From hairy to warty, psychedelic to shaggy, few fish are stranger in appearance than the frogfish. But make no mistake, these camouflaged critters are dressed to kill. From masquerading as coral to boasting the fastest strike in the ocean, frogfish are the masters of aggressive mimicry. So if, like us, you're intrigued by these vivacious carnivores, read on to discover ten fascinating frogfish facts.
Frogfish Are the Ultimate Masters of Disguise
Over time, a frogfish will manipulate its skin colour, texture and size to mimic its surroundings - whether that be to look like the sponge it inhabits or developing warts and blemishes to evade detection from unsuspecting prey. This process can take several weeks, but the resulting camouflage is so good that they are notoriously hard to spot, making them the ultimate camouflaged killer. It has even been reported that during coral-bleaching events, frogfish can be found concealed against ghostly white corals.
Frogfish Can’t Swim
Witnessing a frogfish move is a bizarre sight to behold. This is because [li1] despite living in the ocean, frogfish can't swim. While this frogfish fact might seem far-fetched, this is because it lacks a swim bladder for buoyancy control. Therefore, rather than using a tail like most fish, a frogfish will use its pectoral fins to walk - or stagger - across the ocean floor.
Frogfish Use Jet Propulsion
When a frogfish needs to act fast, it uses jet propulsion. It does this by gulping water through its backward facing gills to propel itself along the reef or bottom. The body barely moves as the frogfish huffs and puffs its way through the water column, usually to ambush prey.
Frogfish Can Eat Prey Twice Their Size
A frogfish fact we can all relate to; this fish can eat prey twice its size. A frogfish's mouth can expand to 12 times its resting size, which, coupled with flexible stomach bones, allows it to catch all sorts of prey - as well as a sizeable amount of sand and dirt. To combat this, the frogfish will yawn a few times in a row to dislodge any debris and spit out any residual sand it might have inhaled.
Frogfish Like to Fish
The fishermen of the sea, frogfish have a fishing rod to lure and catch prey. The first spine of its dorsal fin - the illicium - is elongated, acting as a fishing rod. At the end of the illicium there is a specialized lure called an Esca which it dangles in front of its head to entice prey. Not all frogfish have the same lure, some resemble shrimp, while others look like fish, worms or even tiny squid. The straited frogfish's lure is even biofluorescent!
Frogfish Are the Fastest Eaters in the Ocean
Despite walking very slowly, frogfish have the fastest strike speed of any vertebrate. In fact, these ambush predators can swallow prey in a matter of milliseconds.
The Psychedelic Frogfish is One of the Rarest Fish Species in the World
So far, the psychedelic frogfish has only been identified around the island of Ambon in Indonesia, making it one of the rarest fish species in the world. Despite its groovy body pattern, it is also one of the hardest to find. However, our dive specialists have scoured the mucky beds around Ambon and have found them lurking around Laha, a muck dive site located on the northern side of the bay.
Juvenile Painted Frogfish Can Mimic Toxic Nudibranchs
While frogfish are not toxic themselves, they are able to mimic toxic ocean dwellers. Because of this behaviour, they have little to fear from their own predators while being ignored by their prey, allowing an ambush.
They Produce Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs
During mating, the male frogfish will nudge the female in the abdomen until she is ready, before swimming to the surface together, where she will release her eggs. The female can release between 40,000 and 180,000 eggs at one time, which are attached to a buoyant mass of mucus resembling a ribbon (an epipelagic egg raft), which the male then fertilizes.
Male Frogfish Can Turn into Sperm-Producing Parasites
Some male frogfish lack a fishing rod to feed themselves. To survive, these males will display sexual parasitism, an unusual kind of reproduction which involves fusing with a female. The male does this by biting into the female's body and holding on until they have fused. The male now becomes a constant source of sperm for the female to fertilize her eggs. In return, he receives nutrition to survive.
While we could whittle off a hundred more frogfish facts, it's much more fun to see them for yourself. Get in touch with our team of diving experts to learn the best places to spot these eclectic critters and plan your next diving adventure.