A three-spined stickleback

Three-spined stickleback

Three-spined sticklebacks are the classic “tiddler” of British waters and many other areas in the northern hemisphere. There are populations in marine and freshwater with some migrating between the two. They can actually sport two to four spines on their backs, with three being the average. These sharp spines and large bony side plates provide essential armour against an array of fish and bird predators.

The stickleback male is a fantastic father. After attracting an egg-laying female to a nest with a zig-zag courtship dance and bright red colourings, he fans the fertilised eggs with his fins to provide oxygen. Once the eggs have hatched he protects the small fry and teaches them self-defence from predators by chasing them.

Scientific name: Gasterosteus aculeatus

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Burnstickle,
  • Common stickleback,
  • European stickleback,
  • Jacksharp,
  • Tiddler

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The Three-spined stickleback can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, Europe, Mediterranean, North America, Russia, United Kingdom, Wales. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Three-spined stickleback distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Bony fish
  5. Ray-finned fishes
  6. Gasterosteiformes
  7. Gasterosteidae
  8. Gasterosteus
  9. Three-spined stickleback

BBC News about Three-spined stickleback