There are more than 200 species of anglerfish distributed throughout the world. But, primarily, they live in the depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. They are generally small fish, with males rarely growing larger than one foot in length and females sometimes reaching 3.3 feet long.


The angler fish is one of the easiest fish to recognize. This is mostly due to the fact that the fish is commonly featured in underwater documentaries and depictions of deep-sea fish. These fish are normally dark brown to grey in color and have large heads and mouths. The latter is filled with sharp, see-through teeth. Some females can reach 3.3 feet in length, and males are far smaller, usually less than a foot long.

It's mouth is filled with sharp, see-through teeth
It’s mouth is filled with sharp, see-through teeth

The fish have a distinctively long filament sprouting from the middle of their heads, known as an illicium. The fish can move the light gland, known as an esca. Scientists believe it’s used in order to lure prey through the darkness of the deep levels of the ocean. 

Anglerfish skeleton
Anglerfish skeleton


Angler fish eat live and dead prey that sinks to the seafloor, such as squid, turtles, and more. They are not picky eaters, but all anglerfish are carnivores. They will usually eat whatever they come upon. The female, in particular, is capable of eating larger prey. Other prey includes shrimp, fish, snails, and crustaceans. 

When males reach adulthood, their digestive systems no longer work. Once the males latch on to females (described in the reproductive section below), they are dependent on the female’s food intact to survive. Whatever nutrition she takes in is transferred to the male.

Anglerfish can expand their jaw and stomach, allowing them to eat pretty that’s more than twice their size. They’re also capable of storing food for a prolonged period of time. This is quite beneficial, considering that, at times, prey can be rare. 


These fish are found around the world. Some are benthic, meaning that they live near the ocean floor, in the deep sea, while others are pelagic and live farther away from the ocean floor.

Mainly, these fish live in the depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans, up to around a mile below the surface. It can also be found in the coastal waters of Europe and in more shallow, tropical environments. 

Striped angler fish has a strange light dangling at the front of its head
Striped angler fish has a strange light dangling at the front of its head


These interesting fish employ an unusual mating method. Encounters between individuals are rare, making novel processes necessary. Prior to understanding their reproduction methods, scientists found that the females had parasites attached to them. These parasites were later revealed to be the males of the species.

Males mature after attaching to females. It becomes dependent on the female to survive, receiving nutrients from their shared systems. Then, when the female is ready to spawn, she has a male mate nearby immediately. The males live as long as the females live, and it’s possible to find females with multiple males attached to them.

The fish is noted for its sexual dimorphism. Meaning the males are far smaller than the females. This is common in the suborder Ceratiidae.

Species of angler fish
Species of angler fish


Angler fish are threatened on several different fronts. One species, in particular, is listed by the ICES as “outside safe biological limits” due to human causes and climate change. 

Some angler fish are of commercial interest everywhere, from western Europe to East Asia. The tail of the fish (of the genus Lophius) is known as monkfish or goosefish, according to All the Sea. The liver is known as animo in Japan and Korea and is considered a delicacy.

The fish’s meat is also sometimes included in other dishes as well. But, it is not a fish that is commonly sought by commercial fishermen around the world. 

But, for deepsea anglerfish, there are very few to no threats from human beings. Oceana states that these fish are not consumed by humans, nor are they threatened by human activities. 

Facts about Angler Fish 

  • Angler fish don’t bite humans. Most are too small. 
  • Females are far larger than males. 
  • Some angler fish are of commercial fishing interest.
  • Males mature after attaching to females.
  • These fish are found around the world.
  • There are more than 200 species of anglerfish. 


Do angler fish bite humans?

Angler fish do not bite humans. They are too small, and they live deep within the ocean. This means that encounters between humans and these fish are very rare. 

Do anglerfish live in Mariana Trench?

Anglerfish are a few of the fish that live in the Mariana Trench. Some prefer these depths while others live in shallower areas around the coast, therefore in warmer waters. 

Do anglerfish live in coral reefs?

Some species live in coral reefs, while others live at remarkable depths, up to a mile beneath the ocean surface. Like most marine creatures, anglerfish tend to congregate where there is the most prey. This is difficult for the species that live a considerable distance underwater where there is little prey. 

How long does an anglerfish live?

Female angler fish usually live longer than males. Females live around twenty-five years, while males live for around twenty-one years. 

Can anglerfish be pets?

There are some varieties of angler fish that are fine to keep as pets. These are the species that live in shallower waters. But they do have to be kept in saltwater tanks. 

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