Top 15 Ugliest Sea Animals

Anarhichas lupus frontal. Photo by J. K. H. Friedgé cc3.0

Top 15 Ugliest Sea Animals

Anarhichas lupus frontal. Photo by J. K. H. Friedgé cc3.0

The ocean is full of mysteries. In fact, there are many parts of the ocean yet unexplored and many species of marine animals yet undiscovered. Of those that we know, there are cute ones that we want to keep in our aquariums, majestic ones that take our breath away, bizarre ones that keep us puzzled, deadly ones that make us tremble in fear and definitely some ugly ones that make us grimace and squirm! Indeed, some of the ugliest animals in the world can be found in the ocean. Here’s a list of the top 15.

15. Coelacanth

Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) caught on 21 January 1965, next to Mutsamudu (Anjouan, Comoro Islands).C36. By Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The coelacanth is called the dinosaur fish by some people, since it has been around for millions of years. Unfortunately, that means its looks are a little outdated. It has large eyes and a small mouth that it can open very wide. It also has two tails, thick scales and a pair of fins that it can move alternately, the same way a horse moves its legs when trotting.

The coelacanth is also featured in this article:
Oldest-Living Creatures on Earth

14. Stargazers

Eastern Stargazer, Kathetostoma laeve at Melbourne Aquarium. Photo credit: Peter Halasz cc3.0

There is a reason why the fish belonging to the family Uranoscopidae are called stargazers. They have eyes on the top of their large heads which constantly look up and which can bulge out when the fish are buried beneath the sand — imagine only a pair of eyes sticking out of the sand. The mouths of stargazers are turned up, as well, and inside are worm-shaped appendages that they use to lure prey.

13. Gulf Toadfish

Gulf toadfish aka Opsanus beta

The gulf toadfish, like some of the other fish on this list, has slimy, scaleless skin, a large, flat head and a wide mouth with sharp teeth. And it is ugly for a purpose — by looking disgusting, it avoids capture and predation. Don’t want to be deceived by appearances? Well, in the case of the gulf toadfish, it is best to stay away from it, since its slime actually has toxins that can irritate skin.

12. Moray Eel

Green Moray - Gymnothorax funebris
Green Moray – Gymnothorax funebris. Sponge Forest Reef, Curaçao N.A. By LASZLO ILYES cc2.0

Speaking of eels, moray eels have the most startling appearance among eels, with small eyes, gaping jaws and sharp teeth. The teeth are not just sharp, but they’re also hooked, which means that once a moray eel bites you, you have to pry it off, as it won’t release its grip even if it dies. (Yikes!) The green moray eel is particularly fearsome and is often mistaken for a sea serpent.

11. Atlantic Wolffish

Anarhichas lupus frontal. Photo by J. K. H. Friedgé cc3.0

The Atlantic wolffish is another fish with fearsome teeth — four to six sharp fangs followed by three rows of crushing teeth. It even has saw-like teeth lining its throat! Why does it need so many teeth? Because it only eats crustaceans, sea urchins and hard-shelled molluscs. The Atlantic wolffish also has small eyes and a long, slender body like that of an eel that it moves from side to side, which is why it is also called the wolf eel.

Atlantic Wolffish are featured in the following book:
25 Deep Sea Creatures

10. Viperfish

Head of a pacific Viperfish caught during trawling operations.

One glance at this creature and you’ll wonder whether you’re looking at a sea monster. After all, it has large eyes and an even larger mouth that takes up most of its head. Worse, its mouth has long, sharp, glass-like teeth. Some of its teeth are so long they have to curve backward in order for the viperfish to close its mouth. With these teeth, it is no wonder the viperfish is a fierce predator in the ocean depths, luring prey by turning the lights along its spine on and off, and then snagging its prey with one powerful bite, chasing after it if necessary.

Viperfish are featured in the following book:
25 Deep Sea Creatures
25 Weirdest Animals in the World

9. Vampire Squid

Vampires in fiction are often dashing or alluring, but the vampire squid has a completely fearsome appearance, with dark red webbing between its arms, which looks like a cloak when spread out. They also have two extra filaments that they can retract, and fins on their mantles that stick out like ears. In spite of their ugliness, though, vampire squids have a beautiful trick — when threatened, they shoot out light orbs instead of black ink, dazing would-be predators.

Vampire Squid are featured in the following books:
25 Deep Sea Creatures
25 Weirdest Animals in the World

8. Ocean Sunfish

The Mola mola (sunfish)
Scuba diving Bali Nusa Lembongan (mola mola) by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten cc 2.0

Also known as molas, ocean sunfish are the heaviest bony fish in the world, able to weigh up to 1000 pounds (454 kilograms). Unfortunately, that is not the only title they carry. They also vie for the ugliest sea animal, with their flattened bodies that abruptly end in short, scalloped tails, that seem too big for their tiny eyes and mouths. Because of their size, ocean sunfish move slowly and end up getting covered in parasites, some of which even have parasites of their own!

7. Longspined Sea-Scorpion

Long Spined Scorpion Fish
Photograph of a Long-Spined Scorpion Fish, Taurulus bubalis, taken at Scarborough, North Yorkshire by Yashca cc3.0

This fish is an expert at camouflage and no wonder, since it looks more like a rock than a fish. The longspined sea-scorpion has no scales, instead having bony projections all over its skin. It also has long spines on its cheeks and barbels around its mouth. Its eyes and mouth are large, allowing it to ambush prey such as crabs, prawns and other fish, even those larger than itself.

6. Red-Lipped Batfish

Red-lipped Bat fish (endemic to Galapagos)
Red-lipped Bat fish (endemic to Galapagos). De Rosy-lipped Bat fish is te vinden bij Cocos Island, Costa Rica by Rein Ketelaars cc2.0

Often, red lips can be very attractive. Not so in the case of the red-lipped batfish. With its red pouty lips on its dark face and its bulging eyes, the red-lipped batfish looks unusual to say the least. It also has a spine-like structure on its head, which it uses to attract prey, and large fins that it walks on across the ocean floor. Yup. This fish doesn’t swim, it walks.

5. Goblin Shark

Sharks are some of the most feared creatures in the ocean. When they’re in aquariums, though, they are often admired for their gracefulness. That’s not the case with the goblin shark. It wouldn’t even be suitable for viewing in an aquarium, unless you put it on display in a museum of oddities. After all, the goblin shark has a long snout protruding from its small head, protruding gums and jaws, nail-like teeth and a flabby body. Because of its body shape, it isn’t a fast swimmer. Rather, it lazily feeds on bottom-dwelling fish, which thankfully means we rarely get to see it.

Goblin Sharks are featured in the following books:
Sharks Early Readers
25 most Awesome Sharks
The Daily Shark

4. Oyster Toadfish

Opsanus tau by Noel Weathers cc2.0

The oyster toadfish gets its name from its slimy, scaleless body, like an oyster, and its skin covered in warts like a toad, a combination which makes it one of the world’s ugliest sea animals. It also has bulging blue eyes, a broad mouth lined with large, blunt teeth and a spiny dorsal fin. This fish is quite noisy and is especially known for its foghorn-like call. The males make this call during spawning season to attract the females. The female comes to the nest prepared by the male, lays eggs and then depart, leaving the male entirely in charge of protecting the eggs and raising the young until they are a few weeks old. Ugly perhaps, but at least the males are good fathers!

3. Humpback Anglerfish

Humpback anglerfish or common black devil (Melanocetus johnsonii) at the Natural History Museum in London. By Emőke Dénes cc2.5

The humpback anglerfish is one of six known species of black seadevils, anglerfish that are found in the depths of the ocean, with large heads and pitch black skin. The females are particularly menacing since they have large, sharp teeth lining their gaping mouths — you definitely don’t want to get bitten by those. They are poor swimmers, though, often simply waiting for prey to pass by, or luring them with their bioluminescent “fishing rods”. In contrast, the males swim well but are smaller, and they’re also parasitic. When they become adults, they attach themselves to a female and eventually merge with her, sperm and flesh and all. That gives a whole new meaning to “becoming one with each other.”

2. Giant Isopod

Deep sea giant isopod
Deep sea giant isopod by Damien du Toit cc2.0

Giant isopods are like large underwater bugs, though they are crustaceans and not insects. They have seven pairs of legs, two pairs of antennae (which they use to sense their environment), large, fixed eyes, four sets of jaws and a thick segmented shell that makes them look almost like leftovers from an era gone by. They feed on fish, squid and other crustaceans, as well as whale carcasses that fall to the ocean floor, but they can go a long time without food — years even. In order to limit their energy expenditure, giant isopods are always in a state of semi-hibernation, which is also believed to contribute to their long lifespan (up to 25 years), and their gigantic size — they can grow up to 30 inches (76 centimeters) long! When threatened, giant isopods curl into a ball, which is good, since their underside is uglier and creepier than their backside.

Giant Isopods are featured in the following book:
25 Deep Sea Creatures

1. Blobfish

This creature is not only the ugliest in the sea, but maybe even one of the ugliest animals in the world. One look at it and you’ll understand why. The blobfish is more of a blob than a fish, looking like a ball of slime with a big fleshy nose and a downturned mouth. This is because the blobfish doesn’t have any muscles but instead, is made up of a gelatinous substance that enables it to float naturally when it wants to.

Blobfish are featured in the following books:
25 Deep Sea Creatures
25 Weirdest Animals

Did we get it right or wrong?

Is this the right order? What do you think? Scroll down to the comments and let us know what order these ugly sea animals should be in – or if we’ve missed something hideous!

What do you know?

Think you remember what you’ve read? Try out the Ugliest Sea Animals Quiz!



Click here to view the complete list of sources…


    • I can’t find an answer to that Jessica. Very little is known about what blobfish get up to, but they live so deep that it’s very dark – would they need to hide in sand?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here