Small-headed clingfish (Apletodon dentatus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Apletodon dentatus is a small fish reaching up to 4 cm in length. It has a depressed triangular head when viewed from above. It has single dorsal and anal fins that are rounded in shape and short and are positioned near the tail. The tail itself is rounded, as is the pectoral fin. The pelvic fin is a specialised sucking disc. The small-headed clingfish is variable in colour, often green with darker mottling, or maroon spotted with mahogany, and large white dorsal spots. Adult males may display a large black or purple spot on the dorsal and anal fins and purple areas on the throat.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found in the western English Channel and in the northern Irish Sea and south-west Scotland.

Global distribution



The small-headed clingfish is a coastal benthic species although little is known about its habitat preferences.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 4 cm in length.
  • Depressed triangular head.
  • Rounded fins with the dorsal and anal fins set far back on the body.
  • Sucking disc under the body in line with the pectoral fins.
  • Scales absent.

Additional information

The small-headed clingfish is very hard to distinguish from similar species other than by colouration, and can only usually be distinguished by the proportional sizes of it main exterior features (given by Whitehead et al., 1986).

Listed by

- none -


  1. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2008-02-18

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset Accessed via on 2018-10-01

  2. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  3. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  4. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-06-15


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Apletodon dentatus Small-headed clingfish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-06-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 02/06/2008