Without a doubt, the fish featured on this list are some of the ugliest you could hope to find in the Earth’s oceans. They live in marine waters worldwide, ensuring that no matter where you live, one of these unusual creatures is right around the corner.
Where it is found: Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans
What makes it an ugly fish: A transparent head with barrel eyes
The barreleye fish (Scientific name: Opisthoproctidae) is an incredibly interesting and strikingly ugly deep-sea creature. These fish are also sometimes known as spook fish. They are found in the temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The fish are named for the shape of their eyes, which look like tubes or barrels. They are directed upwards to allow the fish to detect prey more easily.
Amazingly, their heads are see-through. This means that they can use their tube-like eyes to look upward through their own heads. All species of this fish are fairly small, under twenty centimeters or 7.9 inches.
Where it is found: Temperate and tropical waters worldwide.
What makes it an ugly fish: Huge fangs disproportionate to the body
The viperfish (Chauliodus sloani), or Sloane’s viperfish, have recognizable and somewhat scary, long, needle-shaped teeth and a distinctive lower jaw. They’re usually around 12-23 in or 30 to 60 cm in length. The viperfish live in the depths of the ocean, in temperate or tropical waters (around 1,000 to 5,000 meters). Water at this temperature averages around four degrees C.
They are one of several fish on this list that is capable of luring in their prey with photophores or light-producing organs. They are located along the sides of its body and at the end of the dorsal fin spine. The light flashes on and off, not unlike the anglerfish.
Viperfish can vary in color from green to black and can live; scientists believe, up to forty years in the wild. They are covered in an unknown substance that looks like scales.
Where it is found: Pacific and Eastern Indian Oceans
What makes it an ugly fish: Flat-looking shark with a “shaggy beard”
The wobbegong (Orectolobidae) is a species of carpet shark. The sharks prefer to live in tropical waters around the Pacific Ocean and the eastern Indian Ocean.
They are named after an Australian Aboriginal word meaning “shaggy beard.” This refers to the growths under their mouths that resemble beads. They are also covered with a strange texture that allows them to blend into their surroundings. These patterns can resemble carpets.
They are bottom-dwelling sharks and spend most of their life resting along the seafloor. They only grow to be around four feet in length, and they have thin teeth that help them catch their prey.
Where it is found: Warm waters worldwide
What makes it an ugly fish: Shaped like a cigar with sharp teeth
The cookie-cutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis), is also known as the cigar shark. The shark is regarded as a parasite due to its habit of biting rounded pieces off of other animals and even non-organic material with its small, sharp teeth. Cookiecutter shark bites have been seen on submarines, undersea cables, and in rare cases, human flesh.
It’s classified as a facultative ectoparasite and usually works as an ambush predator. Interestingly, it also migrates up from around two miles below the ocean’s surface daily. The shark is quite small; when fully grown, it can only reach around 22 inches or 56 centimeters. These sharks are thin and streamlined, with blunt snouts, large eyes, a pair of spineless dorsal fins, and ugly round mouths that are filled with tiny teeth. Their lower set is smooth and larger (more like knives). The two sets come together in order to cut chunks out of their food sources.
Where it is found: Pelagic and benthic regions worldwide
What makes it an ugly fish: Blog shape with a light dangling at the front of its head
The angler fish (Linophrynidae) is a well-known marine creature thanks to the success of the film Finding Nemo. It is also one of the ugliest. This dark brown fish is known for its distinctive light protruding organ found on its head (known as an esca).
It has an unusually shaped body, a huge head, and a large mouth containing sharp, enormous teeth. Females usually grow significantly larger than males. Most angler fish specimens can reach around 7-8 inches in length. However, in some cases, they can achieve lengths of over a meter. When mating, the males fuse themselves with the females, turning two individuals into one.
Although angler fish are seen in many water bodies worldwide, they behave inconsistently. A percentage of the population is pelagic, meaning they live away from the ocean floor, and some are benthic, meaning they exist closer to the seafloor.
Where it is found: Below 100m or 330 feet worldwide
What makes it an ugly fish: A extruding nose
The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is a rare species of shark. Its unusual and creepy appearance is often described as fossil-like. It has pink-toned skin and a distinctive snout shape. Their snouts are elongated and stick out past their teeth. Their jaws also protrude from their faces and are filled with skinny, incredibly sharp teeth. The goblin shark is known for its slimline body and compact, rounded pectoral fins.
They can grow to be around 10-13 feet in length and are rarely seen by human beings. This is mostly due to the fact that they live so deep in the ocean, around 100 meters or 330 feet. Scientists believe that these sharks can dive to depths of around 4,270 feet or 1,300 meters.
The goblin sharks’ reproductive behaviors are just as unique as their appearance. Although not confirmed as of yet, scientists believe that the shark’s embryos grow through the consumption of undeveloped eggs.
Where it is found: Coasts of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
What makes it an ugly fish: Human-like features in the shape of a blob
The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus), is a strange fish that lives in the oceans’ depths. It’s gained some amount of fame due to its appearance and is mainly found off the coasts of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The fish has often been referred to as the “world’s ugliest animal.”. The Ugly Animal Preservation Society gave the blobfish the unwanted title, and made the blobfish their ugly mascot.
It has a jelly-like anatomy, a huge snout or nose, tiny beady eyes, and human-like lips. It is made of a gelatinous mass that allows the fish to float above the seafloor and use their mouths to suck in prey that passes by. They eat shellfish, crabs, sea pens, crustaceans, and more, often eating their prey whole.
Where it is found: Southern Australia
What makes it an ugly fish: Strange looking face with fins used to walk
The red handfish (Thymichthys politus) is sometimes cited as one of the ugliest fish in the Earth’s oceans. But it is incredibly interesting too. The fish also has a unique way of traveling. That is, they use their fins to move across the reefs in a way that makes them look like they’re walking. This is a technique used by certain members of the Goby family, such as mudskippers. Unfortunately, the red handfish is on the brink of extinction and is native to just two small coral reefs.
Where it is found: North Atlantic Ocean
What makes it an ugly fish: ‘Eel-like’ shape
The Atlantic (Anarhichas lupus) wolffish is native to the North Atlantic Ocean and is known for its unique, ugly appearance. They vary from olive green to blue-grey and sport a dorsal fin that runs the length of their entire back. The wolffish is also known for its four to six fang-like teeth, behind which it has other rows of teeth that it uses for crushing lobsters, crabs, and sea urchins.
It is also known by other thought-provoking names like devilfish, wolf eel, and seawolf. One of their most exciting attributes is the natural antifreeze their bodies produce to keep their blood moving. Their habitats are cold, making this ability critical. The largest wolffish ever recorded measured in at 5 ft or 1.5 m in length. It weighed almost 40 lbs or 18 kg.
Unfortunately, their numbers are depleted due to overfishing and the practice of bycatch in which un-targeted marine life is swept up into nets, making them verge of being a threatened species.
Where it is found: Temperature and tropical areas worldwide
What makes it an ugly fish: Shape and long tail
The gulper eel (Eurypharynx pelecanoide) is also known as the pelican gulper or the umbrella mouth-gulper. They live at deep levels of the ocean and are rarely seen alive by human beings. They are versatile creatures living in all oceans, from the Arctic oceans to the more tropical waters of Hawaii. When removed from their environment, the lack of pressure distorts their bodies, meaning that it is hard to describe their features accurately.
But scientists do know that they have large, loosely hinged mouths that are around a quarter of their entire body length. The fish also has very small eyes, especially compared to other deep-sea ocean creatures, and a long, thin tail that’s often compared to a whip.
What is the ugliest fish in the world?
The blobfish is often cited as the world’s ugliest fish. But, this is mostly due to one well-known image of the creature, removed from its natural habitat and deflated by the lack of pressure. Other very ugly fish include the goblin shark, gulper eel, and wolffish.
Why are fish so weird?
Some fish are particularly weird because of the depths at which they reside. Their bodies adapt to the incredibly high pressure, meaning that they are often more gelatinous or have distorted features.
Are angler fish real?
Yes, angler fish are real. They were more than 200 species of anglerfish living in the depths of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. They can grow to be 3.3 feet in length and engage in a very unusual mating practice.
What other ugly fish are there?
Some honorable mentions not included on this list are; Red-lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini), Frilled Shark (chlamydoselachus anguineus), Monkfish (lophius), Hagfish (Myxini), and the venom-carrying whitemargin stargazer (uranoscopus sulphureus).