The 10 Biggest Fish in the World

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: November 3, 2022
© Onusa Putapitak/
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Key Points

  • At 21.5 tons and 41.5 feet long, the whale shark is the world’s biggest fish. This shark lives in tropical waters 70 degrees Fahrenheit and warmer and is also the world’s largest non-mammalian vertebrate.
  • Basking sharks can grow to 4.2 tons and up to 40.3 feet. They may also live as long as 50 years.
  • The infamous great white shark dives 3,300 feet underwater and gets up to 3.34 tons and 23 feet long.

You may be wondering what the largest fish in the world is and where you can find it. So who is the biggest fish in the ocean? We have considered all the types of fish falling into the Chondrichthyes and the Osteichthyes groups alive on earth. That’s over 28,000 species. We have not looked at extinct fish, such as the Placodermi group, where the Dunkleosteus and the Titanichthys may have weighed more than 3.5 tons. Based on these criteria, here are the 10 biggest fish in the world.

#10 Hoodwinker Sunfish

Biggest Fish in the World: Hoodwinker Sunfish
The Hoodwinker sunfish, who likes to sunbathe, is one of the largest fist around.

The Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola tecta), often called sunfish, is the world’s 10th largest fish. This Osteichthyes member has a flat elliptical shape. It can weigh up to 1.87 tons and be up to 7.9 feet long. Scientists working near New Zealand first reported it in 2014, but people have reported seeing it near Chile, South Africa, and Australia. This fish that often dives hundreds of feet to catch its meals was difficult for researchers to identify because it tends to live in the colder climates of Southern Hemisphere oceans where people usually do not go. This tailless fish has eluded researchers for years. That is one big fish in the ocean!

#9 Sharptail Mola

Biggest Fish in the World: Sharptail Mola
The very large Sharptail mola can dive more than 2600 feet below the surface.

Here is another big fish in the ocean: the very elusive Sharptail mola (Masturus lanceolatus) weighs up to 2 tons, and it can be up to 9.8 feet long. This Osteichthyes looks like an elliptical sunfish in many ways, but it has a tail that has a sword-like protrusion in its center. It usually lives in tropical and temperate waters. Scientists do not know much about its behavior or the many locations where it may live. Anglers have caught this fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

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#8 Beluga Sturgeon

Biggest Fish in the World: Beluga Sturgeon
The Beluga sturgeon, one of the largest bony fishes, can live up to 100 years.

©Максим Яковлєв / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

The Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso), which is also called the great sturgeon, can weigh up to 2.072 tons and grow up to 24 feet long. That is a big fish in the ocean and one of the largest of these sturgeons are usually humpback. They all have long dorsal fins and shorter anal fins. This Osteichthyes lives primarily in the Caspian and the Black Sea basins. Females are often targeted by commercial anglers because of the roe, Beluga caviar, it produces.

#7 Southern Sunfish

Biggest Fish in the World: Southern Sunfish
According to Polynesian legend, it is very bad luck to kill one of these large southern sunfishes.

The southern sunfish (Mola alexandrini), also called Ramsay’s sunfish, southern ocean sunfish, short sunfish, or bump-head sunfish. It can weigh up to 2.3 tons and be up to 11 feet long. They use their vast fins to move through the water while lying horizontally.

While many of the fish on this list are highly elusive, it is not unusual to see these Osteichthyes lying on their sides just under the water’s surface throughout the Southern Hemisphere’s oceans. Scientists believe that this fish that dives deeply in cold water to catch its prey does this to get warmer. Meanwhile, gulls eat the parasites found on them. They may also do this to increase the amount of oxygen in their bodies.

#6 Ocean Sunfish

Biggest Fish in the World: Ocean Sunfish
The very large fish, Mola mola, were once accepted by Japanese shoguns accepted as payment for taxes

©Vladimir Wrangel/

Tied for number six on our list is the ocean sunfish (Mola mola), which is also called the common mola. This fish that lives in tropical and temperate waters globally has a fat head and a thin body that can extend up to 10 feet long. Females often produce 300 million eggs at one time, which is the most of any vertebrae. This docile fish is considered a delicacy in Taiwan and Japan. It often jumps out of the water, and that has caused some boating accidents because of its immense size.

#5 Giant Oceanic Manta Ray

Biggest Fish in the World: Giant Oceanic Manta Ray
The Giant Oceanic Manta Ray, one of the largest animals in the ocean, weighs as much as a white rhino.


Weighing in at 3 tons, the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris), also called the Atlantic manta ray, can grow up to 15 feet long. It can have a wingspan up to 30 feet wide. Most members of this species, which is the largest manta ray globally, live in tropical and subtropical waters. Researchers misclassified this species until 2017.

These smooth-skinned disc-shaped fish have been found as far north as New Jersey and as far south as South Africa. If you see one near the shore, then it may be darting from one place to another, but they often swim many miles in a straight line in the open waters.

Giant Oceanic Manta Rays also boast record-breaking big brains. Namely, they have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any cold-blooded fish. As a result, it’s possible their intellect could be comparable to dolphins, primates, and elephants.

#4 Tiger Shark

Biggest Fish in the World: Tiger Shark
The Tiger shark, one of the biggest fishes in the ocean, is known as a voracious carnivore.


The tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) can weigh up to 3.11 tons and grow up to 24 feet long. This shark, which is the only member of the Galeocerdo genus, is usually found around Central Pacific islands, but people can spot it anywhere tropical or temperate water exists. Tiger sharks prefer to stay by themselves. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has this shark on its nearly threatened list because of overfishing.

Tiger sharks are very aggressive, and they finish second only to the white shark in the number of people they have killed. While many view this fish as a lazy swimmer but it is a big fish in the ocean that can reach incredible speeds when needed to catch its prey.

#3 Great White Shark

Biggest Fish in the World: Great White Shark
Great whites sharks, one of the biggest fish in the world, play a special role in the ocean as a top predator by keeping prey populations such as elephant seals and sea lions in balance.


The Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias), also called white shark or pointer shark, can reach 3.34 tons and be up to 23 feet long. These sharks can live to be 70 years old. Females usually do not calf until they are 33 years old. These sharks can swim up to 16 miles per hour and reach depths up to 3,300 feet deep. The great white shark is aggressive, and it is known for more human attacks than any other fish. It is the only known member of the genus Carcharodon.

While this shark lives in many areas, one of the densest populated regions is around Dyer Island, South Africa. They can use the electromagnetic field to locate their prey.

Some claim that a Great White Shark off Hawaii’s coastline that researchers have named Deep Blue is the largest ever. Still, the International Game Fish Association recognizes a great white shark measured in Australia in 1959 as the largest. Scientists have never measured Deep Blue, but the one in Australia weighed in at 2,663 pounds.

#2 Basking Shark

Biggest Fish in the World: Basking Shark
The very big and peaceful Basking Shark only eats zooplankton, fish eggs, barnacles and shrimp.

©Martin Prochazkacz/

The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second-largest fish in the world. It has weighed more than 4.2 tons and can be up to 40.3 feet long. It is one of three plankton-eating sharks in the world. This shark found in temperature waters globally takes its name because it appears to be basking in the water while feeding. Generally, these sharks prefer to live alone, although there are reports of them living in small groups. Sightings are common along the continental shelves, but tracking devices have allowed scientists to learn that they occasionally cross the equator. Scientists are not 100% sure, but they suggest that this shark can live to be about 50 years old.

The largest basking shark ever scientifically measured weighed 8,598 pounds and was almost 30 feet long.

#1 Whale Shark

Biggest Fish in the World: Whale Shark
The Whale shark, who is not a whale at all, but the world’s biggest fish.

©Rich Carey/

The largest fish in the world is the whale shark. This species can weigh up to 21.5 tons and grow to be 41.5 feet long. In addition to being the largest fish, it is also the largest living nonmammalian vertebrate. This shark lives in tropical waters above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It lives along coastlines and in the open water. This shark is a filter feeder. While it often spends much of its life alone, there are numerous reports of up to 400 individuals gathering near many locations, including off the Yucatan Coast.

The largest whale shark that was scientifically measured weighed 47,000 pounds. It was 41.5 feet long. It was caught near Pakistan on November 11, 1949.

These fish are the largest in the world. Yet, each of these biggest fish has its unique characteristics. The more that you learn about the biggest fish, the more you realize that the world is an amazing place.

The 10 Biggest Fish Summary

#1Whale Shark21.5 tons, 41.5 feet
#2Basking Shark4.2 tons, 40.3 feet
#3Great White Shark3.34 tons, 23 feet
#4Tiger Shark3.11 tons, 24 feet
#5Giant Oceanic Manta Ray3 tons, 15 feet
#6Ocean Sunfishup to 10 feet
#7Southern Sunfish2.3 tons, 11 feet
#8Beluga Sturgeon2.072 tons, 24 feet
#9Sharptail Mola2 tons, 9.8 feet
#10Hoodwinker Sunfish1.87 tons, 7.9 feet

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15 Biggest Fish in the Great Lakes– The Great Lakes are like seas, and there are some impressively large fish lurking beneath the surface!

The Featured Image

Biggest Fish in the World: Whale Shark
© Onusa Putapitak/

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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