Ugly Fish Species: 12 Ugliest Fish In The World’s Oceans

Ugly Fish Species - Ugliest Fish In The World's Oceans & Seas

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” they say. However, some creatures have a reputation that precedes them for their beauty, charm, or magnificence, while others fall in the opposite category.

The aquatic sphere is home to about 32,000 extant fish species, but not all are attractive, adorable creatures.

The blobfish, red-lipped batfish, and frilled shark rank among the ugliest fish in the world, and we will discuss nine other species that have a reputation for their horrible looks.

Without further ado, read on to know the twelve ugly fish species with pictures as proof.

The Ugliest Fish in the World’s Oceans & Seas

1. Blobfish

Scientific Name: Psychrolutes marcidus

Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) outside water is an ugly fish
(c) James Joel

The most attractive ones often hit the posters; however, the blobfish has made history as an unlikely poster creature.

The public voted for the blobfish via a poll as the Ugly Animal Preservation Society mascot in 2013.1

It won the poll to emerge as a mascot for its attractiveness, and such a proposition is not far from right. The smooth-head fish is a foot-long and pink, with soft bones and few muscles.

The fish’s name comes from its lifetime routine of gently bobbing around the deep sea thanks to its gelatinous appearance aiding its buoyancy.

The blobfish lives in a high-pressure environment between 600 and 1,200 meters deep ocean. However, it looks less ugly in its natural habitat than out of water.

2. Frilled Shark

Scientific Name: Chlamydoselachus anguineus

Close up Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) in the Sea

The frilled shark is an example of what happens when evolution does not give a creature the aesthetic pleasure humans are used to.

It inhabits marine waters like other shark species, occupying the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where its color, length, and rear fin placement distinguish it from other sharks.

Like the big, bad, ugly wolf, the frilled shark is also large and fearsome, surpassing six feet in length with about 300 curved, needle-like teeth.

Researchers drawing similarities between the frilled shark and living fossils tells what you need to know about this fish. 

3. Angler Fish

Scientific Name: Linophrynidae

Angler Fish (Linophrynidae) In water and Outside
The Angler Fish looks better in water in water.

It isn’t very pleasant to say that none of the 200+ angler fish species is easy on the eye, but we have to say it still.

They are bony fishes with huge heads and crescent-shaped mouths, usually dark gray to dark brown.

Angler fishes are famed for their fleshy piece of dorsal fins that extends over their mouth and illuminates to attract prey.

Despite being one of the ugliest fish species, they are not the kind of fish you would love to encounter as their plenty sharp, translucent teeth and large size, reaching 4.3 feet long, are enough to scare you. 

4. Red-lipped Batfish

Scientific Name: Ogcocephalus darwini

Red-lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) Under Water

Imagine a cow’s face with red lipstick. It does not look so good. The red-lipped batfish even looks uglier with a ‘beard,’ ‘mustache,’ ‘horn’ on its forehead, a large ‘nose,’ and an odd-shaped body.

Scientists suggest that red-lipped batfishes use their large, bright-colored lips to attract mates. The ugly fish is not a prominent aquatic figure as you may expect.

However, its unpopularity results from a small geographical range, occurring in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador and the outskirts of Peru, where they prefer to walk on the ocean floor than swim. 

5. Monkfish

Scientific Name: Lophius

Fresh Monkfish (Lophius) Isolated on White Background

The North Sea and North Atlantic fishermen call fishes from the genus Lophius “Monkfish.”

However, these fishes are also known as sea devils due to their horrific looks, with large, depressed heads, small eyes, fang-like teeth, and mottled skin that makes the rest of the body appear like an appendage.

These fishes can change their body color to match their surroundings, helping them prey on other species.

Monkfish are tasty, delicious menus in high-end restaurants despite their unappealing looks.

6. Sloane’s Viperfish

Scientific Name: Chauliodus sloani

Sloane’s Viperfish (Chauliodus sloani)
(c) Brian Suda

Unlike the red-lipped batfish secluded in Ecuador and Peru, the Sloane’s Viperfish occupies almost all marine waters in the temperate and tropical oceans, living between depths of 1,000 and 2,000 meters.

While the Sloane’s viperfish is a bioluminescent creature, it does not translate to being attractive.2

The fish is everything that describes a predator, from being undoubtedly scary to having the largest teeth relative to its head size.3

Little wonder its scientific name is coined from the Greek words chaulios (open-mouthed) and odous (teeth). 

7. Hagfish

Scientific Name: Myxini

Close Up Hagfish (Myxini) and Person Holding a Hagfish

Hagfish may look like eels, but members of this class are uglier than eels.

They are slime-producing tubular fish with paddle-shaped tails and pink-grey naked skin that covers their body like a loose sock.

Worse still, they look like dreadful aliens and have disgusting feeding habits, burying themselves in carcasses and eating them inside out.

While hagfish are undisputedly ugly, they are popular amongst biologists as the only extant animal with a skull but no vertebrae.4

8. Goblin Shark

Scientific Name: Mitsukurina owstoni

Close Up Extended Jaw of Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Pink is a beautiful color, but it does little to adorn the goblin shark, a shark species that bears a resemblance to the small ogre monster in the folklore of several European cultures.

The goblin shark earns a reputation for being unattractive due to its elongated, flattened, distinctive snout that looks like the fictional goblin’s ears.

Like the frilled shark, the goblin shark is often known as a living fossil thanks to its protrusible jaws, blade-resembling snout, and flabby, semi-translucent, rough skin with dermal denticle covering. 

9. Whitemargin Stargazer

Scientific Name: Uranoscopus sulphureus

Whitemargin Stargazer Fish (Uranoscopus sulphureus) Under Water in Sand

Pictures and stories portray dreamy attractive women smiling while gazing at the stars, but the Whitemargin Stargazer is neither eye-catching nor ecologically modified to gaze at the stars.

This fish earns its name for its upward-facing eyes; it also has an upwards-facing mouth in its large head that is certainly unattractive.

However, the Whitemargin Stargazer’s physiology helps them bury themselves in the sand to hide and hunt passing prey. 

10. Atlantic Wolffish

Scientific Name: Anarhichas lupus

Atlantic Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus) in Water and Outside

The Atlantic wolffish is one fish many Americans would love to see, given its depletion in U.S waters and its current status as a “Species of Concern,” according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

However, the aquatic creature does not catch the eye despite its purplish-brown, dull olive green, or blueish-gray colors.


The Atlantic wolffish’s large, hugger-mugger, fang-like teeth are one crucial reason it ranks among the world’s ugliest fish species. 

11. Snaggletooths

Scientific Name: Astronesthes niger

Close View of Snaggletooths (Astronesthes niger) Isolated on Gray Background
(c) Peter Marriott via Wikimedia Commons

This fish is a small, deep-sea fish with a slender, relatively elongated body, a large mouth, and a long barbel on its chin tipped by a knob.

As its name implies, the snaggletooth has irregular projecting teeth that, unfortunately, list it among the world’s most unattractive fish species.

The snaggletooth occurs in the Caribbean Sea, the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, the western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico at depths of 1,000 meters. 

12. Black Dragonfish

Scientific Name: Idiacanthus atlanticus

Black Dragonfish (Idiacanthus atlanticus) - Brent Tibbatts - FishBase
A female serpent black dragonfish off Guam at 300 m depth measuring 30 cm TL. (c) Brent Tibbatts / FishBase. CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

The black dragonfish are sexually dimorphic, with females growing over one foot and males just about two inches.

However, both sexes have the species’ ugly tag due to their strange-looking, long, slender frames.

The black dragonfish occupies southern subtropical and temperate oceans at depths reaching 2,000 meters. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are deep-sea fish so ugly and weird?

Deep sea fish have unique adaptations that enable them to thrive in pitch-black icy cold depths of the oceans, which are below the photic zone where light does not penetrate. As weird and ugly looking as these adaptations may seem, they are key to the survival of these creatures in the world’s ocean depths.

What is the ugliest fish in the world?

We just considered the world’s ugliest fish species in no particular order; however, the blobfish is widely revered as the world’s ugliest fish species. The public voted for the blobfish via a poll as the Ugly Animal Preservation Society mascot in 2013. 

Can you eat an ugly fish?

A fish’s edibility does not depend on its looks. While the blobfish is extremely gelatinous and acidic for human consumption, monkfish are tasty, delicious menus in high-end restaurants despite their unappealing looks.

Are all bioluminescent fish beautiful?

Bioluminescence may contribute to a fish’s attractiveness, but it does not translate to good looks. Some bioluminescent fish, like anglerfishes and the Sloane’s Viperfish, rank among the world’s ugliest fish. 

Conclusion: Ugly fish species have got to be weird to survive

Depths below the water surface and far into the world’s marine waters are some fish species that you may not find attractive.

These creatures have unique adaptations that allow them to survive in the extreme conditions of the ocean depths.

Simply put — these deep-sea critters have to be so weird to survive.

While there are no metrics to rate looks, as beauty is arguably relative, the twelve species we considered have widespread acclaim for their dreary looks.

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References & Notes

Facts Sources:
  1. Ugly Animal Preservation Society names world’s ugliest animal. The Sunday Morning Herald.
  2. Mallefet J., Duchatelet L., Et. al. 2019. Luminescence control of Stomiidae photophores. Acta Histochemica, Volume 121, Issue 1.
  3. Largest teeth relative to head size – fish. Guinness World Records.
  4. Hagfish Species Profile. Alaska Department of Fish and Game.