Orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus)

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



The orange roughy Hoplostethus atlanticus is a member of the slimehead family. It has a deep and compressed body that may reach up to 75 cm in length. It has a large head with an oblique mouth and large eyes. Its dorsal fin is moderately long and has spines at the anterior end. Its tail is slender and forked with spines on each lobe. A median ridge of scutes is present on the abdomen. Alive, it is bright brick red in colour but fades to a yellowish orange after death.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found deep off the coasts of north-west Scotland, western and southern Ireland.

Global distribution



The orange roughy is a bathypelagic species, inhabiting deep, cold waters over steep continental slopes from 150 m to over 1800 m depth.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 75 cm.
  • Brick red to orange in colour.
  • Very deep and compressed body.
  • Large deep head with an oblique mouth.
  • Four to six spines at the anterior end of the dorsal fin.
  • Four to seven spines on each lobe of the forked tail.
  • Scutes along the abdomen.
  • Mouth and gill cavity are bluish black.

Additional information

The orange roughy is a slow-growing species that is late to mature, resulting in a very low resilience. It is notable for its great age reaching up to 149 years of age and its importance to commercial deep trawl fishery (Whitehead et al., 1986).


  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. Lorance, P., Uiblein, F. & Latrouite, D., 2002. Habitat, behaviour and colour patterns of orange roughy Hoplostethus atlanticus (Pisces: Trachichthyidae) in the Bay of Biscay. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 82, 321-331

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

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-23


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Hoplostethus atlanticus Orange roughy. 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 23-05-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 22/05/2008