information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



The plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) is a typical flatfish. It is oval in shape and is right-eyed (if the fish is visualised swimming upright, then both the eyes are on the right side of the body). The upper side is basically brown with numerous, conspicuous orange or red spots. Some individuals may also have smaller white spots, especially when living in areas where the sediment has bits of white shell or pebble. The lower side is white. They can change their colour to suit the bottom but the orange spots often give them away. The usual size limit is about 50-60 cm but exceptional specimens can reach 90 cm (although rare due to fishing pressure). Plaice feed on bottom-living animals, particularly shellfish such as cockles and razor shells. Worms, crustaceans, brittlestars and sand eels are also eaten. Plaice mostly spawn between January to March, each female producing up to half a million eggs. Around Britain, the eggs are laid in fairly shallow water between 20-40 m in well-defined spawning grounds.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Plaice are common all around Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution



Plaice live mostly on sandy bottoms, although they also live on gravel and mud. Often seen on sandy patches in rocky areas. They are most common between 10-50 m but occur from 0-200 m. Young fish in their first year live mostly in very shallow water and can often be found in sandy tidal pools. They start to move into deeper water in their second year when about 15 cm long.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Bright orange or red spots on the upper side.
  • There is a row of four to seven bony knobs running between the eyes to the gill opening.
  • Right-eyed (if the fish is visualised swimming upright, then both the eyes are on the right side of the body).

Additional information

Plaice are very important commercial fish and are caught in trawls and seine nets and sometimes by anglers. Plaice spend much of their time lying quietly on the bottom, often partly buried.

Listed by

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  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.]


This review can be cited as:

Ruiz, A. 2007. Pleuronectes platessa Plaice. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 19-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 12/09/2007