Discover 5 Ugly Fish Species (With Pictures!)

Striated frogfish or hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus)
© iStock.com/Tum3000

Written by Megan Martin

Updated: August 20, 2023

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There are tens of thousands of species of fish in the world. From freshwater to saltwater, there are fish that look common, like trout, and fish that look like they belong on another planet. This also means that, while all fish are interesting and unique in their own ways, some are slightly less pleasant to look like. Below, you’ll be able to meet five ugly fish species. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

1. Blobfish

When you think of ugly fish, there’s a chance that you most likely think about the blobfish. This fish is known for its sagging, slick appearance. However, its title of being one of the ugliest fish in the world may be unearned. This is because the appearance that earned the blobfish this title isn’t actually its natural appearance!

Blobfish live in the deep sea, typically around the ocean’s bottom. Here, they are designed in such a way to handle the pressure of being this far in the water. When they’re brought to the surface, it can cause their organs to fail and distort their appearance. Blobfish that are kept in the right pressure and the right part of the ocean actually look quite normal. 

blobfish

Blobfish are considered one of the ugliest fish in the world.

©World-Wide-Photography/Shutterstock.com

2. Goblin Shark

The goblin shark has some rather interesting anatomical features that help them stand out from other fish found throughout the world. First, it has a long, flat snout that extends out well beyond its mouth. It also has extendable jaws with sharp, thin teeth. Their teeth are often compared to nails. Although these teeth can give them a somewhat intimidating appearance, they’re only used to catch cephalopods, crustaceans, and some fish species. Because they have thin skin, their blood vessels and blood can be seen in many areas of their body, such as their face. This gives them a pink appearance. 

It is these same anatomical features, however, that make many people consider the goblin shark to be an ugly fish species. However, there are other reasons to know about the goblin shark too. One example? They’re considered a living fossil because of how far back their lineage goes!

goblin shark in ocean

The goblin shark has a long, flat snout that extends out well beyond its mouth, and sharp thin teeth contribute to its unique appearance.

©iStock.com/3dsam79

3. Frilled Shark

The goblin shark isn’t the only species of shark to end up on this list of five ugly fish species. The frilled shark is another rare, deep-water shark with a strange appearance. To many people, they don’t even look like living sharks. Instead, the frilled shark has a strange look that makes it seem more like a mummified shark than living fish!

Frilled sharks have smooth, pale bodies with large heads. They get their name from their large, frill-like gills. Aside from this, however, they look more like eels than sharks. They have a mouthful of curved, needle-like teeth that can look scary at a glance but are only good for catching small, soft prey. There haven’t been any recorded attacks on humans by frilled sharks, but some scientists have accidentally been cut by their teeth. 

Frilled shark Chlamydoselachus anguineus

Frilled sharks made the list of ugly fish species because of their large heads, frill-like gills, and curved needle-like teeth.

©Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0 – Original / License

4. Anglerfish

If you don’t think of the blobfish when you’re thinking of ugly fish species, then you may think of the anglerfish. Popularized by the children’s movie Finding Nemo, anglerfish are bony fish in the order Lophiiformes. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they overall have the same spooky appearance. 

Angelfish get their name from their “fishing” tactics. Rather than actively hunting prey, they use the growth extending from their head to lure prey. When the prey is close, they are able to catch and eat them. Different species of anglerfish will have differently shaped growths in slightly varying locations, but they work to serve the same purpose of helping this interesting fish secure its next meal. Although many anglerfish prefer to live in the deep ocean where it is dark, this isn’t true for all species.

Yellow hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus)

Anglerfish species use a growth extending from their head to lure prey.

©Jack FotoVerse/Shutterstock.com

5. Red-Lipped Batfish

The red-lipped batfish is actually a type of anglerfish. It is in the family Ogcocephalidae, one of the many families in the anglerfish order. However, because it looks so different than its traditional cousins, it has earned its own spot on this list of ugly fish species. 

Red-lipped batfish look quite similar to frogs. They have large back fins that they use to “stand” on the ocean floor and small front fins. However, with their long, flat snout, they also look quite similar to the goblin shark. Their name is derived from their bright red mouth. Many have even described this species of batfish as looking like its wearing lipstick due to the appearance of its lips!

Red-lipped batfish underwater

Red-lipped batfish get their name from their bright red mouth that looks like they are wearing lipstick.

©iStock.com/tswinner


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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