12 Interesting Anglerfish Facts

This type of fish is one of the most infamous creatures in the deep ocean.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of anglerfish facts, one of the most ferocious predators in the sea.

1. Anglerfish are named after the way they hunt

Anglerfish are bony types of fish in the order “Lophiiformes” and are named after the way they lure their prey. It appears that most of the females of this type of fish have a special organ to do so.

This fleshy organ grows from the top of their heads and just hangs in front of their mouths. The tip of it can produce light, a feature that lures in the unsuspecting prey. If the prey swims close enough, they launch their attack.

This basically means that the anglerfish angles in their prey using the little rod on top of their head.

Anglerfish facts
Anglerfish / Masaki Miya / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

2. There are 18 different anglerfish families

Over 200 different types of anglerfish species are recognized in 5 different sub-orders and 18 different families. This means that there’s a wide variety of anglerfish.

3. These fish live all around the world

Because there are so many different types of anglerfish species, it means that they can be found all around the world. Some anglerfish can be found at the bottom of the ocean while some live on the continental shelf.

There’s hardly any place in the world where you won’t find these creatures dwelling in the ocean!

4. Most anglerfish are rather small with some exceptions

Because of the wide range of species of anglerfish, they also differ in size. Most anglerfish, such as the coffinfish, are rather small measuring between 2 and 18 centimeters (1 and 7 inches).

Some species, such as the monkfish, can grow up to 1 meter (39 inches) long

anglerfish interesting facts
Anglerfish / Olga1969 / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en

5. They have large mouths and extremely sharp teeth

You don’t want to be floating in front of this creature if you’re living at the bottom of the ocean, that’s for sure! Anglerfish have a large head and a large crescent-shaped mouth as well.

The scary part is that their mouth is filled with 2 rows of extremely sharp fang-like teeth that point inwards, completely optimized to both catch the prey and keep it inside if it’s not killed on the spot.

6. All anglerfish are carnivores and ferocious predators

With a setup like that, it isn’t hard to believe that all anglerfish are 100% carnivorous. This means their sole source of food is the unlucky prey they catch which consists of other creatures living at the bottom of the ocean.

A study has shown that even though these creatures aren’t picky when it comes to their food, their main sources of food are crustaceans and other small types of fish.

Himantolophus groenlandicus
Himantolophus Groenlandicus / Scubagirl85 / Wiki Commons

7. Anglerfish can devour large prey

One of the most fascinating anglerfish facts is that their mouths and stomachs are optimized in such a way that they can devour prey that is up to twice their own size.

This is possible because their bones are extremely thin and flexible, allow their mouths to extend. Their stomach is very flexible as well and can easily hold prey this large.

The two main reasons that they eat whatever they come across, even prey this large, is first of all because the food at the bottom of the ocean is really scarce. The study conducted in Costa Rica discovered that 52% of the anglerfish they examined had empty stomachs.

The other reason is that large prey allows them to store food for an extended period of time, as it’s never sure when another one of those goodies will pass by!

Anglerfish big mouth
Anglerfish skeleton / Didier Descouens / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

8. Females are usually much larger than the male anglerfish

One of the most interesting anglerfish facts is that these types of fish are characterized by sexual dimorphism. This means that the female is usually much larger than the male.

And we’re not talking about being a little smaller, the difference can be extremely big in some species, with males literally being dwarfs in comparison.

9. Bacteria are illuminating the special organ of the anglerfish

So how do they make the light in the luring organ shine?

Perhaps one of the most amazing anglerfish facts is that they literally use bacteria to make the tip of this organ shine. The bacteria attached to it becomes luminescent which means there are symbiotic relationships.

The reason is that the bacteria are unable to produce light by themselves. By attaching itself to the rod of the anglerfish, the fish fills up the lack of chemicals needed to make it happen.

Pretty fascinating stuff, don’t you think?

10. These fish can be described as lazy, but they need to be

Let’s face it, the living conditions at the bottom of the ocean aren’t all that great. The pressure is enormous which means all the energy that these creatures are radiating is preserved for the most important thing in their lives, acquiring food to survive.

That’s why a study has shown that most of the time, these creatures are simply floating around in the deep ocean, sometimes even upside-down, drifting passively without making any sudden movements.

While they are perfectly capable of moving quickly in any direction, these are low-energy predators that prefer to save all of their energy for things that are crucial to their survival.

11. Their mating behavior is extremely weird

We already mentioned that the male anglerfish usually is much smaller than the female, right?

Well, some species of the ceratoid anglerfish have the weirdest mating behavior on the planet!

The male literally attaches itself to the female in behavior referred to as “sexual parasitism.” The male literally becomes part of the female, who lures them with her light-producing organs, and they will stay there until they die, all the while producing sperm.

And we’re not talking about one, but multiple males attaching themselves to the female, which means they have a polyandrous mating system.

The spawn of these fish just floats in the ocean in a huge thin sheet of gelatinous material with a size of about 25 centimeters (10 inches) wide and over 10 meters (33 feet) long.

female Anglerfish with male attached to it
Female anglerfish / Andrew Butko / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

12. Can you eat anglerfish?

So can anglerfish be eaten?

Some species are definitely commercially fished, such as the monkfish or goosefish, and therefore are considered to be “outside safe biological limits” as there’s a fear of over-fishing.

In Japan, the liver of the monkfish is considered to be a delicacy and is used in a popular dish named “ankimo.” In South Korea, an extremely popular dish named “Agwi-jjim” is made with blackmouth anglerfish and translates to “braised spicy angler.”

monkfish food