Small sized (up to about 20 cm), compressed and oblong or moderately elongate fishes. Eyes large; mouth large, oblique with variable dentition; a single opercular spine. Scales usually ctenoid, but cycloid in some groups and absent in Gymnapogon and Paxton; lateral line continuous, incomplete or absent in some groups. Two separated dorsal fins, the first with VI-VIII spines and the second with one spine and 8-14 soft rays (except for Paxton having a single dorsal fin with VI spines and 19 rays); anal fin with II spines (except for Paxton with a single spine) and 8-18 soft rays; pelvic fin I, 5; caudal fin forked, emarginate, truncate, or rounded. Color: variable with patterns of light- or dark-colored stripes, reticulation, spots, vertical or diagonal bars, or nearly plain.|
Similar families occurring in the area. Chanidae: a single dorsal fin but deeply notched, III anal-fin spines.
Remarks. Chiefly inhabit marine coastal waters, but also found in fresh and brackish water areas in some groups.