Top 10 Most Terrifying Real-Life Fish Ever



Top 10 Most Terrifying Real-Life Fish Ever

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Who's up for a swim? For this list, we'll be looking at horrific, strange, creepy, and intimidating-looking fish. Our countdown includes Giant Catfish, Tigerfish, Anglerfish, Goblin Shark, Blobfish, and more!

Top 20 Scariest Fish

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Scariest Fish.

For this list, we’ll be looking at horrific, strange, creepy, and intimidating-looking fish. Sharks will be included, but only those that look notably odd, not just intimidating.

Be sure to let us know in the comments if there’s a fish that scares YOU the most.

#20: Giant Catfish

The name says it! Catfish come in a wide variety of species, shapes, and sizes, and we’ll actually be discussing a few of them today, but this one is notably massive. The giant catfish, also known more specifically as the Mekong giant catfish, can weigh up to 770 lbs and measure nearly 9 feet in length. Imagine that brushing up against your leg while taking a dip! Once upon a time, it was considered the largest known breed of freshwater fish. Sadly, it has since been unseated by Russia’s beluga sturgeon, and that’s not the only thing that Mekong giant catfish have lost. They’re endemic to the Mekong River, where habitat loss has rendered the species critically endangered.

#19: Barreleye [aka Spook Fish]

Try as you might to convince us that this species is native to planet earth, we’re not going to believe you. The Barreleye looks like something out of the notebooks of a sci-fi author or a prototype sea creature for James Cameron’s future “Avatar” films. Despite its extraterrestrial appearance, the Barreleye swims the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, keeping to depths as low as 8200 feet. Their uniquely creepy appearance is an adaptation to their environment; they prefer to dwell where sunlight cannot pierce the depths. Also known as the spook fish, barreleyes have translucent heads that allow their unique-barrel-shaped, telescoping eyes to look upwards as well as forwards. With all due respect to the scientific community, we know an alien when we see one!

#18: Dragonfish

Remember that horrifying moment in Alien when a chestburster pops out of John Hurt’s stomach like some deep-space jack in the box, releasing a super-soaker spray of blood? More blood-curdling than that is the knowledge that an identical looking creature actually lives on this planet. While many varieties exist, the deep sea dragonfish is by far the creepiest, with a bioluminescent barbel hanging from its sharp-fanged jaw, which it uses to lure unsuspecting victims. It may only grow to about 6 inches long (though sometimes more), but this little fish is a fierce predator.

#17: Snaggletooth

We’re not being bullies! That’s actually the name of the fish. But if it makes you feel better, we’ll use its other name: stareater. Happy? We’ve gone from bullying to a name that inspires cosmic dread. Both names actually refer to a wide array of small, deep-sea fish fitting a certain set of criteria. This includes a mouth full of protruding, curved, extremely sharp little teeth that are often compared to needles. The other commonality is a red barbel that stareaters use as a lure. In the depths of the ocean where stareaters reside, all that their prey can see is a bioluminescent red light floating enticingly. That is… until the snaggletooth strikes. There are 48 known types of stareater.

#16: Tigerfish

Why do we like to name fish after other animals found on land? Can’t fish be scary in their own right? The Tigerfish has such a distinct viciousness to its appearance that it needs no help in making a name for itself. It is lean, muscular and has disproportionately large teeth. Found all across Africa, the largest and most deadly of the species, the Goliath Tigerfish, calls the Congo River home. While other carnivorous fish are known to eat unsuspecting birds resting on the water, the Tigerfish is known to leap out of the water and trap them mid-flight.

#15: Gulper Eel

We can all agree that pelicans are funny looking. The saggy, stretchy throat makes them look like a bullfrog, no? Then there are the awkward stubby legs? The ungraceful takeoffs? The deep-sea type of gulper eel, also called the pelican eel, shares the expanding lower jaw with the pelican, but the comparison ends there. Rarely seen by humans, this creature is truly otherworldly. The expanding jaw and matching stomach lets them eat fish and crustaceans many times larger than themselves. Small, beady eyes evolved to spot the faintest movements in the dark ocean depths, while a bioluminescent tail sways to entice its unsuspecting victims. Sheer terror.

#14: Lamprey [aka Lamprey Eels]

By now, we shouldn’t be surprised by the overlap of classic sci-fi films and the creatures on this list. It seems that our oceans are scarier than the furthest reaches of space and the imaginations of monster makers in Hollywood. Sarlacc and space slug from Star Wars and sandworm from Dune; meet your cousin, the lamprey. Long cylindrical fish of varying sizes, they have round, funnel-shaped mouths filled with row upon row of sharp teeth. These unique mouths are used to latch onto moving targets, eating away at the flesh until they reach the blood and bodily fluids they crave.

#13: The Black Swallower

Have you ever watched one of those eating competitions and thought to yourself… “where do they put it all?” Well, after a bit of research, we’re convinced that what you’re actually looking at are black swallowers disguised as humans. Considering they top out at about 10 inches in length, we know… that’s one heck of a disguise. But we’ve seen it before! Anyways, this remarkable fish is found in tropical waters across the globe, usually at depths of 3000 to 9000 feet. Despite the black swallower’s modest size, a massive, flappy stomach enables it to eat way beyond its weight class; it can consume fish twice its length and 10 times its mass. We should all be thankful that they’re not much bigger!

#12: Wels Catfish

Anyone who says size doesn’t matter clearly never encountered this freshwater behemoth. Your average catfish? A little ugly, but nothing to be afraid of. The wels catfish, on the other hand, can grow to 13 feet in length and weigh a whopping 880 lbs. It’s found all over Europe and eats fish and any other small amphibian or mammal with the misfortune of crossing its path. There are even stories of wels catfish eating humans. This fish is so large that Loch Ness Monster hunter, Steve Feltham, believes it to be the true species of the elusive Scottish lake monster.

#11: Hagfish

“Hag.” It’s not a flattering term. It should really only be used to describe a literal witch who is both monstrous in personality and appearance. So... here’s a photo of a hagfish! We’ll let you decide if it's applicable. These ocean-dwelling fish might not have warts or pointed hats, but they are undeniably the stuff of nightmares. Long, and snake-like in shape, hagfish look like giant worms with a mouthful of teeth in place of any discernible face. They secrete copious amounts of slime, which they use to escape any would-be predator. The way their skin covers their body has been described as a “loose-fitting sock.” Thanks! That concept has gone from uncomfortable to absolutely revolting. The largest specimen on record? 4 feet, 2 inches.

#10: Alligator Gar

While it has the jaws of an alligator, this thing looks more like a dinosaur. And that’s not far from the truth. The alligator gar is often referred to as a “living fossil,” as it retains many characteristics of its ancestors. Fossils of these fish can be found dating back as far as the Early Cretaceous Period, over 100 million years ago. At up to 10 feet long and over 300 lbs, it’s a true prehistoric predator. “Swimming with the fishes” already suggests a gruesome fate, but how about “swimming with the dinosaurs”?

#9: Pacu

Piranhas are scary enough without needing any help. But what if we told you there was giant piranha-related fish with… (wait for it)... human-like teeth. Large, carnivorous fish have an inherent knack for intimidation. Adding something so human to the faces of these otherwise alien-looking creatures is sure to send shivers down the spine of even the most seasoned fisherman. Combine these big square teeth with the fact that they can grow to over 3 feet-long and 55 lbs in weight and that’s one intimidating river monster! Although not as aggressive as their piranha cousins, they’ll eat almost anything.

#8: Cookiecutter Shark [aka Cigar Shark]

Remember how you used to draw shark teeth as a kid? Just a giant strip of white with a jagged edge? Well, in a nightmarish turn of events, your crude drawing has come to life and swims warm oceanic waters around the world. The cookiecutter shark ranges from 17 to 22 inches in length and has a long, cigar-shaped body. It has suctorial lips that allow it to suck on flesh. From this position it slowly spins, biting down with its saw-like teeth to remove a large oval of flesh, often 2 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches deep.

#7: Stargazer

Well… this is certainly one unfortunate-looking creature. It looks like a children’s drawing brought to life against its own wishes. That face just isn’t where it’s supposed to be. The stargazer’s eyes are located on the top of its head and have seemingly dragged its mouth with them. You know how in cartoons a character’s head can be drastically reshaped when hit hard enough? It’s like that, but… real life. As crazy as it might look, the stargazer’s unique anatomy makes it a terrifyingly effective predator. This ugly little fish can keep staring at the stars to its heart’s content, just so long as we can avert our gaze elsewhere. Oh, they’re also venomous and come in an electric variety, you know… just because.

#6: Anglerfish

This creature of the deep is pretty much one big mouth with fins. Like many fish that live near the ocean floor, it uses bioluminescence to attract its food. Unlike many other fish, whose lure hangs beneath its lower jaw, the anglerfish has a fleshy protrusion growing out of its forehead. Called an “esca,” it uses it like a fishing rod, directing other fish directly to its mouth full of sharp teeth. These teeth are angled inwards so prey can swim in, but escape is rendered impossible. This massive mouth also allows it to swallow victims twice its size.

#5: Goblin Shark

One look at this horrifying monster clown of the deep and you won’t believe that we still have even scarier fish to get to after this! This rare deep sea shark has pink, fleshy skin and looks like some sort of deformed human-shark hybrid. The elongated snout looks like a long, misshapen human nose that, paired with a mouthful of thin, sharp, nail-like teeth, makes for a haunting sight. More terrifying however, are its jaws, which extend forward and expand when it attacks. While not considered a threat to humans, they have been known to bite. And if looks truly can kill, then the goblin shark must be deadly.

#4: Goonch Catfish

Also known as the giant devil catfish, or simply “goonch,” this fish swims the rivers of India and its neighboring nations. A true river monster, it’s been known to grow up to 6.6 feet in length and weigh over 200 lbs. That’s intimidating enough already, but the goonch catfish cracks the top five thanks to the mouthful of sharp teeth that it brings to the party. While appearance is the central metric by which we’re judging fish today, we’d be lying if said that reputation didn’t play a factor for this particular entry. You see, between 1998 and 2007, a number of people were killed along the Kali River and locals believe that it was a giant man-eating goonch catfish that was responsible.

#3: Frilled Shark

A frilled shirt? Not intimidating. A frilled neckpiece? Not scary in the slightest — unless being worn by Pennywise the Dancing Clown. A frilled shark on the other hand? This thing looks like it crawled out of a prehistoric past. And that’s not far from the truth. Described as a “living fossil,” it has hardly changed its look since the Late Cretaceous period. Eel-like in shape with a face reminiscent of a dinosaur, this oceanic monster can grow to upwards of 6 and a half feet in length. And while its teeth might not look dangerous from afar, they’re actually tight clusters of needle-sharp teeth that curve inwards. These chompers ensure that what goes in… has no chance of swimming back out.

#2: Sarcastic Fringehead

Laugh at the name all you want. When this fish opens its mouth, we guarantee that you’ll be singing a different tune. Though the sarcastic fringehead only grows to be about a foot in length, its anatomy is reminiscent of a certain alien predator that we wouldn’t want to face at any size. When going about its business, the fringehead is already a rather unfortunate looking fish. Its sharp little teeth, bulging eyes, and rather bulky build are enough to keep people away. A unique anatomy, however, allows them to distend their jaw to horrifying effect. It’s all for show, but the move gets the job done. Horror movie filmmakers? Take note.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Anjumara [aka Wolf Fish]
This Giant Freshwater Fish Is Large Enough to Scare Anyone Out of the River

Atlantic Wolffish
Similar Name, Different Fish. The Atlantic Wolffish Has Got a Mug Only a Mother Could Love

Beady Little Eyes & Teeth That Look WAY Too Big for Its Head

#1: Blobfish

We’ve seen all manner of spiny, toothy, and oversized creatures today. We’ve got enough inspiration to create a trilogy’s worth of deep-sea horror movies! But the blobfish is cut from a different cloth. It’s unlike anything else we’ve seen on earth. It looks like a caricature gone horribly wrong or a human head that’s been left out in the sun too long. Widely considered to be the ugliest animal on earth, the blobfish suffers aesthetically from being brought to the surface. A deep-sea fish, the blobfish has a gelatinous anatomy that, while very effective at great depths, turns it into a sagging mound of unsightly features as it approaches the surface. This is truly the stuff of nightmares.
Someday you should do a list about terrifying looking animals that aren%u2019t fish.