The Warty Frogfish Makes an Interesting Fish for the Marine Aquarium. While not for everyone, this is a fascinating marine fish appropriate for the home aquarium if the aquarist is prepared to meet the fish’s dietary needs.
So you want a really unusual fish for a saltwater aquarium? Do you want a fish that will make people say “ewwwwww”? Do you want a fish that is so good at camouflaging itself that you may have trouble seeing it in your tank? Do you want a fish with one of the most fascinating mechanisms for food capture of all saltwater fish? If you said “yes” to any (or all) of these questions, then an Anglerfish such as the Warty Frogfish might just be the fish for you.
Anglerfishes, named for their unique prey capture strategy, are part of the class of ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) and members of the Order Lophiiformes (anglerfishes). There are many species in several families, but some of the best choices for the marine aquarist are the frogfishes from the family Antennariidae. Of the more than forty species of frogfishes, the Warty Frogfish (Antennarius masculates) is one of the best candidates for the marine aquarium.
A Built-In Fishing Rod?
The Warty Frogfish is a shallow water (to about 30 feet) tropical reef fish from the Indo-Pacific that grows to about five inches in the home aquarium. It is easily recognizable by its strange appearance with many wart-like bumps and its very own fishing rod. That’s right—this fish has a built-in fishing rod (hence the name anglerfish). All frogfishes have three dorsal spines on their heads, with the forward-most one (called the illicium) serving as a sort of fishing rod with a fleshy lure-like appendage (called an esca) at the end.
The Warty Frogfish’s Coloration
The Warty Frogfish’s coloration is highly variable. Some specimens are yellow (like the one pictured here), while others may be a more yellow-brown color or even black. Blotchy spots across the fish’s body help it to blend in even better with its environment. You may see Warty Frogfish displaying reds, whites and even purples depending on the individual’s location. The adult Warty Frogfish is chameleonic and uses its coloration to blend in amongst sponges, while juveniles mimic colorful nudibranchs (see photograph).
The Warty Frogfish will perch on live rock in the aquarium and blend in with its surroundings. Using its esca, it then lures small fishes and crustaceans close enough to ambush them. This fish is capable of consuming fishes close to its own size, and it consumes them whole! As a result, you’ll want to keep the Warty Frogfish with larger tankmates.
The Warty Frogfish should be kept in an aquarium no smaller than 30 gallons with good filtration capacity. The tank should have live rock and may have coral, as this fish is generally considered reef-compatible (keep in mind it may eat crustaceans, but it should leave sessile invertebrates alone). In terms of diet, the Warty Frogfish prefers live food, but it can be trained to eat bits of marine flesh (e.g. silversides, table shrimp, clams, etc.) wiggled in front of it with a feeding stick.
While not necessarily an easy fish to keep, the intermediate marine aquarist prepared to meet the species’ dietary needs should expect success with this unusual but highly interesting marine fish.