In 1979, I wrote a couple of articles concerning the colours of fish. It all started after I had read an article by respected fishing writer Dick Lewers in the September 1971 issue of “Modern Fishing” magazine. Lewers’ article titled “Colour it Blue” in “Modern Fishing” had caught my eye and it started my interest in writing about marine life for our monthly newsletter.

My article titled “The Colour of Fish” in our June 1979 newsletter was my first serious attempt at writing for our newsletter. I followed this up with the sequel “The Colour of Fish II – the use of camouflage” in our August 1979 newsletter. I believe that I was preparing a third article when I was asked to write an article about fish behaviour for our forthcoming Journal in 1980. I opted to re-write and combine all of my “Colour of Fish” articles instead. The result was “The Colour of Fish” in our September 1980 Journal (Vol.1, No.5). It comprised of almost eight full A4 size pages when the bibliography was included.

Evan John was the Journal’s editor at the time. He had my article typed up in the required format and Katrina Bishop did the four drawings needed for it. Nigel Holmes provide one of the photographs for it.

A few newsletter articles on similar topics followed in later years and I kept many of these in a file. The result is our “Colours of Fish” file (reference mlssa 3024) in our library. It includes a copy of the 1980 Journal article and many of my notes from its preparation. It also includes many of the references that were used to prepare it.

I wrote an edited version of “The Colour of Fish” for our September 2000 newsletter. It can be found at (although it isn’t listed in the contents for the newsletter). Prior to that though, I wrote several articles which I added to our “Colours of Fish” file (3024). These were: –

“Fish Colouration Terms” – January 1992 Newsletter (No.174).

“Fish Mimicry” and “Three Kinds of Symbiosis” – May 1996 (No.222).

“More on Fish Mimicry” and “More on Symbiosis” – June 1996 (No.223).

“Disruptive Colouration” and “False Eye Spots” – Oct 1987 (No.123)

“Aggressive and Territorial Behaviour of Coral Fish”

“Territorial Behaviour of Fish in Aquaria”

“The Skin of Fishes”


For the record, the full bibliography for “The Colour of Fish” article in our September 1980 Journal was: –

  1. “Fishes of Polynesia” (1974) by Bagnis, Mazellier, Bennett & Christian.
  2. *“Coral World” (1973) by R.Von Hentig.
  3. *“Life and Death in a coral sea” (1971) by JY Cousteau, Diole, Cassell & Co. Ltd.
  4. *“The Life of Fishes” (1965) by NB Marshall.
  5. “Colour it Blue” (Sept 1971) by D. Lewers in “Modern Fishing” magazine.
  6. The Fish of Port Noarlunga Reef” (1979) by D.Warren in MARIA Journal Oct. 1979 (Vol.1, No.1).
  7. *“Australian Seashores” (1966) by WJ Dakin, pages 72-84.
  8. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia” (1974) by Scott, Glover & Southcott.
  9. “An Introduction to the biology of Marine Life” (1977) by JL Sumich.
  10. *“Bioluminescence” (1979) “Nautilus” Oct 1979, MARIA Victoria (edited by M.White).
  11. *“The Enigma of colouration and light emission in deep sea animals” by PN Dilly, Endeavour.
  12. “The Red Discus” – Heredity or environment?” (1977) by Dr E Schmidt-Focke, “Tropical Fish Hobbyist”, Oct 1977.
  13. “The Saltwater Aquarium Manual” (1976) by R Valenti, MARIA SA newsletter No.5, Nov 1976.
  14. “Defence and Offence Mechanisms” (1979) in “Encyclopedia of Australian Fishing, Part 21.
  15. The Skin of Fishes” (1980) by LB Fink, “Nautilus”, March 1980, MARIA Victoria.
  16. *“Life on Earth” (1980) by David Attenborough, ABC TV 26.6.80.
  17. “Defence in Animals” (1974) by M Edmunds.
  18. “Countershading in the colourful reef fish Chaetodon lunula: Concealment, Communication, or both?” (1971) by WJ Hamilton III & RM Peterman.


Those publications in bold type are available from our library. There are copies of the relevant pages from those publications preceded by an ‘*’ in our “Colours of Fish” file (3024). Some additional pages from other publications not listed include: –

“The Colors of Tropical Marine Fish” by Lorin Mannella

“Pigmentation in Fish”

“Nature’s Wonders – Creatures of the Deep” by Arne Broman & Charlie Bood, “Tropical Fish Hobbyist

“Flashlight Fish of the Red Sea” by Eugenie Clark

“The Covering and Framework of form”


Other than that, I’m not able to identify some of the other details in the file.

(The header photograph showing a male Ornate cowfish up close was taken my David Muirhead)

By Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

2 thought on “The Colour of Fish”
  1. Dick (Basil Richard) Lewers was awarded the Mariner Award in 1978, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to boating journalism. Dick has been described as a legend in his own time. He was regarded as the ultimate angler, a sportsman of outstanding ability, a veritable encyclopaedia and possibly the top expert in fishing. He died aged 92 in December 2016.

  2. National Geographic explorer David Gruber: Fluorescence has discovered that biofluorescence in marine organisms is a phenomenon limited by the natural penetration of blue light in shallow ocean. Below 1000 metres depth, the majority of animals are instead bioluminescent, meaning that they generate their own light, rather than transforming incident light in surprising ways.

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