15 Coolest Deep-Sea Fish, Ranked
You don't have to look to outer space to find creatures that are nothing like you would expect to find on Earth.
The fish that live and lurk in deep ocean waters almost defy explanation. In fact, marine biologists only recently discovered some of the species on this list.
Check out the most fascinating and bizarre deep-sea fish the planet has to offer.
15. Hairy Frogfish
Location: Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean
Bottom Line: Hairy Frogfish
The "hairs" on the frogfish are actually spines that allow it to camouflage itself behind seaweed and coral, and this kind of fish can also change color to blend in with sea plants and other objects on the sea floor.
These tiny deep-water fish grow only about 4-inches long, and they don't swim. They "walk" about 130-feet down looking for prey, which they attract with the extra-long spine on their dorsal fin. They wave it back and forth to lure in their unsuspecting target.
14. Red-Lipped Batfish
Location: Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Islands
Bottom Line: Red-Lipped Batfish
Reaching depths of 300 feet, this tiny fish with the big red lips lures its prey with the protrusion on its head, known as an illicium, that emits a seductive chemical to attract fish and invertebrates.
The red-lipped batfish doesn't have any known predators, and because its habitat is so far underwater, it's out of reach of most environmental issues known to other sea life.
And with lips that flawless, it's always ready for a selfie.
Location: Southwestern Pacific Ocean near Australia
Bottom Line: Coffinfish
The coffinfish lives at depths of up to 8,202 feet below the water's surface and can hold its breath for a whopping four minutes, which it does to preserve its energy when food becomes scarce.
They, too, have a lure on their head that draws unsuspecting prey (usually small crustaceans), which they crush with their incredibly sharp teeth.
Location: Off the coast of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand
Bottom Line: Blobfish
The blobfish has gone viral in recent years — with a face like that, what's not to love?
This frowning creature lives in ocean depths of up to 3,937 feet, where the water pressure is more than 100 times what it is at the ocean's surface. It has a fatty body that's less dense than the watery water it calls home. It bobs along the ocean floor, using as little energy as possible and eats whatever it comes across.
The blobfish really only looks dour when it's out of the water. In the ocean, it looks more like a normal fish that's about 11-inches long and is shaped like a tadpole. When the Blobfish is brought to the surface, decompression makes the fish expand and distort, collapsing it into the shapeless mass we know and love.
11. Ribbon Sawtail Fish
Location: Between the waters of the mid-Atlantic Ocean to the southern tip of Argentina
Bottom Line: Ribbon Sawtail Fish
At 6,000 feet below the sea's surface, the ribbon sawtail fish is at home. This predator feeds on deep-sea invertebrates and marine fish. It uses photophores, or light-emitting organs, to attract prey before cracking it in its jaws.
To make the ribbon sawtail even scarier, it eats without damaging its body by folding its head backward and drawing back its exposed organs while digesting food, thanks to the malleable rod made of connective tissue that is its spine.
Location: Pacific Ocean, from the Bering Sea to Japan and the Baja Peninsula
Bottom Line: Barreleye
One of the most adorable fish on our list lives in dark depths from 2,000 to 2,600 feet due to its green-capped, light-sensitive, tubular eyes. Its transparent head allows it to look upward as well as forward, so it is better equipped when it comes to spotting the shadows of its prey.
As the barreleye is only 6 inches in length, it lives on small jellies, crustaceans and zooplankton. There's not much information on the Barreleye — it wasn't even a confirmed species until 2004 — but it has won the hearts of people everywhere.
9. Whitemargin Stargazer
Location: Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea, Indonesia, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga
Bottom Line: Whitemargin Stargazer
If you were at the bottom of the ocean, you might accidentally step on a whitemargin stargazer or two, as they are usually hidden in the sand with only their heads peaking out. They wait for prey to pass, with their eyes and mouth facing upward.
This fish has its own built in stun gun — an electric organ in a specialized pouch located behind its eyes that can discharge up to 50 volts of juice. It also has a venomous spine on each shoulder blade and a built-in "fishing lure" on their tongue to attract prey.
It's no wonder one scientist called the whitemargin stargazer "the meanest thing in creation."
8. Sarcastic Fringehead
Location: Southern California and Baja California, Mexico
Bottom Line: Sarcastic Fringehead
A fish with a name like sarcastic fringehead is bound to be trouble. It lives up to 240 feet below the ocean surface and makes its home in the shells of dead snails, clams and even bottles and other man-made objects that are shell-like.
Males are very territorial about their homes because females pick them based on their quality, but it's the males that care for the females' eggs inside the shells until they hatch. Males will fight for their shells by pushing their mouths up against each other, and the one with the larger mouth wins.
7. Spotted Handfish
Location: Off the coast of Australia near Tasmania
Bottom Line: Spotted Handfish
The spotted handfish can live in depths as shallow as 6 feet or as deep as 100 feet. They walk across the ocean floor with their hand-like pectoral fins. They are, at most, about 4-inches long and feed on shrimp, small shellfish and amphipods.
Due to its extremely limited territorial range, climate change and an introduced species of starfish, the handfish is critically endangered.
6. Marine Hatchetfish
Location: Tropical, subtropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans
Bottom Line: Marine Hatchetfish
The marine hatchetfish can be found in depths up to 4,130 feet below the water's surface. They have light-producing organs along their bellies, which shine pale blue, matching daylight that filters down from above. This makes them almost invisible to predators at a lower vantage point.
At only about 6-inches long, the hatchetfish lives on crustaceans and tiny fish and plankton. It will swim to the surface when looking for food.
5. Black Swallower Fish
Location: North and Southwestern Atlantic Ocean
Bottom Line: Black Swallower Fish
Living in depths between 2,297 and 9,006 feet, this deep-sea fish is mostly known for being able to swallow up 10 times its size in food. It's believed to use its sharp teeth to grab its prey by the tail and walk its jaws over the animal until its prey is completely inside its stomach.
While the swallower can fill up at an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, it sometimes eats too much, and this often proves fatal.
4. Giant Oarfish
Location: Found worldwide but is most common in the tropics to middle latitudes
Bottom Line: Giant Oarfish
The giant oarfish is only ever seen when it washes up on shore from time to time. It is the inspiration for the sea serpent legend and is the worlds longest bony fish, measuring almost 10 feet in length.
Oarfishes use their dorsal fins to propel themselves underwater and remain in a vertically upright position when feeding on crustaceans, krill, plankton and squid.
Location: Atlantic and Antarctic oceans
Bottom Line: Anglerfish
The anglerfish typically lives at least 6,600 feet below the water and never sees sunlight. They don't always score the best dinners, so their large mouths and long, pointy teeth help them capture and eat anything they come across.
The lure on their head is also used for this purpose. It's filled with bacteria that allows it to light up, which helps draw crustaceans and other fish to their fate.
2. Sloane’s Viperfish
Location: Temperate marine waters around the world
Bottom Line: Sloane’s Viperfish
Sloane’s viperfish also have photophores along their bellies, which flash blue-green and yellow lights to attract dinner but are mostly used in camouflaging them from becoming dinner for predators below.
This species stays in its habitat — 656 to 3,280 feet deep — to feed on lanternfish, algae, fish eggs and crustaceans. After it eats, it can go days before it eats again.
1. Pacific Viperfish
Location: Temperate marine waters around the world
Bottom Line: Pacific Viperfish
The Pacific viperfish typically lives in cold waters from 3,280 to more than 13,000 feet below the ocean surface, but it will swim in shallower depths to find food, particularly at night. It is the largest of the viperfish species and reaches up to about a foot in length.
The fish has ultra-black skin (one of the darkest shades of black) that camouflages it in deep water. Pacific viperfish mainly eat other fish, but they will also nosh on plankton, shrimp and crustaceans.