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What Do Blobfish Eat?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: June 28, 2022
© Alan Riverstone McCulloch (1885-1925) / public domain – License / Original
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Blobfish have a reputation for being quite ugly. In fact, the blobfish won the award for being the world’s ugliest animal after the Ugly Animal Preservation Society ran a competition. Aside from their looks, blobfish are mysterious and strange. They live in incredible depths in the ocean, often between 600 and 1,200 meters down. At those levels, there is little to eat and little to see. Let’s take a deeper look at the blobfish and learn about their diets to answer the question just what do blobfish eat?

What do blobfish eat?

Neophrynichthys marcidus = Psychrolutes marcidus
Blobfish eat a varied diet of crabs, gastropods, shellfish, carrion, and marine snow.

©Alan Riverstone McCulloch (1885-1925) / public domain – License

Blobfish eat carrion, crabs, urchins, and marine snow. They’re true generalists that survive on limited nutrients at extreme depths in the ocean.

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Living nearly a mile down has some pros and cons when it comes to diet. One pro is that there isn’t much competition. The con, however, is that there isn’t any food to sustain competition. As a result, the blobfish is a generalist that eats whatever it can get its floppy mouth over. Let’s look at some of the blobfishes common food sources.

True generalists, blobfish will eat anything from carrion to crabs. In the environment that the blobfish lives, it’s likely that they primarily live off of carrion meat or debris. For deep-sea dwelling fish, this is extremely common. When a creature dies in the water, its carcass is often picked apart and left to float to the bottom of the ocean, albeit rather slowly. When it reaches the bottom, many deep-sea dwellers will feed on the remains of the carcass, the blobfish included. These deep-sea carrion feeders play an essential role in the ecosystem, and the blobfish is a leading contributor in its niche.

Another similar food to sea carrion is marine snow. This nutrient-rich “sediment” falls below, transferring energy from the sun-rich top layers to the sunlight-starved lower layers. Marine snow comprises decomposing organic matter like phytoplankton, fecal matter, and algae.

Apart from decomposing meat, blobfish eat crabs and other crustaceans. Since blobfish aren’t very fast, anything living is eaten mostly by chance, especially if it’s fast. Very small crabs are another element of the blobfish diet. A blobfish floating by may suck in an occasional crab or two, but again, it has to be pretty lucky.

When it comes to slower-moving prey, blobfish likely feed on urchins, shellfish, and sea pens. Although sea urchins are spiny, a blobfish can eat them if they are small enough. Additionally, shellfish and sea pens are likely to be eaten if they are unlucky enough to get sucked up by a blobfish when they are small.

Currently, that’s all that’s known about the dietary habits of blobfish. Since they were discovered less than 20 years ago, there is still a lot to learn, especially about what blobfish eat.

A complete list of foods the blobfish eats:

Blobfish eat:

  • dead meat
  • sea carrion
  • small crabs
  • sea urchins
  • sea pens
  • shellfish
  • marine snow
  • gastropods

How do blobfish hunt?

What Do Blobfish Eat - Blobfish in natural habitat
Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) live off the coast of Australia.

©NOAA/MBARI / public domain – License

The name may give away the preferred hunting strategy of the blobfish. The blobfish is mainly comprised of gelatin-like substances containing little muscle. Their unique jelly-like make-up allows them to float just above the ocean floor without expending any energy. As a survival strategy, this reduces their food intake needs drastically and allows them to move around the ocean floor passively.

Blobfish simply open their mouths and attempt to ingest whatever organic matter they come across as they float around. Whether it’s a small crab or a long-dead fish matters little; as long as it’s organic, they will eat it. Known as the “lie-in-wait” strategy, this method of hunting is incredibly common in the deep sea, where energy is so precious.

Blobfish are found off the coast of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, although you would never know it. Residing at these incredible depths, blobfish live where the pressure is 60-120 times greater than the surface pressure on land. Although they are known for being ugly, it’s actually a misconception. Its body is designed for great depths and bringing it to the surface distorts its shape. In its natural habitat, it looks like a typical deep-sea-dwelling fish. Since its body is primarily gelatinous, it can stretch and contort to the comical versions we see today when pulled up. While it is funny, it hurts the fish and is known as “decompression damage.”

What creatures compete with the blobfish for food?

What Do Blobfish Eat - Blobfish out of the water
Blobfish are often pulled up by accident in fishing nets.

©lacking author information / public domain – License

Since the blobfish resides between 600 and 1,200 meters below the surface, its common competition is other deep-sea animals. As far as direct competition goes, any other creature that fights for food deep-down is competing with the blobfish, although they don’t appear to be threatened. The blobfish’s method of hunting keeps it from active competition – rather, it relies on time and distance to eat. As far as survival strategies go, it’s a rather effective, if boring, one.

Additionally, blobfish don’t have any known natural predators besides humans. The most common cause of death for blobfish is getting caught in deep-sea trawling nets and rising to the surface. Since they are designed to stay deep down, they die from the pressure changes as the nets get pulled up. By the time they reach the surface, they have the famous “ugly” look many have seen before.

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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