16 Amazing Fish with Big Foreheads (Must-See Photos!)

Written by Sarah Barkley
Published: November 8, 2023
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Some fish have strange or interesting characteristics, surprising people with what lives beneath water. While you might initially think they’re deformities, you’ll be surprised to learn that you can find many amazing fish with big foreheads. You can see them while scuba diving, and some can live in home aquariums.  

Amazing fish with big foreheads sometimes use these growths for a specific purpose, from eating to protection or mating. Other fish with big foreheads seem not to have a reason for the growth, or the purpose is still unknown to experts.   

Take a look at these photos of amazing fish with big foreheads and read about each fish species to learn more: 

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1. Redcap Oranda Goldfish

Goldfish - "Red Cap Oranda" among plants in a fish tank.

A Redcap Oranda Goldfish stands out with its red-capped head.

©Wang Sing/Shutterstock.com

Redcap Oranda Goldfish have a red cap, almost like a hood, on their heads. Because of the cap location, it’s considered an amazing fish with a big forehead, with the red forehead-growth looking like a raspberry.   

Redcap Orandas can grow up to 12 inches long and can live up to 15 years. They are nice fish, so you won’t have to worry about aggression. If you keep them as pets, consider getting eight of them so they can school together and interact. 

2. Dolphinfish or Mahi-Mahi

Mahi mahi or dolphinfish

Mahi Mahi, or dolphinfish, are fast swimmers, which helps them avoid predators.

©iStock.com/FtLaudGirl

A dolphinfish, or Mahi-Mahi, prefers warm water and lives in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. It has a blunt face, a large forehead, a forked tail fin, and a big body. This fish can grow up to 55 inches long and 40 pounds, with bright blue or light green coloring.  

A Mahi-Mahi fish can swim 60 mph, and you can find them in Florida between April and June. It eats flying fish, sargassum, and triggerfish. A dolphinfish can live up to five years, but most only survive to two years old. 

3. California Sheephead

A California Sheephead Swims through the Kelp Forests of Channel islands national park

California Sheepheads are distinct with big foreheads and red and black coloring.

©Chris Honeyman/Shutterstock.com

You can find California Sheephead in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the California coast. They thrive in rocky reefs in the kelp beds and have distinctive red and black coloring and a large forehead. These fish can live for up to 53 years. 

4. Barreleye Fish 

Barreleyed fish

The Barreleye Fish is one of the most amazing fish with big foreheads.

©3DSam79/Shutterstock.com

A Barreleye Fish is extraordinary because its eyes are glowing green orbs, and it has a transparent, slightly blue dome at the top of its head. They eat jellies, tiny crustaceans, and plankton. Barreleye Fish live in the deep sea and are used to the high-pressure environment found 2,500 meters below the ocean surface. 

5. Asian Sheepshead Wrasse 

Asian Sheepshead wrasse

An Asian Sheepshead Wrasse lives in rocky reefs in the Pacific Ocean.

©Martin Voeller/Shutterstock.com

Asian Sheepshead Wrasses are found in the rocky reefs of the western Pacific Ocean near China and Japan, although sometimes they are spotted in South Korea. These fish have huge foreheads and prominent chins, can grow to 39 inches long, and weigh up to 32 pounds. While they look intimidating, they’re not aggressive, and they eat mostly shellfish and other small fish.   

Asian Sheepshead Wrasses are hermaphrodites, meaning they have male and female organs. They begin their life as a female and become males later. Once they mate, they’ll leave fertilized eggs in coral reefs. 

6. Napoleon Wrasse (Humphead Wrasse)

Fish Napoleon Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) on a coral reef. Close up

A Napoleon Wrasse is unique because they can turn their eyes 360 degrees.

©TatianaMironenko/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Napoleon Wrasse or Humphead Wrasse lives in coral reefs near the east coast of Africa. They’re commonly found in Madagascar and sometimes in the Pacific Ocean. You can find Napoleon Wrasses up to 7.5 feet, and they can live for 30 years.   

This fish is a beautiful color, with a mixture of purple, blue, and green, and has a black line beneath its eyes. Not only does it have a big forehead, but Napoleon Wrasse also has big lips. It has great vision and can turn its eyes nearly 360 degrees. 

7. Green Humphead Parrotfish (Bumphead Parrotfish)

Green humphead parrotfish with schooling fish

A Green Humphead Parrotfish uses its big forehead to smash into coral.

©Novrizal Herdananto/Shutterstock.com

Green Humphead Parrotfish live in reefs in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Their mouths have a small bill, like a parrot, and a large hump on the forehead. These fish can reach 4.9 feet long and weigh nearly 165 pounds, making them the biggest species of Parrotfish.  

The hump serves a few purposes, including allowing the Green Humphead Parrotfish to smash hard coral to break off chunks for digestion. They are the only animals able to consume coral, so there’s no food competition.   

Another use for the large forehead on a Green Humphead Parrotfish is that it helps with defense because they can headbutt other fish. Plus, they also use it during mating season to headbutt their competition. These fish can live up to 40 years old, and some survive even longer. 

8. Flowerhorn Cichlid 

Flowerhorn Cichlid swimming in fish tank.

Flowerhorn Cichlids are great for home aquariums.

©Huy Thoai/Shutterstock.com

The Flowerhorn Cichlid is a freshwater fish with a huge protrusion, like a big forehead. It has a square body shape and white or yellow eyes, adding to its unique appearance.    

The Flower Cichlid was human-created by mating different fish species, so it doesn’t have a scientific name, and you won’t see it in nature. People often choose a Flowerhorn Cichlid as a decorative fish in home or office aquariums or outdoor ponds. It can live for 10 to 12 years, and they’re super hardy. 

9. Lionhead Cichlid  

Lionhead cichlid (Steatocranus casuarius),

Male Lionhead Cichlids develop big foreheads.

©R. Maximiliane/Shutterstock.com

Lionhead Cichlids are native to eastern Africa but often live in South America’s Amazon region. They are typically blue or olive-green, and the males develop a hump that looks like a big forehead.  

Lionhead Cichlids eat algae, plants, fish flakes, plankton, and small crustaceans. They can live for ten or more years and only grow to about 4.5 inches long, so they’re perfect for a home aquarium. These fish can be territorial with other Lionheads but tend to get along with other fish. 

10. Frontosa Cichlid (Front Cichlid)

front cichlid wild, aggressive dominant male, popular and hardy freshwater fish, endemic of lake Tanganyika in low light fish tank of a pet shop

A Front Cichlid is easy to spot if you know to look for seven distinct vertical lines.

©Aleron Val/Shutterstock.com

The Front Cichlid lives in eastern Africa and is endemic to Lake Tanganyika. It can grow to just over one foot long in the wild and a tank, and it has distinct black vertical lines on a white or blue body. After three years, a male Front Cichlid develops a nuchal hump or a huge bump on its head that looks like a forehead.   

Front Cichlids naturally eat snails and mollusks, but if you have one in a tank, they’ll also eat small crustaceans, brine shrimp, pellets, and worms. They can live for 25 years, so be mindful if you choose one for your home aquarium.  

11. Midas Cichlid  

A Midas Cichlid has a visible hump on its forehead when it’s time to mate.

©Andrej Jakubik/Shutterstock.com

Midas Cichlids are orange with broad foreheads. They live in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the San Juan River, although they were found in Florida in 1980. It’s an aggressive fish with an oval body and eats small fish, mollusks, worms, plant materials, insect larvae, and snails.  

Midas cichlids can reach a little over one foot long and weigh around 2.5 pounds, with males being slightly bigger than females.  

They develop nuchal hump, making them an amazing fish with a big forehead. You can see the hump on males more than females, and it’s only visible during mating season. 

12. Redhead Cichlid 

Redheaded Cichlid. Latin name - Cichlasoma synspilum

When male Redhead Cichlids breed, they turn yellow or bright orange.

©Mikhail Blajenov/Shutterstock.com

Native to Central America, the Redhead Cichlid can be found in Tropical America and the Atlantic Slope of Middle America, including southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. It comes in many colors and often has black blotches or a stripe.   

Once the fish matures, males get bigger by developing a forehead bump or nuchal hump. Females stop growing at maturity and don’t develop a huge forehead. Breeding males have yellow or bright red-orange coloring. 

13. Rio Grande Cichlid (Texas Cichlid) 

Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum

Rio Grande Cichlids are beautiful additions to a home aquarium, or you can watch them in the wild.  

©Natalia Sidorova/Shutterstock.com

The Rio Grande Cichlid is also called a Texas Chichlid or Pearl Cichlid. It lives in freshwater, can range in color, and shimmers in the light. Their forehead isn’t always big, but males develop a bump in that area when they gain dominance.  

This Cichlid lives in rivers and lakes in northern Mexico and southern Texas and is the only Cichlid native to the United States. It can live from ten to 13 years and only grows between ten to 12 inches. The Texas Cichlid is aquarium-friendly, so you can consider it for home or work. 

14. Threespot Cichlid  

Trimac or three spot cichlid (Cichlasoma trimaculatum)

A Threespot Cichlid is an amazing fish with big foreheads and often has more than three spots. 

©Pavaphon Supanantananont/Shutterstock.com

The Threespot Cichlid is sometimes called Red-Eyed Cichlid or Trimac. It lives in Mexico and Central America, preferring slow-flowing river sections in the lower river valleys of the Pacific Slope of Central America between Mexico and Panama.  

Threespot Cichlids have green or yellow base colors with distinct spots on the side. While you might assume they only have three spots, they can often have more than that. 

15. Peacock Goby 

Peacock goby - gudgeon (Tateurndina ocellicauda) male posing

A Peacock Goby is tiny, being less than three inches long.

©Toxotes Hun-Gabor Horvath/Shutterstock.com

The Peacock Goby lives in freshwater in tropical areas. It is endemic to eastern Papua New Guinea in rivers and ponds. This fish typically swims in schools hovering above the substrate.  

The Peacock Goby is small, growing no bigger than three inches, and breeds 50-100 individuals in each session. They eat insects, larvae, small shrimp, bloodworms, crustaceans, and daphnia. 

16. Humphead Glassfish 

Humpheaded glassfish

A Humphead Glassfish is clear, but you can see some black and purple coloring.  

©Nantawat Chotsuwan/Shutterstock.com

The Humphead Glassfish lives in saltwater and is often found in fast-moving rivers in Thailand and Myanmar. Its body is transparent, contributing to its name, and it has a nuchal hump, giving it a big forehead.  

A Humphead Glassfish eats shrimp, fish, and insect larvae and can live for up to eight years in a tank. They only grow to about 3.9 inches, but they need a large tank. 

Summary of Amazing Fish with Big Foreheads 

 Number Amazing Fish With Big Foreheads
Redcap Oranda Goldfish 
Dolphinfish or Mahi-Mahi 
California Sheephead 
Barreleye Fish 
Asian Sheepshead Wrasse 
Napoleon Wrasse (Humphead Wrasse) 
Green Humphead Parrotfish (Bumphead Parrotfish) 
Flowerhorn Cichlid 
Lionhead Cichlid 
10 Frontosa Cichlid (Front Cichlid) 
11 Midas Cichlid 
12 Redhead Cichlid 
13 Rio Grande Cichlid (Texas Cichlid) 
14 Three Spot Cichlid 
15 Peacock Goby 
16 Humphead Glassfish 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © TatianaMironenko/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images


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