British Wildlife Wiki
Sand smelt

Sand Smelt

The Sand-Smelt (Atherina presbyter) can grow to 20cm.


Slim-bodied fish, with small head but having large eyes. The large mouth is set at an oblique angle to the headline. Two well separated dorsal fins are present, with the anterior one being composed of 7 to 8 (9) slender rays, whilst the posterior fin is made up of branched rays. The anal fin sits below the second dorsal fin, and has a slightly longer base.It has two thin anterior spines, followed by 13 to 16 branched rays. The caudal fin shows a degree of forking. The body scales are small but firmly attached, with some 53 to 57 scales between the pectoral fin base and the tail fin. Colouration of the back and upper sides are a translucent green with black specks on the scale edges, with an intense broad silvery band across the sides, that passes into the white of the belly.


Spawns from May into July, with some spawning taking place in large intertidal pools, whilst most occurs in coastal lagoons.


This common inshore fish is associated with estuaries, unpolluted harbours and saline lagoons, tending to be found over sandy or muddy bottoms, down to 20m or so. Juveniles are often found in rock intertidal pools, swimming in closely packed shoals. Adults may often be observed at night, at the surface, almost hanging motionless facing in the direction of the tidal current.


Probably small fish and crustaceans.


Common in the southern North Sea and English Channel, less so further north.


The Aquarium Project