If you think sharp-toothed fish like sharks are the only scary thing swimming in the ocean, think again. Although there are some groups and contests that celebrate the adorable imperfections of animals (like the World's Ugliest Dog contest), there are also some species of fish that could give you nightmares if you look too long.
Thankfully, most of these fish in the oceans and rivers live deep beneath the surface, so there’s little chance of you crossing their path. Here are our picks for 10 of the ugliest fish found in waters across the globe (and what purpose their terrifying visage serves).
The Blobfish has often been called the "ugliest fish on the planet." An image of a Blobfish has circulated on social media for years, usually in memes about dating. Blobfish resemble a gelatinous cartoon with a giant head, beady eyes, and a big nose.
The Blobfish isn't quite as ugly when it's in its natural habitat at the bottom of the sea floor of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans in depths between 1600 to 4000 feet. The high pressure at those depths makes this fish, which has few hard bones, look more like a regular fish, per Animals Around the Globe.
The Monkfish is a bottom-feeding fish found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. They seem intimidating because of their flattened physique and large mouths filled with fang-like teeth. According to Animals Around the Globe, the Monkfish uses their fins like feet to walk along the seafloor, eating anything that gets their way.
The ocean around the Galapagos Islands is home to the Red-Lipped Batfish. The Red-Lipped Batfish gets their name partly from their bright red lips that give the appearance of the fish wearing lipstick. They are an odd-looking fish with a beak-like nose and fins that look more like little legs. However, their appearance serves a purpose: these tiny fins are used to "walk" among the coral reefs.
The Goblin Shark looks like something straight out of a fantasy movie. It has a long nose that protrudes past a mouth full of teeth. According to Oceana, Goblin sharks are rarely seen because they spend most of their time below the ocean surface. Weirder yet, they can completely unhinge their jaws to feed. One of the largest Goblin sharks ever recorded was caught off the coast of Taiwan in June 2023. The shark was over 15 feet in length and weighed about 1,763 pounds, the Miami Herald reported.
The Viperfish is a terrifying creature that looks like the combination of a fish and an eel. They live in warm, tropical waters around the world, usually in depths of about 5,000 feet. According to SeaSky.org, the Viperfish is a fierce predator that catches prey with fang-like teeth that are so large, the teeth don’t fit inside their mouth and protrude outward, adding to its ugly appearance. Additionally, Viperfish have a bioluminescent spine they use to attract their prey.
Whitemargin Stargazers like to conceal themselves in the sand at the bottom of the ocean and wait to surprise their prey. When an unsuspecting victim comes along, the Stargazer ambushes them with venom and electric shocks. Stargazers have poison spines above their pectoral fins. Considered as “the meanest things in existence,” the Stargazer has earned the nickname the “mother-in-law fish.”
Angler Fish are well-known for creatures of the deep, even briefly appearing as an antagonist in the Pixar film Finding Nemo. They have a built-in fishing rod protruding from their head that they use to lure their prey right into a mouth full of sharp teeth. Over 200 species of anglerfish can be found in tropical and temperate climates around the world.
The Hairy Frogfish is a fish covered in spines resembling hair. According to National Geographic, the Hairy Frogfish can change their appearance to blend into their surroundings, enabling them to sneak up on unsuspecting prey. They also use their hair-like spines to attract their prey. These freaky fish can be found in Australia, New Zealand, the Hawaiian Islands, the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Payara are also known as “Vampire Fish” or “Saber-toothed Tiger Fish” because of their giant sharp fangs jutting from their bottom lip. The Payara live in the tropical waters of the Amazon River in South America. In the wild, they can grow up to three feet in length and weigh about 35 pounds. Their fangs can grow to almost 6 inches. Although they look pretty terrifying and are aggressive hunters, they are not known to attack humans.
Telescopefish are small fish only about 2 to 4 inches long. They live in tropical and subtropical waters around Chile, New Zealand, and Tasmania, deep below the surface. The telescope fish gets their names from their protruding, tubular eyes that resemble binoculars. Their unsettling eyes help them find food in the depths of the oceans.