The goatfishes are perciform fish of the family Mullidae. The family is also sometimes referred to as the red mullets, which also refers more narrowly to the genus Mullus.
The family name and the English common name "mullet" derived from Latin mullus, the red mullet; but other than the red mullet and the striped red mullet or surmullet, the English word mullet generally refers to a different family of fish, the Mugilidae or gray mullets
Goatfishes are characterized by a pair of chin barbels (or "goatee"), which contain chemosensory organs and are used to probe the sand or holes in the reef for food. Their bodies are deep and elongated, with forked tails and widely separated dorsal fins.The first dorsal fin has 6-8 spines; the second dorsal has one spine and 8-9 soft rays, shorter than anal fin. Spines in anal fin 1 or 2, with 5-8 soft rays. They have 24 vertebrae.
Many goatfishes are brightly colored. The largest species, the dash-and-dot goatfish (Parupeneus barberinus), grows to 60 cm in length; most species are less than half this size. Within the family are six genera and about eighty-six species.