What Do Anglerfish Eat?

Angler fish are those terrifying monsters of the deep. You know, the ones with a tangle of gnarly teeth and a glowing lure that they use to entice their unsuspecting prey to its death. They are also sometimes called monkfish or goosefish.

Most angler fish live deep in the ocean, where few other forms of life survive. So while it doesn’t need a lot to eat, the angler fish can’t afford to be fussy.

Fortunately, angler fish eat almost anything, from fish to seabirds. They’re not picky eaters and don’t mind if their prey is fresh or already dead.

The anglerfish diet can even include dead marine life, which, as it floats to the ocean floor, provides the angler fish with some easy pickings.

Why the Male Anglerfish Never Eats At All?

Also known as sea devils, anglerfish have a wide and varied diet that can include fish, crustaceans, and even seabirds.

The male anglerfish has little say in where his nourishment comes from, as he’s born without a digestive system.

The only reason the male anglerfish exists is to find a mate. Once he achieves that goal, he bites into her belly in an act known as “sexual parasitism.”

Why does the Male Anglerfish Never Eat At All?

Once conjoined, the male anglerfish gets all the nourishment he needs from the female.

Meanwhile, the female anglerfish have elongated dorsal spines, at the end of which are light-emitting organs called photophores that they use to entice prey towards their large jaws.

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She uses the photophore like a fishing rod, luring her prey in before snapping down on it with her sharp teeth.

7 Things Angler Fish Eat

7 Things Angler Fish Eat

#1 Fish

Angler fish eat a lot of other fish, although the type varies depending on the predator’s size.

study of the stomach contents of angler fish in the northern Irish Sea found that “particular whiting and Norway pout, and Nephrops were the main identifiable prey items.”

Fish

The researchers conducting the study also concluded that angler fish eat almost anything, noting that “seasonal variability apparently related to differences in availability rather than selective feeding by angler-fish.”

Big anglerfish favor larger fish, while smaller specimens will stick with smaller fish.

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#2 Crustaceans

Researchers looking at the threadfin anglerfish in the central Pacific Ocean found this deep-sea anglerfish’s diet is comprised mainly of teleost fish, but that 30% is made up of crustaceans like shrimp.

Crustaceans

The smaller angler fish seem to eat crustaceans such as “pandalid shrimps, stomatopods and squat lobsters,” more than the larger specimens that focus on “small benthic teleost fish.”

#3 Octopus

Anglerfish are “opportunistic foragers” that will feed on anything they can fit into their mouths.

As their mouths are so large, they can swallow prey up to twice their size, making almost everything a potential meal.

These angry-looking fish prey on octopus and squid, as well as large fish.

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Octopus

#4 Snails

Mollusks like snails, slugs, conchs, limpets, and whelks provide the anglerfish with much of its nutrition, not that it needs a great deal.

These scary sea devils don’t exert themselves hunting for prey, preferring to rest on the bottom of the ocean and lure in their unsuspecting victims.

Snails

This approach to predation makes anglerfish “low energy consumers” that can survive on very little nutrition.

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#5 Turtle

If an angler fish can capture prey, it will eat it, no matter what it is. Even sea turtles can fall foul of an angler fish’s appetite, although it’s not a standard option on the angler fish’s menu.

The largest angler fish is the Krøyer deep sea angler fish. The females of this species are usually around 2.5 feet long but can reach up to 3.9 ft.

Turtle

As a female anglerfish can swallow prey twice her own size, that means she could digest an adult green turtle or even a loggerhead if one came her way.

#6 Seabirds

While there are many deep-sea anglerfish species, there are others that live in shallow enough water that they may encounter the occasional seabird.

Those birds will be diving for fish so are unlikely to be attracted by the anglerfish’s lure.

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Seabirds

If a dead bird falls to the bottom of the ocean, however, the angler fish will have no qualms about eating it.

#7 Jellyfish

For many years, scientists believed that jellyfish lacked the nutritional value needed to make them enticing prey for any deep-sea creatures, including sea devils.

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More recent findings suggest that many species depend on the occasional meal of jellyfish. It may not be as nutritional as fish, but it’s easy to digest, and its “reproductive tissues offer calories and protein.”

Jellyfish

While deep-sea species like the humpback anglerfish rarely come into contact with jellyfish, they would no doubt consume any dead matter that floated their way.

FAQ

Can Angler Fish Eat Humans?

With their huge jaws, sharp teeth, and terrifying appearance, the angler fish certainly looks like it might eat a human.

Angler fish aren’t considered dangerous to humans, which is something of a surprise. After all, if an angler fish can reach nearly 4 feet long and consume prey twice it’s size, a human would be a perfectly sized meal.

The angler fish isn’t a threat because our habitats don’t coincide. You won’t find any angler fish in your backyard, nor will find any people 6,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.

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Do Angler Fish Eat Sharks?

There’s no reason sharks wouldn’t be included in the anglerfish diet. Plenty of deep-sea shark species would share the anglerfish’s habitat and be lured in by its light-emitting fishing rod.

What Eats Anglerfish?

Anglerfish may devour almost anything that comes their way, but they have very few natural predators.

What Eats Anglerfish?

Sharks and barracudas may prey on them from time to time, but that’s about the only species brave enough to take on these angry-looking fish.

The biggest threat to this curious fish species is humans, although even they stop short of eating the deep-sea species.

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Can You Eat Anglerfish?

Anglerfish may not look very appetizing, but not only are they edible, but they also have a faintly sweet taste, a little like lobster.

The liver of the anglerfish is so smooth and rich that it’s sometimes referred to as the “foie gras of the sea.”

Can You Eat Anglerfish?

Anglerfish don’t just taste good – it’s also very healthy, containing lots of essential vitamins and very few calories.

Do Anglerfish Eat Clownfish?

Anyone whose seen any of the Finding Nemo movies will have a soft spot for the brightly colored fish that populate our coral reefs.

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While these small fish are unlikely to come into contact with a deep-sea angler, they stand little chance against those that inhabit similar habitats.

Wartskin and tasseled anglerfish are two species that hang out on continental shelves and lazily hunt on coral reefs, hiding in caves and crevices as they wait for the right time to strike.

Conclusion

Anglerfish are arguably the ugliest fish in the world, but that doesn’t really matter as most of them live in a world where there’s very little light.

The lack of light also means there’s very little life on the sea floor, so the anglerfish can’t afford to be fussy.

angler fish
Angler fish

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Fortunately, these scary-looking fish aren’t particularly picky eaters and will happily tuck into anything they can fit into their sizable jaws, even if that dead matter that’s floated down from the surface.

The anglerfish diet can include almost anything in the animal kingdom, be it fish, bird, or mammal.

Thankfully, humans live too far from the sea floor to be on the menu but, should your dead body sink to the bottom of the ocean, I’m sure an anglerfish would be only too happy to take a bite out of it. 

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