Zygentoma Click to enlarge image
Silverfish (Order Zygentoma) Image: Andrew Howells
© Australian Museum

Silverfish belong to the Order Zygentoma (formerly Thysanura).

What does a Silverfish look like?


  • 2 mm - 18 mm in length.


  • Column-like, tear-drop or spindle-shaped.
  • Often hairy, with tufts common between eyesAppears hard and covered in scales.
  • Have tiny styli (soft finger-like projections) coming from the underside some of the abdomen segments.


  • Thread-like, with many segments.
  • Longer than half the body length.


  • Absent or small, berry-like and well separated.


  • For chewing.
  • Held in front or downwards at rest.


  • Absent.


  • Six legs, short and stocky.

Abdomen tip:

  • Three tails (two cerci and one middle filament), thread-like, and similar in size; at rest the two outer tails aredirected at an angle away from the body.

Where are silverfish found?

  • Under bark, rocks or among leaf litter.
  • In soil or within caves.
  • In the desert, as some are capable of absorbing water from the atmosphere.
  • Living in ant and termite nests.
  • In houses, where they favour areas of high humidity like bathrooms.

What do silverfish do?

  • They often group together around food sources.
  • When disturbed they remain still, run for cover or hop.
  • They feed on fungi, and plant material. In the home they may feed on starchy substances such as wallpaper glue, book bindings and photographs.
  • They are normally active at night, if active during the day generally found in dark places.

What looks similar?

  • Bristletails are easily confused with Silverfish. They maybe separated from Silverfish by their large eyes that touch; their long middle tail, which is considerably longer than the cerci; and they jump when disturbed