Greater sand eel (Hyperoplus lanceolatus)

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



The greater sand eel has a long, thin body with a pointed jaw. It has a single long dorsal fin and an anal fin that is about half the length of the dorsal. It has a small forked tail. Silvery appearance. The belly and lower sides are silver, the back and top sides are bluish-green. It can reach 32 cm in length.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely distributed around Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution



Found over clean sandy seabeds; from the shore down to about 150 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Silvery eel-like fish.
  • Dark spot on each side of the snout.
  • Two pointed teeth in the palate.
  • Upper jaw not protractile.
  • Forked tail.

Additional information

Spawning takes place in spring and summer over sandy grounds. The eggs stick to the sand grains. It feeds on small planktonic animals floating in the water and on worms, small crustaceans and small fish. It can be confused with Ammodytes tobianus, but greater sand eel is larger and individuals greater than 20 cm long are likely to be this species.

Listed by

- none -


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  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.]


  1. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-38

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

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

  4. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  5. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

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

  7. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2023. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2023-12-11


This review can be cited as:

Ruiz, A. 2008. Hyperoplus lanceolatus Greater sand eel. 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 11-12-2023]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008