What Does a Blobfish Look Like Underwater?

Blobfish the worlds ugliest fish
Image credit: Kerryn Parkinson

Blobfish have been famous for their weird, blobby appearance. However, the curious question remains: What does a blobfish look like underwater? Do they still look flabby and gelatinous in their natural environment?

Stick around if you want to know how blobfish appear in their natural environment. We covered everything you need to know about these blobby deep-sea fish!

What Do Blobfish Look Like Underwater?

Photo of a blobfish underwater

Underwater, the blobfish exhibits a starkly different appearance from its alienish, gelatinous form seen on land. These deep-sea fish maintain a more typical fish-like appearance in their natural habitat. They possess a round, large head, and their body tapers into a lengthy tail.

Their skin also appears differently when observed in their deep-sea home. Instead of flabby, the skin is soft, spike-dotted, and lacks scales.

The facial features of the blobfish are notably distinct. They have sizeable, round black eyes, often encircled by a golden hue, and their mouths are broad and downturned, giving them a seemingly sullen expression.

Habitating predominantly in the depths of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, blobfish thrive in cold, high-pressure zones, often found far below the ocean’s surface. Their appearance is well-suited to their habitat.

Why Do Blobfish Look Different Underwater?

The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) looks drastically different underwater. This difference is largely due to these fish’s unique adaptations to their deep-sea environment.

Living in the depths of the ocean, specifically at 600 to 1,200 meters below the surface, the blobfish is subjected to pressures approximately 60 to 120 times greater than at sea level. 

Under such high-pressure conditions, the blobfish’s body, primarily made of a gelatinous substance, is compressed. Hence, they do not appear flabby and gelatinous.

This compression gives the blobfish a more typical fish-like appearance, as the intense pressure supports its soft body, preventing it from becoming flabby.

Simply put, the high-pressure environment of the deep sea is key to maintaining the blobfish’s more structured form.

Consequently, when a blobfish is brought to the surface, the significant decrease in pressure causes its body to lose this compression.

The absence of deep-sea pressure means that its gelatinous body can no longer maintain its denser, more fish-like structure, resulting in the saggy, gelatinous appearance that blobfish are commonly known for.

This drastic change clearly demonstrates how the blobfish’s body is uniquely adapted to its deep-sea environment, relying on external pressure to maintain its shape.

Fun Fact: In 2013, the blobfish was voted the “World’s Ugliest Animal” by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. This title was part of a campaign to raise awareness for less aesthetically pleasing endangered animals.

The Appearance of Blobfish Underwater vs. Above Water

Appearance of blobfish on land
Image credit: thedirtyoven / Instagram

The blobfish appears notably different from its infamous surface image underwater. In the deep sea, the intense pressure compresses the blobfish’s body.

Although blobfish are mostly gelatinous in form and lack full skeletal support, they exhibit a more typical fish-like form with a structured appearance underwater due to compression.

Meanwhile, the absence of deep-sea pressure above the water dramatically alters the blobfish’s appearance. Their gelatinous body adapted to withstand high pressure loses its structure and becomes saggy and flabby.

This leads to the blobfish’s widely recognized appearance as a ‘blob,’ which starkly contrasts its more streamlined look in its natural, high-pressure environment.

Getting by a blobfish is rare, and I was lucky enough to encounter a bycatch. Holding it was really bizarre. When I picked it up from its tail, its blobby flesh just seemed to fall to its head!

This showed me the actual loss of structural integrity of the fish above water in real life.

What Do Baby Blobfish Look Like Underwater?

The specific visual details of baby blobfish, such as size and exact shape, are less documented due to the challenges of observing these creatures in their natural, deep-sea habitat.

However, their appearance would likely be a smaller, less developed version of the adult form, shaped by the same environmental pressures and biological adaptations.

While not extensively documented in terms of appearance, baby blobfish likely share several characteristics with adult blobfish, adapted for their unique deep-sea environment.

The high pressure would similarly affect their gelatinous bodies in their natural underwater habitat.

Like the adults, baby blobfish would have a body composition primarily gelatinous, which is a critical adaptation for surviving in the immense pressure of the deep sea.

Blobfish in Their Natural Habitat

Found primarily in the deep parts of the oceans near Australia and Tasmania, blobfish have evolved to thrive under immense pressure, vastly different from surface conditions.

In their deep-sea habitat, blobfish’s behavior is largely influenced by the need to conserve energy. The high pressure at these depths precludes using a swim bladder for buoyancy, which is common in many fish.

Instead, their body is primarily gelatinous, allowing them to float just above the seafloor without expending much energy. This adaptation is vital in the nutrient-scarce depths of the ocean.

In addition, these deep-sea fish’s feeding habits are passive. Their diet mainly includes small edible matter like deep-sea crustaceans, which they consume without active hunting.

Their reproduction is not well-documented, partly due to the difficulty of studying these animals in their deep-sea environment. However, it’s known that the females lay eggs, which may be guarded by one of the parents.

Unfortunately, blobfish face threats from human activities, particularly deep-sea fishing, where they are often unintentionally caught as bycatch.

Due to the depth and inaccessibility of their habitat, conservation efforts for blobfish are complex and challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions

Blobfish in deep sea

How Big Do Blobfish Get?

Blobfish typically grow to a modest size. Some can grow up to two feet long. However, the average length of an adult blobfish is about one foot. This size is relatively small compared to many other marine species.

Can Blobfish Survive Out of Water?

Like other fishes, blobfish cannot survive out of the water. Furthermore, they cannot survive out of the deep-sea regions since they are adapted to the high-pressure environment.

When removed from their natural habitat, the drastic change in pressure and absence of water significantly impacts their physiology.

Their gelatinous body, which is supported by the immense pressure of the deep sea, loses its structure in a normal atmospheric environment.

This change alters their appearance and impairs their ability to function, leading to their inability to survive outside of their deep-sea environment.

How Rare Is It to See a Blobfish?

Seeing a blobfish in its natural habitat is extremely rare. These fish inhabit the deep waters off Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand coasts, living at depths between 600 and 1,200 meters.

The high pressure and inaccessibility of these depths make direct observation of blobfish in the wild a significant challenge.

Encounters with blobfish are usually accidental and often occur during deep-sea fishing activities when they are caught as bycatch.

Do Blobfish Have Noses?

Blobfish do not have a nose in the conventional sense, like humans or many other animals. Instead, they have nostrils that are not prominent or structured like a typical nose.

The blobfish’s unique appearance, particularly its face, is adapted to its deep-sea habitat. This includes a gelatinous body and a lack of well-defined facial features like a distinct nose.

Do Blobfish Have Muscles?

Blobfish have muscles but are built and developed differently from other fish species. The blobfish’s muscles are relatively minimal, a trait adapted to its deep-sea environment.

The blobfish’s primarily gelatinous body, which has a density slightly less than water, allows them to float effortlessly near the sea floor without needing active swimming.

Here is a video discussing the anatomy of blobfish in depth:

What's Inside A Blobfish | What's Inside? | Science Insider

Do Blobfish Have Bones?

Blobfish have bones, but their skeletal structure is unlike that of many other fish species. They have a minimal skeletal framework consisting of soft, thin, and fragile bones, an adaptation to the blobfish’s deep-sea environment.

Blobfish are truly intriguing creatures, given their unique adaptations and odd appearances. If there are other things you want to know about these flabby deep-sea creatures, let us know in the comments!

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