All around the world, there are incredible fish species, ranging in color, habits, size, and number. But, those on this list are the largest living representatives. From rays to sunfish and sharks, these fish grow to 10s of meters in length and weigh thousands of pounds at their largest.
10. Reef Manta Ray
Width: 3.5 meters
Weight: 1,300 kg
Credit: Bartek.cieslak at pl.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The reef manta ray is one of the two largest rays in the world. The rays are found in tropical and subtropical areas of the ocean, usually in the Indo-Pacific. The reef manta ray is found in shallow waters and nearer to the coast than the larger giant oceanic manta ray. The ray has five-gill slits and a small dorsal fin, and a long, whip-like tail. Researchers suggest that these rays can live to be at least 50 years old. Their only true predators are large sharks, like the tiger shark, great hammerhead shark, and the bull shark.
9. Beluga Sturgeon
Weight: 1,450 kg
Credit: Seedlens, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The beluga sturgeon, also known as a great sturgeon, is an anadromous fish from the surgeon family. It’s found in the Caspian and the Black Sea basins and is considered the third-largest living bony fish species. They are best known for their roe, or eggs, which are sold as beluga caviar. This delicacy has led to immense overfishing. They are now listed by the IUCN as “critically endangered.”
8. Hoodwinker Sunfish
Weight: 2,000 kg
Credit: Explorasub, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) is related to the ocean sunfish but has a different appearance. It was only recently discovered on a beach in New Zealand in 2015. Now, they are usually found in the temperate region of the Southern Hemisphere. They have a maximum length of 242cm (about 7.9 feet) and is recognizable for its lack of tail fin. The hoodwinker sunfish is slimmer than other Mola species and can weigh up to 2.2 short and 2.0 long tons.
7. Sharptail Mola
Weight: 2,000 kg
Credit: Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The sharptail mola is found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide. It’s similar in appearance to the ocean sunfish except for its clavus, or pseudo-tail. These fish are rarely sighted at the surface. They spend most of their time in the epipelagic zone, at depths of 5-200 metro during the day and depths of 100-259 meters at night. They can measure up to 11 feet or 3.4 meters in length and weigh 2,000 kg or 4,400 pounds. Their skin is covered with dermal denticles, similar to those found on the sunfish.
6. Ocean Sunfish
Weight: 1,000 kg
The lesser-known ocean sunfish is one of the heaviest bony fish in the world. They weigh between 247-1,000 kg or 545 -2,205 lb. They are found in tropical and temperate waters all around the world and are easily identifiable due to the fact that their flattened body and unusual shape. When stretched to full length, they can be as tall as they are long. They prey on fish larvae, squid, crustaceans, and more. Female sunfish can produce an incredible 300,000,000 eggs at one time, and there are few natural predators for them to worry about. They are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN.
5. Giant Oceanic Manta Ray
Length: 7 meters
Weight: 3,000 kg
Credit: Jon Hanson from London, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The giant oceanic manta ray is the largest ray in the world. They are found around the world but most prominently in tropical and subtropical waters. They can grow up to 23 feet or 7 meters in length and weigh around 6,600 lbs. But, more often, they are around 15 feet or 4.5 meters in length. The ray has a pair of cephalic fins at the front, which serves as an extension of the pectoral fins. These can be rolled into a spiral while the ray is swimming. The giant oceanic manta ray has 18 banded teeth that are only in the lower part of its jaw and eyes on the side of its head behind the cephalic fins.
4. Tiger Shark
Length: 7.5 meters
Weight: 800 kg
Credit: kok, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The tiger shark is a requiem shark and can reach lengths of around 20-25 ft. They are usually found in tropical and temperate waters in and around the Pacific islands. They are named for the dark stripes down the sides of their body, which resemble a tiger. They are more obvious when the shark is younger than when it’s older. Tiger sharks are solitary creatures and night hunters. They prey on fish, seals, birds, dolphins, and more. Tiger sharks as listed as “near threatened” due to hunting, specifically finning.
3. Great White Shark
Length: 6 meters
Weight: 1,100 kg
Credit: Elias Levy
The great white shark is the most recognizable and feared shark species. It can be found along the coast of all major oceans. Females can grow 6.1 m or 20 ft in length, and males can reach on average 11 to 13 feet or 3.4-4.0 meters. They are estimated to live around seventy years, although there are reports of a longer lived specimen. Great white sharks can swim at speeds of 25 km/hr or 16 miles per hour for short periods of time.
2. Basking Shark
Length: 8 meters
Weight: 5,200 kg
The basking shark is the second-largest living shark and one of three plankton-eating sharks. They can reach lengths of around 26 feet or ~8 meters. They’re grey and brown with mottled patches of skin. Their caudle fin has a strong and recognizable crescent shape. The basking shark is slow-moving and prefers to feed on the surface of the water. Sometimes seen “basking” in the sun there. Their teeth are curved backward and appear the same on both the upper and lower jaws. Basking sharks are not aggressive toward humans.
1. Whale Shark
Length: 18+ meters
Weight: 19,000+ kg
Credit: Abe Khao Lak, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The whale shark is the biggest fish species and non-mammalian vertebrate alive today. It can grow up to 41.5 ft and weigh 21.5 tons. The largest-ever confirmed species was 62 feet or 18.8 meters long. Its natural habitat is in ocean waters in tropical oceans. They live between 80 and 130 years and are only one of three sharks considered to be filter feeders. (The others are the megamouth shark and the basking shark.) Whale sharks’ mouths are located at the front of their It was named for its immense size, suggesting that it’s as large as a whale, not that it actually is one.