All About the Anglerfish: The Common Black Devil

The anglerfish is a deep-sea fish that has been known to humans for hundreds of years. They have been depicted in many different forms as mythological creatures, though they are very real. In the 1930s, deep-sea explorations began to bring more specimens up from the ocean floor, and it was then that the scientific world first learned of the anglerfish.

Description and Appearance

The black devil anglerfish is a very large viviparous fish. They grow to be up to 6 feet long and can weigh between 5-10 lbs. The head of the anglerfish is wide, rounded with numerous teeth that are incredibly sharp. Large eyes sit on either side of its head beneath bony growths, giving it an almost alien appearance.

An anglerfish’s body is long and thin with a large, flat belly. A large mouth sits on the underside of its head filled with tiny needle-like teeth that point inward to prevent prey from escaping once caught. Two fins are located on either side of the fish's body; they are small and function to protect the anglerfish from rolling over on its side.

The anglerfish is covered with thick, bony plates that can be gray or black in color. The top of its body is dark red and its belly and underside of the head are pale pink. A few other species have been known to also be bioluminescent.

The anglerfish's most distinguishable characteristic is its long, symmetrical dorsal spine that sits above the fish's head and acts like a fishing rod (hence their nickname "angler"). Toward the tip of this spine is a shiny round bulb that houses symbiotic bacteria that helps the angler to produce light. Just describing how it looks is scary enough, but they sure are interesting creatures when it’s all said and done. However, who’s stopping Gage Beasley from making what’s normally a freaky creature into a cute and cuddly one (despite still being aesthetically freaky)? Here’s Gage Beasley’s Anglerfish Soft Stuffed Plush Toy—perfect for giving your room a deep-sea vibe.

Gage Beasley’s Anglerfish Soft Stuffed Plush Toy


The black devil anglerfish’s primary diet is small fish. Since it lives in the deepest parts of the ocean, its food source isn't abundant, so it must resort to eating anything that comes along.

When an anglerfish catches a meal with its long string-like spine, it hangs by its mouth from a rocky overhang and uses its sharp teeth to tear off chunks of flesh to eat. It swallows these chunks whole without chewing.

An adult black devil anglerfish has no natural predators because all animals that try to catch it end up as prey themselves due to the sharp teeth and poisonous spines. Young anglerfish must be careful not to get eaten by the larger fish in the area.


The black devil anglerfish is a viviparous fish, meaning it gives live birth to its offspring. A female can lay anywhere between 500-1,400 eggs at one time. They are usually laid on top of jellyfish because they provide an ideal breeding ground.

The female can sometimes preserve and continue to fertilize their own eggs even after laying them, which means they may never fully detach from the egg. When it is time for the young to hatch, their mother will regurgitate partially digested food into their mouths until they are large enough to hunt for themselves.

Distribution and Conservation Status

Black devil anglerfish live at depths of up to 9,000 feet in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. They are typically found near the seafloor close to steep cliffs or rocky outcroppings where there is plenty of shelter for protection.

The black devil anglerfish is currently categorized as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Though there are no current threats to this species, their population numbers have decreased due to deep-sea trawling nets that have been dragging along the seafloor since 1950s. These nets often ensnare and kill many anglerfish that live close to the bottom of the ocean.

The black devil anglerfish has also been seen in some aquariums, but they are very difficult to keep due to their need for a cold environment in order to survive. Some scientists have learned how to successfully keep this fish alive in captivity by keeping the water temperature around 43-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The black devil anglerfish is also difficult to observe in its natural habitat because it only comes close to the surface during nighttime and spends most of its time deep underwater far from research equipment such as cameras. Scientists aren't exactly sure how large this fish can grow due to these limitations, but since it takes at least six years for anglerfish to reach sexual maturity, the species has a very slow life cycle.

Final Thoughts

The black devil anglerfish is a ferocious, deep-sea predator that has a sharp set of razor-sharp teeth and a fishing rod-like spine to help it strategically lure prey into its gaping mouth. It has no natural predators due to its poisonous dorsal spines and takes at least six years for this fish to reach sexual maturity, which is also the minimum age at which they can reproduce.

This fish is categorized as Least Concern and its population numbers have decreased due to deep-sea trawling nets that have been dragging along the seafloor since the 1950s.




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