zenopsis conchifer, was landed at Cawsand, Cornwall. This is a deepwater fish found in more southern seas are only rarely accidentally caught around the British Isles and even more rarely reported.

Picture supplied by Doug Herdson

Sailfin Dory, Zenopsis conchifer
    1 June 2012
    A Silver Dory (=Sailfin Dory), Zenopsis conchifer, was landed at Newlyn, Cornwall. 

    30 May 2012
    A Silver Dory (=Sailfin Dory), Zenopsis conchifer, was caught by Pierro Le Cheminant from his trawler, Amy Blue, at the northern end of the Big Russel to the north of Sark, in the Channel Islands. The trawl at the edge of a reef netted this deep water (mesopelagic) Atlantic Ocean fish which is very rarely caught in British seas. had a total length of 475 mm and a gutted weight of 953 grams. The fish could be mistaken for John Dory, Zeus faber

    Previous Record 2002 (from Cornwall)

    23 September 2002
    ASilver Dory (=Sailfin Dory), Zenopsis conchifer, was trawled six miles off Wolf Rock, Cornwall. This is such an unusual occurence that the fish is not in the popular British list of marine species. This fish was 38 cm long and weighed 550 grams, gutted. 

    It could be mistaken for similar John Dory, Zeus faber. The Silver Dory is the complete fish shown in the photograph of the fish caught and preserved and the upper fish is a John Dory. The John Dory inhabits shallow water but the new fish is a denizen of the deep. There has been a handful of previous records off Cornwall, the first official one recorded on 29 August 1995.

    Report from Doug Herdson (National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth)
    from help from Paul Gainey and notes by Stella Turk
      Previous Records from the Geoff Potts and Swaby British Fish Records

    There is no data for these, other than that they were strange fish described
    in John Lees' notebook resembling a John Dory, and later identified as
    Sailfin Dory.
    The first confirmed British record, as described by Swaby & Potts (1999).
    11/7/1999 - landed on 13th July
    Caught by 'Wayfarer' E. of Labadie Bank
    22/9/2002 - landed 23 September
    6 miles north of Wolf Rock, Cornwall  Currently the specimen is in the deep freezer on DEFRA's Newlyn premises.
    There may be a sixth record (off Mevagissey) but we have not been able to clarify that. I am sending a copy to Doug and I will also check this list with Paul G. by 'phone or when next we meet.

Report from Doug Herdson (National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth)
from help from Paul Gainey and notes by Stella Turk
Fishbase Entry

John Dory, Zeus faber

John Dory,  Zeus faber  (Photograph by Andy Horton)


Early September 2016

This tiny John Dory,Zeus faber was found by Cornish Wildlife Trust  Marine Awareness Officer Matt Slater while carrying out a Seasearch Dive Survey in the Fal estuary - what a cutie! He was busy pretending to be a piece of seaweed and we nearly swam past him

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