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

Viviparous eelpout (Zoarces viviparus)

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



Zoarces viviparus has a continuous dorsal, caudal and anal fin with a characteristic notch at the caudal end of the dorsal fin, where the fin rays are short and spiny. The scales are minute and the skin is very slimy. It has a terminal mouth, with gill openings extending below the base of the well developed pectoral fins. Pelvic fins are present, but small. The body is coloured grey-brown on its dorsal surface, with several blotches, and is yellowish along its ventral side. Adults can occassionally reach 52 cm but are typically 25-35 cm long.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

All coasts of Britain, Irish Sea, North Sea and English Channel but absent on Atlantic coasts of Ireland.

Global distribution

From White Sea and Baltic Sea through North Sea and English Channel on British and continental coasts to Brittany.


Zoarces viviparus may be found in intertidal zones in marine and brackish environments, where it avoids dessication at low tide by hiding under exposed rocks or in cracks or remains submerged in tide pools. From subtidal zones to 40 m deep, it maintains a demersal and sedentary lifestyle under rocks or hidden amongst algae.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Mouth terminal.
  • Minute scales and very slimy skin.
  • Body elongate with continuous dorsal, anal and caudal fins.
  • Shallow depression near end of dorsal fin where fin rays are short and spiny.
  • Short pelvic fins.
  • Large gill opening extending below base of pectoral fins.
  • Pectoral fins well developed.
  • Lateral line without pores.
  • Dorsal colour grey-brown with blotches and ventral colour yellowish.
  • Usually 25-35 cm long, rarely to 52 cm.

Additional information

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    This review can be cited as:

    Bilewitch, J. 2009. Zoarces viviparus Viviparous eelpout. 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 21-08-2018]. Available from:

    Last Updated: 07/07/2009