Top of the strangest and ugliest fish in the world

The underwater world is full of mystery, beauty, and also strangeness. Of course, everyone focuses on beauty and loves the world’s most beautiful fish that usually delight our eyes with their attractive appearance and colors, but water monsters do not enjoy such popularity. Maybe because these terrifying and ugly animals hide in the depths of the oceans.

Among the millions of fish on Earth, we have chosen to create a list of the strangest and ugliest fish that scared us with their external appearance.

Have a look at the following list of the weirdest and ugliest fish in the world and tell us which one you find the most terrifying or interesting!

19. Viperfish

Found in the mesopelagic zone, Viperfish represent any species of the Chauliodus family. What is fascinating about the viperfish is the fact that it is covered by a transparent layer of a yet unidentified substance that is similar to scales, but this fish has no scales. The way of feeding is also more unusual. They engage in vertical migration at night to feed, but according to specialists, they have a slow metabolism, which means they will not migrate every night to look for food. Currently, there are only nine extant recognized species, some of them being: Chauliodus barbatus, Chauliodus pammelas, Chauliodus dentatus, Chauliodus danae, and Chauliodus schmidti.

Viperfish
Viperfish. Image credit: Carl Bento
Viperfish
Viperfish

18. Hagfish

This representative of the class Myxini and order Myxiniformes is the only animal that has a skull and does not have a vertebral column and jaws. Capable of reaching a 19.7 in (50 cm) length at maturity, Hagfish have elongated, eel-like bodies with pink, naked skin, simple eyes, and sharp teeth. Moreover, Hagfish also has an unique defense mechanism. Thanks to over 100 glands, Hagfish are able to produce a milky slime that allows them to release themselves when captured. In some parts of the world, hagfish are considered a delicacy, being consumed predominantly in South Korea and Japan.

Hagfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Hagfish. Image credit: Mark Conlin / Alamy

17. Goblin shark

The only extant representative of the family Mitsukurinidae, the Goblin shark lives at the bottom of the ocean, at depths greater than 330 ft (100 m ), which makes it extremely difficult to detect and study. It has pink skin, an elongated snout, prominent jaws with sharp teeth attached to skin tissue, a weight of 460 lb(208 kg), and a length of approximately 144 in (112 cm). The name Goblin comes from Japanese folklore and refers to some mythical creatures.

Goblin shark - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Goblin shark (Mitsukurinidae). Image credit: sharkwater.com
Goblin shark
Goblin shark. Image credit: Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria

16. Owlfish

Owlfish is also called the stout blacksmelt and lives in the north Pacific Ocean at depths of 21,700 ft (6,600 m). The name Owlfish comes from the fact that they have eyes as big as their heads.

Owlfish - Pseudobathylagus milleri,
Owlfish – Pseudobathylagus milleri, Image credit: Orlov, A

15. The ogre fish

Found in tropical and temperate waters in both the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean, the ogre can reach up to 7 In (18 cm) in length and feeds with crustaceans and cephalopods. Also called a common fangtooth, this fish has a large head and an unusual mouth, slightly protruding and with extremely sharp teeth. What is interesting about this species is the fact that a mature fish is very different in appearance from a younger one, so different that they misled the specialists who thought they were two distinct species. This fish prefers to live at depths of 10 to 16,400 ft (2 to 5000 m).

The ogre fish
The ogre fish. Image credit: Mark Norman
The ogre fish - Anoplogaster cornuta, Fangtooth
The ogre fish – Anoplogaster cornuta, Fangtooth. Image credit: WoRMS for SMEBD, by FRS/Finlay Burns/2002

14. Frilled shark

The frilled shark is found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is represented by two species named Chlamydoselachus anguineus and Chlamydoselachus africana, which bodies differ from an anatomical point of view. Both species feature dark-brown skin, large eyes, and jaws with 300 trident-shaped teeth, but the C. anguineus has a longer spinal column with more vertebrae, a longer head, a narrower mouth, a lower-intestine spiral valve, and smaller pectoral fins.Thanks to its cartilaginous skeleton and large liver with plenty of lipids that helps it maintain buoyancy, the frilled shark lives at depths of 5,150 ft (1,570 m). As for its reproduction, the frilled shark is an ovoviviparous animal born from an encapsulated or retained in the uterus of the mother shark for a gestation period of 3.5 years.

Frilled shark - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Frilled shark. Image credit: Kelvin Aitken/ Marine Themes
Chlamydoselachus anguineus
Chlamydoselachus anguineus. Image credit: © Citron / CC BY-SA 3.0

13. Ocean sunfish

Also called common mola, the Ocean fish lives in Atlantic and Pacific waters, eats Sea jellies and salps, and impresses with its shape and weight. This fish has a flattened and oval body when viewed from the side, and a spine with fewer vertebrae than other fish. In terms of weight, an adult Ocean fish weighs between 545 and 4,409 lb (247 and 2,000 kg). Moreover, when it comes to reproduction, this fish is fantastic. A female Ocean fish can produce up to 300,000,000 at a time, more than any other known vertebrate.

Ocean sunfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Ocean sunfish. Image credit: Per-Ola Norman
A sunfish caught in 1910, with an estimated weight of 3500 lb (1600 kg ). Image credit: P.V. Reyes of Avalon

12. Sheepshead

Part of the Sparidae family and Archosargus genus, the Sheepshead fish can be recognized after its grey body and the five or six dark bars on the side of the body. It lives in coastal waters along the western Atlantic and eats mostly oysters, clams, fiddler crabs, and other crustaceans. At maturity, it can reach 10 to 20 in (30 to 50 cm) in length.

Sheepshead
Sheepshead. Image credit: Jennette’s Pier

11. Opah

Also known as moonfish, sunfish, and kingfish, the Opah is a colorful fish and part of the Lampridae family. There are six species of Lampris, with the Lampris guttatus being the largest (78 in / 2 m), but they all have in common the red-orange with white spots body. Dar acest peste are ceva unic fata de ceilalti pesti. In timp ce majoritatea pestilor sunt cu sange rece, pestele Opah are endtermie fiind capabil sa isi mentine temperatura intregului corp la aproximativ 41 °F (5 °C )above the surrounding water. This endothermy is possible primarily due to a special structure in the gill blood vessels called rete mirabile that prevents warm blood from coming into contact with cold water. Also, this fish has a layer of fat around the internal organs and the skull, but also the pectoral fins that can generate heat without contracting.

Opah - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Opah (also known as moonfish, sunfish, and kingfish)

10. Striated frogfish

Found in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean, the Striated Frogfish has different colors such as yellow, brown, gray, white, and black and is part of the Antennariidae family. This fish is relatively small, reaching a length of 8.7 in (22 cm) at maturity. It is a carnivore and prefers to live in solitude, especially after mating when they can no longer tolerate each other. Also called Hairy Frogfish due to the fact that its skin is covered with hair-like dermal spines, this fish has a round body and a wide mouth that allows it to swallow any prey larger than itself. Moreover, he also has a worm-like lure with which he can attract prey.

Striated frogfish
Striated frogfish. Image credit: Silke Baron
Antennarius striatus - Hairy frogfish
Antennarius striatus – Hairy frogfish. Image credit: Steve Childs

9. Stargazer fish

Stargazers are a family of fish called Uranoscopidae that includes 51 species and are found worldwide, but especially in salty and deep waters. Stargazer fish is particularly special due to the location of the eyes, which are on the top of the head, and their habit of burying themselves in the sand. At maturity, these fish can reach a length of 7 to 35 in  (18 to 90 cm). Another interesting thing is that they are poisonous, but in some parts of the world, they are consumed as food, their venom not being poisonous if eaten.

Whitemargin stargazer - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Whitemargin stargazer. Image credit: Mayes, B
Australian stargazer
Australian stargazer. Image credit: Graham, K.
Scaly stargazer
Scaly stargazer. Image credit: Yau, B.

8. Spotted handfish

The Spotted handfish is also the first fish that was listed in 1996 on the IUCN Red list as an endangered species and lives only in the estuary of Derwent River, Tasmania at depths of 16 ft ( 5 m) to 33 ft (10 m). This fish is part of the Brachionichthyidae family and is quite small, reaching 4.7 in (120 mm) in length. One of the characteristics of this ugly fish is the pectoral fins that allow it to move very slowly on the sea’s bottom. As for their reproduction, these female fish can lay between 80 and 225 eggs with a diameter of 0.12 – 0.16 in (3-4 mm) each and with a hatching period of 7-8 weeks.

Spotted handfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Spotted handfish. Image credit: Barry Bruce, CSIRO
Spotted handfish
Spotted handfish. Image credit: CSIRO

7. Atlantic wolffish

Atlantic fish are commonly known under several names such as ocean catfish, devil fish, woof, or sea cat. These fish are stationary and live on the west and east coast of the Atlantic at great depths and in cold waters, even close to freezing. The cold water does not affect them in any way, being able to keep their blood moving without problems, thanks to the natural antifreeze they contain. Another distinguishing characteristic of this fish is its dentition. It has an extensive teeth structure, with 4 to 6 fang-like teeth in both the lower and upper jaws. Their body can be described as long and subcylindrical and it is usually found in colors of purplish-brown, a dull olive green, or bluish gray.

Atlantic wolffish. Image credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Atlantic wolffish - Skull
Atlantic wolffish – Skull. Image credit: Matthieu Deuté

6. Blobfish

Blobfish or the smooth-head blobfish is a small fish with a length of up to 12 in (30 cm) that is part of the Psychrolutidae family. It is found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand at extreme depths of 2,000 to 3,900 ft (600 to 1,200 m). The blobfish can live at such depths because its body has no muscles and its flesh is like gelatin with a density lower than that of water.

Blobfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Artwork Eulogy for a Blobfish CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Patricia Piccinini
Blobfish
Photo by Bhakti Patel taken aboard NIWA s RV Tangaroa in the Sub-Antartic Ocean

5. Lancetfish

Lancetfish measures only about 6.6 ft (2m) and is known as a fierce killer of the oceans, being widely distributed in all the waters across the globe, except the polar seas. Its body is elongated and slender and has a long dorsal fin with 41 to 44 rays. Its mouth is larger than the rest of its body and has 2 or 3 fang-like teeth in each jaw and other smaller teeth Furthermore, this predator is hermaphrodite and does not have swim bladders or scales.

Longnose lancetfish, Alepisaurus ferox - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Longnose lancetfish, Alepisaurus ferox. Image credit: Allen Shimada, NOAA NMFS OST
Lancetfish
Lancetfish. Image credit: NOAA Photo Library

4. Toadfish

The name Toadfish is not the name of a specific fish but of several species of fish from the Tetraodontidae and Psychrolutidae families and comes from the fact that their appearance is similar to a frog. The banded toadfish, Torquigener pleurogramma, the blackspotted toadfish, Arothron nigropunctatus, the smooth toadfish, the Tetractenos glaber, and the dark toadfish, Neophrynichthys latus are just some of the fish that bear this name. Apart from their appearance, these fish are known for their aggressiveness but also for their ability to emit some sounds with their swim bladder.

Toadfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Toadfish
Toadfish
Toadfish. Images credit: hudsonriverpark.com

3. Anglerfish

The Anglerfish is a bony fish that measure 1 to 7 in (2 to 18 cm) and can be found worldwide. Its name derives from its unique method of predation, in which the adult female uses a luminescent organ to attract prey. The organ is called esca and is located at the tip of a modified dorsal ray, always pointing outwards. According to specialists, the source of the luminescence is symbiotic bacteria, which are believed to be produced and exchanged during mating, because those bacteria were not found anywhere in the waters.

Some of the anglerfish dwell away from the sea bottom, while others prefer the bottom of the sea, but all of them are known for their extreme sexual dimorphism and sexual symbiosis, where the male sinks his teeth into the female’s body, more specifically in her blood vessels, and lives attached to her as long as the female is alive.

Anglerfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Anglerfish. Image credit: Randel Kreitsberg

2. Red-lipped batfish

The Red-lipped fish impresses not only with its appearance but also with its colors and way of moving. This fish has a light brown body with shades of gray and large, bright red lips, but you can distinguish this fish from other fish thanks to its bright red lips. Living around the Galapagos Islands, these fish tend to feed on smaller fish, shrimp, mollusks, and crabs, and move along the bottom of the ocean thanks to their pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins that help them “walk.” Last but not least, at maturity these fish can reach 16 in (40 cm) in length and their dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection.

Red-lipped batfish - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Red-lipped batfish. Image credit: Rein Ketelaars
Ogcocephalus darwini body plan
Ogcocephalus darwini body plan. Image credit: Cada, Robbie N.

1. Lophius

There are various species of Lophius fish in the world, which can be found in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the North Sea, but they all have in common their unusual appearance. They have very large and flat heads, an extremely large mouth that can expand, sharp inward-facing teeth, and a stomach that allows them to swallow whole prey the size of their bodies. On top of that, they also have pectoral and ventral fins similar to small legs that allow them to “walk” on the bottom of the sea. The most recognizable Lophius fish are: American angler (Lophius americanus), blackbellied angler ( Lophius budegassa), angler (Lophius piscatorius), and devil anglerfish (Lophius vomerinus)

Lophius piscatorius - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Lophius piscatorius. Image credit: Olga1969
Lophius vomerinus - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Lophius vomerinus. Image credit: Le Noury, Pamela
Monkfish - Lophius piscatorius - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Monkfish – Lophius piscatorius. Image credit: Alexander Mayrhofer
Lophius americanus - the strangest and ugliest fish in the world
Lophius americanus. Image credit: Mike Beauregard

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