17 Blobfish Facts [Respect for the World’s “Ugliest Fish”]

Blobfish in their natural habitat
A blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) in their natural habitat – underwater at 4,790 feet (1,460 meters.)

There’s a special animal who lives in the deep sea called a blobfish. Not every animal manages to gain a cult following. The blobfish, however, has one. Humans have referred to the blobfish as “the ugliest animal alive.” Leave it to us to anthropomorphize! After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and a blobfish isn’t looking to date you. To a blobfish, another blobfish is a most becoming sight.

As we humans are all too quick to judge a book by its cover, I thought I’d share some noteworthy facts about blobfish. After reading this, hopefully you’ll agree that these splendid beings are worthy of respect, not ridicule. People around the world are intrigued with blobfish, so here are some common questions they ask about these gelatinous beings.

1. Are blobfish aliens or are they related to other fish?

Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) are not extraterrestrials. They belong to a family of fish called Psychrolutidae. The term Psychrolutidae is derived from the Greek word “psychroloutes,” which loosely translates to “someone who takes a cold bath.” The Psychrolutidae family of fish includes blobfishes, toadfishes, and sculpins.

2. Where do blobfish live?

True to their Greek name, blobfish live in the cold ocean depths at 1,000 to 9,200 feet (300-2,800 meters). They can be found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, and some species live in the shallower intertidal zones of the colder North Pacific Ocean.

3. How do blobfish live under so much pressure?

Blobfish our of water
Blobfish (Psychrolutes phrictus) lose their natural shape when removed from the pressure of deep ocean water. Photo: NOAA.

After the holidays, many of us lament the force of gravity weighing us down and preventing us from going to the gym. Imagine that feeling of gravity multiplied by a factor of 200. That’s what it feels like where blobfish dwell. For example, at an ocean depths of 2,000 meters, the pressure on a body from all of that ocean water is about 200 times what it is at sea level.

How do blobfish withstand the pressure? Unlike most fish, blobfish are not equipped with an air-filled sac called a swim bladder. For the fish that have them, a swim bladder acts like a flotation device, providing them with buoyancy at their natural ocean depth. Without it, they would sink. If a blobfish had a swim bladder it would burst from the ocean water pressure where they live. Instead, the elegantly-designed blobfish has soft, gelatinous flesh, which enables them to hover comfortably above the ocean floor.

4. Why are blobfish blobs?

Most fish and other marine animals who live near the ocean’s surface need muscles and bones or exoskeletons to survive. Life at the ocean’s shallower depths is fast-paced with competition for food and threats from other marine species. By comparison, life at the bottom of the ocean is more slow-paced. In fact, blobfish spend most of their time chilling out on the ocean floor, so they haven’t had the need to develop muscles and bones as other fish have.

5. What do blobfish look like underwater?

Blobfish underwater
A deep-sea blob sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus) underwater. Photo: NOAA/MBARI.

While blobfish look like blobs when brought to the surface of the ocean, when they are in their natural habitats under the heavy pressure of ocean water, they actually look more like fish. In essence, the heavy weight of ocean water works like a pair of control-top pantyhose on the blobfish, helping to maintain them to maintain their elegant shape.

Just as we might not look our best if we were launched into space with zero gravity, the blobfish is not in their element on the Earth’s surface, so the term “ugliest fish” is not quite fair to the blobfish when they are out of their element.

6. How big are blobfish?

Blobfish measure about 12 inches long and they weigh roughly 20 pounds.

7. How do blobfish swim?

As blobfish lack a swim bladder, they spend most of their lives on or just above the ocean floor. However, they do have fins and a tail for movement, so they can move around like other fish.

8. When were blobfish discovered?

As blobfish normally live at the bottom of the sea, you might be wondering how we even know what they look like at all. The first living blobfish was discovered in 2003. He was pulled from a net that had been trawled in the deep ocean, at around 3,323-4,400 feet, along the Norfolk Ridge off the coast of New Zealand. The ship’s crew on the expedition dubbed the unknown fish “Mr. Blobby.”

9. What do blobfish eat?

Befitting their slow-paced lifestyle, blobfish do not hunt their prey. Instead, they wait for it. Sometimes morsels of food drop from above them and they open their mouths to catch it. Other times, they bob just above the sea floor and wait for crabs, sea pens, sea urchins, or shellfish to come their way. Then, when the time is right, they open their large mouths and suck their prey in.

A pair of blobfish
A pair of blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus.) Illustration: Rachel Caauwe.

10. Do blobfish have any predators?

Blobfish do not have any known predators. In fact, we humans and our impact on the ocean, including causing ocean pollution, acidification, and warming, are their only threats.

11. Can blobfish be pets?

Blobfish are wild animals, and therefore should not be pets. But even if you tried to have one as a pet, they could not survive in the average aquarium environment because they require the heavy pressure of deep ocean water on their bodies to survive – in other words – to keep them from blobbing out.

12. Can you eat blobfish?

While physically a human being is capable of eating a blobfish, why would you want to? After all, blobfish are sentient beings who deserve to live their lives. If you like the taste of seafood, check out these delicious vegan seafood recipes on UniGuide. :o)

13. Do blobfish have social lives?

While little is known about blobfishes’ social lives, some species will lay eggs in communal nests. The blob sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus) is one example. Large communities of females will gather together and lay their eggs in one area. A single nesting site can contain as many as 108,000 eggs.

14. How do blobfish reproduce?

We don’t know a lot about the reproductive behavior of blobfish, other than females lay thousands of pink eggs, usually on the ocean floor. Due to lack of plants, caves, and rocky outcroppings at this depth, it’s difficult for blobfish to hide their eggs. Thus, at least one of the blobfish in a breeding pair will remain with the fertilized eggs and guard them until they’re hatched. In addition, they’ll actively fan their nests with their fins to remove grit and keep the small pink eggs clean.

Here’s a video from Nautilus Live of two blob sculpins guarding their eggs:

15. How long do blobfish live?

Since blobfish don’t have any known natural predators, they lead relatively stress-free lives. Also, life at the bottom of the ocean is slow-paced for the creatures who live there, in terms of growth and reproduction rates. So, blobfish live fairly long lives (by human standards, at least) to around 130 years of age.

16. Where can I find other blobfish fans?

If you consider yourself to be a blobfish person, you are probably interested in meeting some other like-minded souls. Fortunately for you, you are not alone. Since Mr. Blobby was brought to the surface of the ocean by a team of scientists in 2003, blobfish have become a bit of a social media sensation. There are entire Instagram feeds, Facebook pages, and YouTube videos dedicated to blobfish (some scientific and some not so much.) You’ll be sure to find some kindred souls there. Check out the blobfish Instagram feed, which boasts over 29,000 followers:

Blobfish Instagram feed
Blobfish Instagram feed. Screenshot: Instagram.

17. Are blobfish endangered?

Because it’s difficult to conduct an accurate census of fish counts at the bottom of the ocean, the conservation status of blobfish is unclear. However, marine biologists believed that blobfish are threatened by overfishing and might be facing extinction.

Caught as Bycatch

While blobfish are not a target for human food, they are increasingly killed as bycatch by deep sea commercial trawling operations. In trawling operations, a large weighted net is held open by two heavy metal trawl doors and is dragged across the seabed to capture shrimp or other bottom-dwelling target species.

The trawl nets are non-selective, meaning they also capture non-target species, including blobfish. In fact, bottom trawling is considered one of the most destructive fishing practices by humans. Up to 50 percent of the marine animals who are captured by these operations are non-target species. They are still killed and then they’re discarded.

Far-reaching Destruction from Trawling

Trawling operations also disturb the seafloor, destroying rocky outcrops, coral reefs, and seagrass, which are critical habitats for marine life and which help protect them from natural predators. This habitat destruction caused by trawling also results in a depletion of food sources these species need to survive. This ultimately leads to the loss of marine biodiversity, which can cause entire ecosystems to collapse. Furthermore, when a blobfish is caught in trawl nets and brought to the surface, the change in pressure is deadly, so even if released back into the sea, they will not survive.

Organizations that Protect Blobfish

If you care about these special deep-sea dwelling fish, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are doing that:

I will leave you with this trailer from the movie The Blob, which came out in 1958. You will see that our lovely blobfish bears zero resemblance to that Hollywood monster:

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