Interested in finding out about ugly fish, or looking to find the ugliest fish anywhere on the planet?
Nature is a wonderful thing, but not every ocean creature is as cute as a clownfish or as beautiful as a killer whale. Whilst each organism is important and every animal has a role to play, there are times when evolution turns out a creature that doesn’t quite give the aesthetic pleasure that we’re used to as humans… which is another way of saying they’re downright ugly animals.
Beauty and ugliness are fairly subjective, relative ideas, however, so using no scientific approach whatsoever we’ve picked a variety of fish species to showcase just how ugly nature can go. Each ugly fish listed below is shown with a photo for proof, and ranked in no particular order.
So, with this context in mind, let’s look at 11 of the world’s ugliest fish:
In 2013 the blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) was elected by a public vote to become the mascot for the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. (Yes, that is a real group!) The fish lives off the coast of Australia and is sadly endangered due to being caught in deep-sea trawler nets as a by-product of fishing for other fish.
The blobfish lives in the deep ocean in a very high-pressure environment – where it actually looks a lot less ugly than in pictures taken out of water. It’s slimy, gelatinous appearance is an adaption for its habitat, where its squidgy flesh allows it to maintain buoyancy at depths that gaseous bladders (the traditional fish organ for controlling depth) are unable to function.
The frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) is a relatively rare shark that lives in the deep Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It’s considered a living fossil due to its primitive eel-like traits – such as the color, length, and fin placements at the back of its body.
Whilst hunting, the frilled shark moves like an eel, bending and lunging to catch prey. It has unusually wide jaws – fitted out with 300 curved, needle-like teeth – which allow it to swallow large prey whole. So dangerous as well as ugly!
The angler fish (Linophrynidae) is quite possibly the ugliest animal on the planet, not just the ugliest fish! It lives in the deep, lightless bottom of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, and has a huge head with crescent-shaped mouths complete with plenty of sharp, translucent teeth.
Their name comes from the fleshy piece of dorsal fin that projects over their mouth ad lights up to attract prey, making them one of many species of bioluminescent animals. There are over 200 species of anglerfish, usually dark gray to dark brown in colour, and anywhere from 0.3 to 1 meter in length.
The jury is out as to whether the red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) is actually an ugly fish, or just very strange looking. Found around the Galapagos Islands and close to the South American coast near Peru, this fish has an odd-shaped body, a ‘beard’ and ‘mustache’, large ‘nose’, and their piece de resistance, bright red pouting lips. Scientists speculate it’s these lips that help the red-lipped batfish find a mate.
Unusually for fish, red-lipped batfish are not particularly graceful swimmers, preferring to ‘walk’ on the ocean floor. Once they reach maturity their dorsal fin is used to attract prey rather than for swimming.
The monkfish (Lophius) is a bottom-dwelling fish that lives in the western and northern Atlantic Ocean, also going by the names sea-devils, fishing-frogs, frog-fish, and ‘poor-man’s lobster’. These names relate to the – let’s face it, ugly – looks of the monkfish, which have mottled skin with small eyes, large heads and mouths, and rows of fang-like overbiting teeth.
Despite their unappetizing-looks, it’s increasingly recognized that these fish are indeed very tasty, and they’re increasingly appearing on the menus of high-end restaurants and beyond.
Sloane’s viperfish (Chauliodus sloani) – or Sloane’s fangfish – live between a depth of 1,000 and 2,000 meters, across almost all marine waters in the temperate and tropical oceans. Not only are they a pretty ugly fish (and well worthy of a place on this list), but they hold a place in the Guinness Book of Records for being the fish with the largest teeth relative to their head size. In fact, their name comes from the Greek words chaulios (for open-mouthed) and odous (for teeth).
The hagfish (Myxini) is a sinuous, tubular fish with pink-grey skin and a paddle-shaped tail, looking a lot like an eel, and favoring cold, deep waters. Their mouths have the look of some sort of horrific alien, and, although they have no teeth, they do have grim-looking toothy cartilage they use to rasp away at carcasses.
Along with their unique looks and disgusting eating habits (burying themselves in the flesh of a carcass, then eating it from the inside out), hagfish have a special power. They are able to produce many liters of slimy snot from their skin in just a few minutes which clogs the mouth of any predators that try to eat it.
The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is a pink-skinned deep ocean-dweller with a very distinctive snout – elongated and flattened, with highly protruding jaws containing sharp, nail-like teeth.
Their body is slender and flabby, and they can grow up to 6 meters long. Their distinct pink colour comes from visible blood vessels beneath the skin when they reach maturity, with their colour evolving from being almost white as young sharks.
The whitemargin stargazer (Uranoscopus sulphureus) belongs to a group of bottom-dwelling fish that have evolved to have eyes on the tops of their heads. To hunt they bury themselves in the sand to hide, then pounce to ambush passing prey.
Along with their upward-facing eyes, whitemargin stargazers also have upwards-facing mouths in their large heads, making for the perfect hunting physique – though certainly not the most attractive!
The Atlantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus) is characterized by its large, higgledy-piggledy, fang-like teeth – in both their mouths and throat – which are used to crush their crustacean prey of crabs, lobsters, and sea urchins.
They are generally found close to the seabed in cold waters at depths of 100 to 500 meters. Along with their not-so-pretty looks, Atlantic Wolffish are remarkable as they secrete anti-freeze proteins to keep their blood fluid and moving in their cold habitats. They are sadly prone to overfishing as a by-product by bottom trawlers, and because of their size and relatively late breeding age, it takes a long time for their stock to recover.
The illuminated netdevil (Linophryne arborifera) is a distinct species of anglerfish.
They have luminous lures sticking out from their heads and sides to attract prey. Pictured is the 8 centimeter female of the species. The males are much smaller and parasitic. They spend their lives upside down, facing forwards, attached to the females’ belly. Nice life!
And that’s your lot for our ugly fish list. What did you think – any obvious fish missing? Or any ocean creatures on the list you feel are harshly treated and should be removed? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
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