Black bream have a deep body with long dorsal and anal fins. The dorsal fin can be completely folded down on their back. They have a short nose, a slight depression over the eyes and the mouth curves slightly upwards. The pectoral fins are just as long as the head and the tail fin is slightly forked. Adults are greyish brown becoming silvery grey on the sides with about 15 vertical golden streaks. The dorsal, anal and ventral fins are blackish.
The species is gregarious and at times forms rather conspicuous shoals. Reproduction takes place from February to May and eggs are laid in a furrow made by the male who guards them until they hatch. The black bream is a protogynous hermaphrodite - female first and then becoming a male.