Cobia (Rachycentron canadum)

Three cobia swimming
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Cobia fact file

Cobia description

GenusRachycentron (1)

With a broad, depressed head, elongated body, and powerful tail fin, the fish (Rachycentron canadum) is often mistaken for a shark, but it is actually a member of an order of fish known as perches (Perciformes) (3). This unusual, yet distinctive fish is also the sole member of the family Rachycentridae (4).

The cobia is dark brown, with a creamy underside and two silver or bronze lines streaking along its side (3) (4). It has a reduced first dorsal fin comprised of numerous small spines, and a more elongated second dorsal fin and anal fin, which both run half the length of the body (4). This carnivorous fish also has a large mouth armed with an array of small teeth, and a swollen lower-lip that protrudes past the upper-lip (5) (6).

Also known as
Black kingfish.
Length: 110- 200 cm (2)
up to 68 kg (2)

Cobia biology

The cobia feeds mainly on crustaceans, especially shrimp, squid and crab, as well as small fish and eels (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).

In the western Atlantic, shoals of mature adult fish spawn during the warmer months. During this event, the female fish releases an extraordinarily large amount of eggs, and the male releases sperm for external fertilisation (2) (4). The fertilised eggs are dispersed by ocean currents, and the resulting larvae float passively in the ocean currents as part of the zooplankton community (2). Juvenile cobia hide amongst sea-grass to feed and shelter from predators (7).


Cobia range

The cobia is distributed in warm ocean waters worldwide, excluding the central and eastern Pacific Ocean (2).


Cobia habitat

Occurring in a range of marine environments, the cobia is found over coral reefs, off rocky shores, over mud, sand and gravel bottoms, around drifting or stationary objects such as rigs, and occasionally in estuaries (2) (3) (4). It is found at depths of up to 18 metres (3).


Cobia status

The Cobia has yet to be classified by the IUCN.


Cobia threats

With a worldwide distribution, the fish does not appear to be under any immediate threat of extinction. It is, however, an important fish in aquaculture, particularly in China, Taiwan and the USA, where huge stocks of cobia are farmed in large tanks. Initially a vast number of individuals are taken out of the ocean to establish a captive population, but this population then creates all further generations for the industry, and so is self sufficient (7). The cobia is also a popular game fish due to its delicious taste and habit of swimming near to the surface around man-made structures and boats (2) (3) (4).


Cobia conservation

There are currently no known specific conservation plans targeting the fish.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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Anal fin
In fish, an unpaired fin on the under surface of a fish, behind the anus.
Feeding on flesh.
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.
Tiny aquatic animals that drift with currents or swim weakly in water.


  1. UNEP-WCMC (October, 2010)
  2. FishBase - Cobia (October, 2010)
  3. Schultz, K. (2010) Ken Schultz’s Essentials of Fishing: The Only Guide you Need to Catch Freshwater and Saltwater Fish. John Wiley & Sons Inc, New Jersey, USA.
  4. Van der Elst, R. (1993) A Guide to the Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
  5. McEachran, J.D. and Fechhelm, J.D. (2005) Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico: Volume 2. University of Texas Press, Texas, USA.
  6. Randall, J.E. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. University of Hawaii Press, Hawaii, USA.
  7. Fisheries and Aquaculture Department (United Nations) - Cobia (October, 2010)

Image credit

Three cobia swimming  
Three cobia swimming

© Michael Patrick O'Neill / Inc.
77-6425 Kuakini Hwy.
Ste C2-200
Kailua Kona,


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