Saddled bream have oval bodies with an equally curved dorsal and ventral profile and a forked tail with acute lobes. The nose is short and the eyes are large. The jaw protrudes slightly and the pectoral fins are pointed and twice as long as the ventral fins. The silvery-grey colouring is highlighted by gold and blue longitudinal lines along the sides. The upper edge of the operculum is black, as are the marks, though ringed with white, along the base of the caudal fin.
The sexes are usually separate though some individuals are hermaphrodite. Reproduction takes place between April and June. Juveniles have a distinctive black mark on their tale fin when they are only 10mm long making them easily recognizable. Unlike other sea bream, this species is often seen near the surface or in shallow waters, away from the sea bed. Saddled bream are omnivorous.