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Margaret Smith Library, SAIAB: Identify a Fish

The library at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity contributes to research and teaching in the aquatic sciences through heritage collections and a global web of data. Resources and services are shared with Rhodes University Library

What is a fish?

Link to the What is a fish? page on the Fisheye View of the Tree of Life

See the full tree, which focuses on relationships among the ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii)
with scientific names, species counts (2006), and technical 
synapomorphy lists.

Catalogue of Fishes




The Catalog of Fishes covers more than 53,000 species and subspecies, over 10,000 genera and subgenera, and includes in excess of 16,000 bibliographic references. Nearly all original descriptions have been examined, and much effort has gone into determining the location of type specimens.

Find the three-volume print version in the Margaret Smith Library, SAIAB, at 597.0012 CAT.

Read more about the print version.

Encyclopedia of Life

eol logo1

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) began in 2007 with the bold idea to provide “a webpage for every species." EOL brings together trusted information from resources across the world such as museums, learned societies, expert scientists, and others into one massive database and a single, easy-to-use online portal. 

While the idea to create an online species database had existed prior to 2007, Dr. Edward O. Wilson's 2007 TED Prize speech was the catalyst for the EOL you see today.  The site went live in February 2008 to international media attention.

Take a look at some of their FAQs

FishWise Professional

FishWisePro is a comprehensive, fully relational fish database of more than 99,200 scientific species name combinations and just over 34,000 fish pictures. It has been specifically developed for Academics, Students, Marine Biologists, Authors, Ichthyologists and all other serious users interested in Fish Taxonomy.



ZooBank is intended as the official registry of Zoological Nomenclature, according to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).

The scientific names of animal species are crucial to effective global communication about biodiversity, and hence its use and conservation. Without broad agreement on the name of a disease-bearing microbe, vital food species, or threatened animal, we can't even begin to combat, exploit or conserve them.

About ZooBank


The uBio project is an initiative within the science library community to join international efforts to create and utilize a comprehensive and collaborative catalog of known names of all living (and once-living) organisms. The Taxonomic Name Server (TNS) catalogs names and classifications to enable tools that can help users find information on living things using any of the names that may be related to an organism. learn more>>


Nomina si pereunt, perit et cognitio rerum

If the names are lost the knowledge also disappears
- J.C. Fabricius, 1778, Philosophia Entomologica VII,1

The National Fish of South Africa


Source: The national identity passport
Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa [n.d.]


FishBase HomePage


FishBase was developed at the WorldFish Center in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and many other partners, and with support from the European Commission (EC). the webste hosts a forum and a blog.

Now on IPhone. The first App is the Fish Quiz, available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad at iTunes App Store.

Biodiversity Heritage library

Inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library works collaboratively to make biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.  In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing tens of thousands of titles and over 150,000 volumes.

Search across books and journals, scientific names, authors and subjects

BHL also serves as the foundational literature component of the Encyclopedia of Life ().

ETYFish Project

The ETYFish Project is the first and only reference that aims to explain the name etymology of every valid genus, subgenus, species and subspecies of fish and fish-like raniate (excluding fossils).
Rafinesque 1832

The Project's objectives are twofold: to provide an English translation of a fish’s generic and specific names, and to explain how the name applies to the fish in question.Many references accomplish the first objective but fall short with the second


FAO Fish Finder

FAO Fish Finder was reviously known as SIDP (Species Identification and Data Programme). This FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department initiative is dedicated to improving fish identification for fisheries and biodiversity purposes. Includes publications, fact sheets by taxonomic group, and species distribution maps.