Spotted Drum


Spotted Drum are quite unusual – the adults display both bold spots and thick strips, while the juvenile Spotted Drum has long, elegant dorsal fins. The name ” Drum” was given to these, and several other similar species, because drum fish can make a low resonance noise similar to the beating of the drum. They make repetitive throbbing or drumming sounds by beating their abdominal muscle against the swim bladder.


Scientific Name: Equetus punctatus

Family: Sciaenidae

Category: Drums

Size: 6 to 10 in. (15 to 25 cm)

Depth: 15-100 ft. (5-30 m)

Distribution: Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida, Bermuda

Characteristic for the drums is the elongated first dorsal fin. Second dorsal and tail fins with white spots and dashes (E.punctatus). Head white with two dark brown bars, one through the eyes, the other more posterior and more diagonal, extending across the chest to the pelvic. Body with multiple stripes.

Did you know that this dorsal fin becomes shorter with age? Juveniles have extremely long fins with very small bodies and area a true delight to see fluttering around.

Juvenile Spotted Drums are one of the most elegant coral reef fish. They do not have spots but they do have very long dorsal fins that flutter above and behind them as they make small movements. I have seen juvenile spotted drum smaller than a dime sheltering in cracks and holes in the reef.

Juvenile Spotted Drum
Juvenile Spotted Drum

Adult Spotted Drums are mismatched – they wear both spots and stripes! Adult spotted Drums’s unusual patterns make them a great favorite among divers.

Night divers will have best chance of spotting this quirky-looking fish. Spotted Drums spend their days hiding under crevices, ledge or near the entrance of small cave, swimming around in small, repetitive circles. They are nocturnal feeder, come out in the open only at night to feed on small invertebrates such as crabs, shrimps and worms.

Where to find: Many consider it the signature fish of Roatan, in the Bay Islands of Honduras. But the Spotted Drum is widespread throughout the tropical of the Atlantis Ocean from Florida to Brazil including Bermuda, Bahamas the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

It is frequently observed during the day under ledges or near the opening of small caves, at depths between 3 and 30 metres, where it swims in repetitive patterns. The Spotted Drum is one of the few fish of the species to inhabit coral reefs – most are bottom dwellers (often in estuaries), avoiding clear water.

A great shot from Bill Sarro
A great shot from Bill Sarro

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January 14, 2017 |

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