Psychedelic Frogfish


The psychedelic frogfish is aptly named after its lurid colours and striped pattern.

The weird and wonderful psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) was first described in 2009. With vivid stripes of bluish-green, white and yellowish-orange, this strange-looking fish is a type of anglerfish. However, unlike most anglerfish, and indeed its own family of frogfish, the psychedelic frogfish is unusual in not having a lure growing from its forehead.

Psychedelic Frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) Profimedia, Minden Pictures
Psychedelic Frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) Profimedia, Minden Pictures

In other anglerfish, the lure is a fleshy, modified dorsal fin spine that the anglerfish uses as ‘bait’ to attract prey. The psychedelic frogfish also has forward-facing eyes on its flattened face, a trait not seen before in frogfish, and which is rare among fish in genera.

The broad face of the psychedelic frogfish has an expanded, fleshy chin and cheeks, giving it the appearance of a lion’s mane. This species also has a large, gaping mouth. Its body has thick skin with many folds, and its tail is slightly off-centre. As in other frogfish, the pectoral fins on each side of the psychedelic frogfish’s body have evolved to be more like legs than fins. The fish also has three spines along its back.

Their exceptional colouration provides excellent camouflage and is thought to mimic coral species like Symphyllia sinuosaPectinia lactuca and other corals with similar morphology.

S. sinuosa (A) and P. lactuca (E). Photos: D. J. Hall from Pietsch et al. 2009
S. sinuosa (A) and P. lactuca (E). Photos: D. J. Hall from Pietsch et al. 2009

Like other anglerfish, the psychedelic frogfish prefers to ‘walk’ rather than swim, using its pectoral fins. The fish also appears to ‘hop’, using the fins to push off when it hits the sea floor and expelling water from the gill openings as it does so to propel it forward. The tail is curled to one side, sending the fish in unpredictable directions as it pushes off the sea floor. No other frogfish or similar species have so far been observed to ‘hop’ in the manner of the psychedelic frogfish, although using the pectoral fins to push off prior to swimming is common.

Anglerfish generally have the ability to change colour and become camouflaged against their surroundings to stay hidden from prey attracted by their lure. In contrast, the psychedelic frogfish’s lurid colouring does not change, which appears to be reflected in its behaviour as it is a shy and elusive species, hiding itself away. This is presumably due to its inability to become camouflaged in the open. Researchers speculate that the psychedelic frogfish’s flamboyant colouring may be a way for the fish to mimic the corals within its habitat. Each individual psychedelic frogfish can be identified by its unique pattern of stripes and concentric rings.

With no lure or camouflage, the psychedelic frogfish instead catches its prey by concealing itself tightly in coral crevices where small fish hide. Its thick skin serves to protect it from the sharp edges of coral as it wedges itself between the tiny cracks.

Psychedelic frogfish with eggs. Photo: Francesca Diaco from Dive Photo Guide

Spawning: As a species of the genus Histiophryne, Psychedelic frogfish are “egg-brooders”, meaning they keep their eggs attached to their body to protect them from predators.

One female psychedelic frogfish laid a cluster of about 220 eggs. The female wrapped its caudal, dorsal, and anal fins around the cluster of eggs. The length of time to hatching is unknown.

Photo Credit: Charles Rawlings

Where to find the psychedelic frogfish?

The psychedelic frogfish has so far been positively identified only at Ambon Island, Indonesia, although it is quite likely that it will be eventually found elsewhere in Indonesia. It has been found in coral rubble, where it may be camouflaged from predators, though the location is primarily considered a ‘muck’ dive with few corals in the area. The fish have so far been found in locations where the water is 5 to 7 metres (16 to 23 ft) deep, about 20 metres (66 ft) away from the shoreline. Occasionally, the current in these areas is so strong that it makes it nearly impossible for the fish to swim, but usually the current is only mild.

Everyone need siesta!

Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica)yawning not one but twice.He really needs afternoon nap.Shooting at Laha, Ambon last year. Credit: Nu Parnupong Photography

Reference: and

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November 9, 2017 |

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