18 Popular Fish With Big Lips

Popular fish with big lips under the sea

Fish with big lips are interesting members of the aquatic world. These unique creatures often stand out due to their pronounced lip features, among other interesting traits.

Each fish tells a different story, from the stealthy Stonefish lurking in coral reefs to the vibrant Picasso Triggerfish displaying abstract patterns. This guide digs into 18 of the most popular big-lipped fish. 

Here, you’ll get a glimpse into their habitats, behaviors, and distinct appearances. Accompanied by vivid pictures, this guide offers a comprehensive look into the world of these remarkable fish. Let’s dive in!

18 Fish With Big Lips 

1. Big Lip Damselfish

Big Lip Damselfish
Image credit: dr.richardsmith / Instagram
Scientific Name:Cheiloprion labiatus
Origin:Western Pacific
Habitat:Coral reefs
Size:Up to 5.5 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming algae and zooplankton
Temperament:Generally peaceful
Unique Features:Pronounced lips; bright blue body with black bars

Starting off the list is the Big Lip Damselfish, a fish aptly named for its pronounced lips, which stand out prominently against its sleek body. 

Native to the waters of the Western Pacific, these fish boast a vibrant color palette, often displaying a mix of blues and yellows. They typically reach a modest size of around 5.5 inches.

Their large lips are not just for show, though, as they play a crucial role in their feeding habits. Appearance-wise, their lips are rounded and full, giving the fish a somewhat puckered look. 

These fish are generally peaceful but can exhibit a somewhat aggressive temperament, especially during breeding seasons. 

In terms of habitat, they thrive in coral-rich habitats and feed primarily on zooplankton. If you’re considering them for an aquarium, be prepared for a lively addition that’s sure to draw attention.

2. Carp

Carp with big lips
Scientific Name:Cyprinus carpio
Origin:Asia, Europe
Habitat:Freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds
Size:Up to 47 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming plants, insects, crustaceans
Temperament:Generally peaceful
Unique Features:Two barbels on each side of its upper jaw

Carp are freshwater fish with big lips native to Europe and Asia. Their size can vary significantly, with some species growing up to several feet long.

Regarding their build, carp have a robust body, usually displaying colors ranging from silver to olive green. 

These fish have thick, soft lips that stick out noticeably. Their lips feature a unique, wavy edge and spongy texture. These big lips are also highly sensitive and are used to search for food on the waterbed. 

Regarding diet, carp are omnivores. They feed on aquatic plants, insects, and smaller fish. They are also known for their ability to thrive in various habitats, from stagnant ponds to flowing rivers. 

While generally peaceful, they can be quite active, especially when foraging. Their unique combination of size, appearance, and big lips make them a popular choice among anglers and aquarists.

3. Koi

Koi with big lips
Scientific Name:Cyprinus carpio koi
Origin:Asia (Japan)
Habitat:Freshwater ponds, water gardens
Size:Up to 35 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming plants, fish pellets, and insects
Temperament:Generally peaceful
Unique Features:Bright and varied colors; ornamental carp

Koi are ornamental varieties of the common carp and are renowned for their striking colors and patterns. Originating from Japan, these fish with big lips have become symbols of love and friendship. 

Their large, fleshy lips are a distinctive feature crucial when they sift through mud to find food. 

Koi can grow quite large, often reaching lengths up to 36 inches. Their diverse diet includes algae, insects, and specially formulated koi food.

In terms of habitat, these big-lipped fish prefer calm pond environments with plenty of space to swim. 

Their calm temperament and graceful swimming patterns make them a favorite in decorative ponds worldwide. When thinking of fish with lips, the Koi stands out as both beautiful and iconic. Not to mention, they are also one of the most expensive.

4. Arowana

Arowana with big lips
Scientific Name:Osteoglossum bicirrhosum
Origin:South America (Amazon Basin)
Habitat:Freshwater rivers, swamps
Size:Up to 48 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming fish, insects, and crustaceans
Unique Features:Elongated body; bony tongue; often jumps out of the water to catch prey

Originating from the freshwater rivers of South America, the Arowana is a large fish that can reach lengths of up to 48 inches.

Their coloration varies, ranging from green, black, golden, and blue. They are also called “dragon fish” due to their unique patterns. 

Another distinguishing feature of these fish is their pronounced lips, which are big and slightly upturned. These big lips play a crucial role in its predatory feeding style, allowing it to snatch prey from the water’s surface.

While their lips do not seem big, especially compared to other fish on this list, they notably occupy a big portion of the fish’s face.

Arowanas are also known for their calm temperament but can be territorial. They prefer a spacious aquatic habitat with plenty of room to swim. Their diet mainly consists of smaller fish, insects, and occasionally crustaceans. 

5. Gulper Catfish

Gulper Catfish with big lips
Scientific Name:Asterophysus batrachus
Habitat:Freshwater rivers
Size:Up to 10 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming fish and shrimp
Unique Features:Extremely large mouth relative to body size; swallows prey whole

The Gulper Catfish is a fascinating big-lipped fish that’s hard to miss. Native to the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela, this fish is medium in size and grows up to 10 inches in length. 

Appearance-wise, these fish sport predominantly dark brown bodies. They thrive in slow-moving waters and feed on small invertebrates. 

Despite their somewhat intimidating appearance, Gulper Catfish are generally peaceful. Their calm demeanor contrasts sharply with their fierce look, further adding to their charm.

But what truly captures attention are their disproportionately large mouths and prominent lips. These lips are thick and fleshy, perfect for their bottom-dwelling lifestyle. 

They use their big lips to sift through the substrate as they search for food. Another interesting trait of this fish is that it swallows its prey whole. 

This unique feeding behavior and striking appearance make the Gulper Catfish a fascinating addition to any aquatic collection.

Watch this video to see this big-lipped fish swallow its prey:

Gulper catfish "Keep Calm And Eat"

6. Humphead Wrasse

Humphead Wrasse with big lips
Scientific Name:Cheilinus undulatus
Habitat:Coral reefs
Size:Up to 90 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming mollusks, fish and sea urchins
Unique Features:Prominent hump on the head; thick lips; bright colors

Among the most iconic fish with big lips is the Humphead Wrasse.

These vibrant marine fish hail from the Indo-Pacific region and is easily recognizable by their thick lips and the prominent hump on their head, just like these other types of fish with big foreheads

Size-wise, adult wrasses can grow up to 90 inches long, making them one of the largest reef fish. The record catch for these fish is a staggering 190 kilograms or roughly 419 pounds.

In terms of color, these fish often come in a mix of bright blues and greens. 

The big lips of these fish are not just for show; they play a vital role in their feeding habits. For instance, they use their lips to pry small invertebrates from crevices in coral reefs. 

Regarding temperament, Humphead Wrasses have a calm demeanor but can be assertive when defending their territory. 

These fish thrive best in coral-rich environments, especially when fed varied mollusks, crustaceans, and fish diets.

7. Humphead Cichlid

Humphead Cichlid with big lips
Scientific Name:Cyphotilapia frontosa
Origin:Africa (Lake Tanganyika)
Habitat:Freshwater lakes
Size:Up to 14 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming fish and invertebrates
Unique Features:Pronounced forehead hump; deep blue body with white or blue vertical stripes

Next on our list is the Humphead Cichlid, another striking fish with big lips. Originating from Lake Tanganyika in Africa, this fish boasts a unique blue hue and a noticeable forehead hump. 

On top of these physical features, these fish are also known for their big lips and blue vertical stripes. Typically, they can grow up to 14 inches in size.

They are also known for their calm temperament, which makes them suitable for community tanks. They prefer rocky areas and feed on smaller fish and invertebrates in their natural habitat.

Interestingly, during one of my research, I stumbled upon an intriguing study about cichlid fishes with big lips. 

The study found that these enlarged lips, or “hypertrophied lips,” help the fish to effectively extract food from tight spots in rocks. 

In simpler terms, think of it as using a vacuum’s suction to pull out dirt from a tight corner; the big lips function similarly, allowing the fish to suck out food from places that would be hard for other fish to access.

This unique adaptation gives them an edge in their rocky habitats, ensuring they don’t miss out on any hidden food.

8. Pacu

Pacu with big lips
Scientific Name:Piaractus brachypomus
Origin:South America (Amazon Basin)
Habitat:Freshwater rivers, lakes
Size:Up to 40 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming plants, fruits, nuts, and small fish
Temperament:Generally peaceful but can be aggressive when mature
Unique Features:Human-like teeth; often mistaken for piranhas but have a more rounded body

The Pacu is a fish native to South American rivers, closely related to piranhas. However, unlike piranhas that sport sharp teeth, Pacus have square-shaped teeth and big lips. 

Size-wise, these fish can grow quite large, with some reaching up to 40 inches. Their unique, almost human-like teeth paired is what earns them constant attention online. 

In fact, it often leads to discussions and shared experiences in blogs of enthusiasts and random eye-witnesses.

At first glance, Pacus do not seem to have big lips. Upon closer inspection, though, one can observe the pronounced and plump nature of their lips, which complements their unique teeth. 

Here’s a closer look at the big lips and peculiar teeth shape of the Pacu:

GIANT PIRANHA?! Jeremy Wade examines a Pacu with razor-sharp teeth! | River Monsters | Animal Planet

9. Queensland Grouper

Queensland Grouper with big lips
Scientific Name:Epinephelus lanceolatus
Origin:Western Pacific, Eastern Indian Ocean
Habitat:Coral reefs, rocky areas, estuaries
Size:Up to 106 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming fish and crustaceans
Unique Features:Largest bony fish found in coral reefs; distinct color patterns that change with age

The Queensland Grouper is an impressive big-lipped fish native to the western Pacific Ocean. With a robust body, these fish can grow up to 106 inches and are among the largest on this list.

Their color varies from a greenish-gray to dark blue, and their impressive size earns them the name “giant grouper.”

Giant Groupers have thick and fleshy lips, resembling a gentle pout as they emerge prominently against their sleek bodies. 

Their soft-looking lips stand out against their spotted fins and sturdy bodies. This makes them easily recognizable in the water.

Another fascinating fact about these fish is their ability to change color as they mature. Juvenile Queensland Groupers are pale yellow with dark spots and bands. 

As they grow older, they transition to a more muted green or gray with faint mottling. This coloration allows them to camouflage in their reef habitats. Additionally, they are also the world’s largest reef-dwelling bony fish.

10. Sarcastic Fringehead

Sarcastic Fringehead with big lips
Scientific Name:Neoclinus blanchardi
Origin:Pacific coast of North America
Habitat:Shallow waters, sandy and rocky bottoms
Size:Up to 12 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming small fish and crustaceans
Unique Features:Can open its mouth very wide; territorial behavior

The Sarcastic Fringehead is a unique fish with big lips that certainly live up to its quirky name. These fish boast elongated bodies with varying shades of brown and green.

When threatened, they open their large mouth wide, display their big lips, and create an intimidating appearance. 

In terms of size, these big-lipped fish grow up to 12 inches in length, but when their large mouths are expanded, they can reach up to nearly double their resting facial width.

This dramatic display, combined with their vibrant inner mouth colors, serves as a warning to potential predators and rivals. This signals that they are ready to defend their territory.

Interestingly, despite their aggressive demeanor when defending their territory, they are not a significant threat to humans. 

You may read more about the Sarcastic Fringehead and its gaping display in the National Geographic’s article.

11. Sweetlips Fish

Sweetlips Fish with big lips
Scientific Name:Plectorhinchus lineatus
Origin:Western Pacific 
Habitat:Coral reefs
Size:Up to 30 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming small fish and crustaceans
Temperament:Generally peaceful
Unique Features:Distinctive thick lips; juveniles have different color patterns than adults; can produce grunting sounds

The Sweetlips Fish, as the name suggests, is recognized for its prominent, big lips. These fish are typically found in the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific region and can grow up to 30 inches in length.

Their bodies are adorned with striking patterns and colors, ranging from yellow to silver with black spots. Interestingly, juveniles have different color patterns compared to adults.

One of the most unique traits of Sweetlips fish is their behavior of “grunting.” They produce a grunting sound, which is where their name “Sweetlips” originates. 

This sound is made by grinding their teeth together and amplifying the sound through their swim bladder. This behavior is believed to be used for communication, especially during distress, or as a warning to other fish. 

12. Flowerhorn Cichlids

Flowerhorn Cichlids with big lips
Scientific Name:Hybrid (No scientific name)
Origin:Asia (man-made hybrid)
Habitat:Freshwater aquariums
Size:Up to 16 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming pellets, live food, and vegetables
Unique Features:Bright colors; pronounced nuchal hump on the head or “kok”

The Flowerhorn Cichlid is a medium-sized fish produced out of selective breeding. These big-lipped fish are hybrids resulting from the cross-breeding of various cichlids. 

One of the most distinguishing features of Flowerhorn Cichlids is their pronounced lips, which are not only big but also fleshy and bold. 

Aside from their big lips, Flowerhorn Cichlids are also known for their “kok,” or the pronounced hump on their head. 

This hump is believed to resemble the Chinese God of Longevity, and larger humps are often seen as a sign of good luck in certain cultures. The size and shape of the “kok” can also indicate the health and vitality of the fish. 

Interestingly, their personality is as vibrant as their appearance; Flowerhorns are known to recognize their owners and can even interact with them by following finger movements outside the tank.

13. Lionfish

Lionfish with big lips
Scientific Name:Pterois volitans
Habitat:Coral reefs, lagoons
Size:Up to 15 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming small fish and shrimp
Unique Features:Venomous spines; striking red, white, and black bands

The Lionfish, often recognized for its striking appearance, is a big-lipped fish that stands out in any fish tank. Hailing from the Indo-Pacific region, these fish boast a vibrant mix of red, white, and black stripes. 

Their size can range from 12 to 15 inches, depending on the species. One of their most distinctive features is their large, fleshy lips, which give them a somewhat pouty expression. 

Beyond their lips, Lionfish sport venomous spines, so it is best to approach them with caution. Despite their menacing appearance, though, they are relatively docile unless threatened. 

Interestingly, these fish have become an invasive species in the Atlantic Ocean, particularly in the Caribbean and along the southeast coast of the United States. 

Their rapid reproduction rate and the lack of natural predators in these new environments have led to a significant increase in the population of these fish. 

You can read more about this topic in a report from the National Ocean Service.

14. Red-Bellied Piranha

Red Bellied Piranha with big lips
Scientific Name:Pygocentrus nattereri
Origin:South America
Habitat:Freshwater rivers and lakes
Size:Up to 12 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming fish, insects, seeds, and fruit
Temperament:Aggressive, especially when hungry
Unique Features:Known for their sharp, triangular teeth, feeding frenzies, and barking behavior

The Red-Bellied Piranha, native to South American rivers, might surprise you as a fish with big lips. After all, most types of piranhas are known primarily for their sharp teeth.

However, upon closer inspection, one can observe that they do sport a somewhat plump set of lips. This is especially noticeable when they have their mouths opened and their razor teeth revealed.

Size-wise, they can reach up to 12 inches in length. They thrive off of a diet that consists of other fish, insects, and plants. When it comes to habitats, they prefer dense freshwater areas.

Interestingly, Piranhas communicate with sounds. They produce three main noises: a bark when facing a rival, a drumming sound when circling an opponent, and a croak when biting. 

These sounds come from their swim bladder, an organ used mainly for buoyancy. You may listen to a fascinating recording of the Piranha’s bark on an episode of CBC Radio Specials.

15. Paddletail Snapper

Paddletail Snapper with big lips
Scientific Name:Lutjanus gibbus
Origin:Indo-Pacific region
Habitat:Coral reefs, lagoons
Size:Up to 16 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming fish and crustaceans
Unique Features:Yellowish-silver body with a blue line below the eye

The Paddletail Snapper is a big-lipped fish that adds charm to its underwater environment. Hailing from the Western Pacific region, they are known for their beautiful silver bodies with a touch of yellow on their fins. 

Size-wise, adult Paddletail Snappers can grow up to 16 inches in length. They are generally peaceful and are suitable for larger community aquariums.

However, while they may seem calm and serene during the day, they become active hunters at night. Using their protruding lips, they can effectively suck in their prey, which includes smaller fish and crustaceans. 

This nocturnal hunting strategy also helps these fish avoid many daytime predators, which ensures their survival.

In terms of living conditions, these big-lipped fish prefer coral reefs and lagoons resembling their natural habitat.

16. Stonefish

Stonefish with big lips
Scientific Name:Synanceia verrucosa
Origin:Indo-Pacific region
Habitat:Coral reefs, rocky or muddy environments
Size:Up to 16 inches
Diet:Carnivorous, consuming fish and crustaceans
Temperament:Solitary, sedentary
Unique Features:One of the world’s most venomous fish; rock-like appearance

The Stonefish, with its unique camouflage, often blends in as a rock or coral on the seabed. These fish have stout bodies covered with a rough texture. 

Although their heavily textured bodies often conceal their thick lips, a closer look reveals them clearly. 

Native to the Indo-Pacific, these big-lipped fish can reach lengths of up to 16 inches. Their brown-to-gray hues allow them to merge seamlessly with their environment. 

Despite looking like a harmless rock, these big-lipped fish rank high on the list of the most venomous fishes worldwide. Therefore, handling them with care is a must.

When it comes to food and diet, these fish eat a variety of small fish and shrimp. Meanwhile, when they are threatened by predators, they raise their dorsal spines to release a strong venom.

Despite their menacing nature, however, these fish still remain a sought-after aquarium fish.

17. Picasso Triggerfish

Picasso Triggerfish with big lips
Scientific Name:Rhinecanthus aculeatus
Origin:Indo-Pacific region
Habitat:Coral reefs, lagoons, and outer reef slopes
Size:Up to 10 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming algae, invertebrates, and zooplankton
Temperament:Territorial and can be aggressive
Unique Features:Distinctive bold patterns resembling abstract art; sharp dorsal spines

The Picasso Triggerfish reflects the artistic appearance of the fish and, at the same time, pays homage to the famous artist Pablo Picasso, who was known for his abstract and unique art style. 

These big-lipped fish boast a unique combination of blue, yellow, and black, reminiscent of a Picasso painting. Their lips are also pronounced, which gives them a somewhat comical appearance.

Mostly found in the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific, these fish grow up to 10 inches in length. They are also known for their territorial nature, especially during breeding seasons.

Additionally, the diet of Picasso Triggerfish includes crustaceans, mollusks, and sea urchins.

While it’s a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts, care should be taken as the Picasso Triggerfish can be aggressive towards other tank mates. This species is also referred to as the lagoon or blackbar triggerfish.

18. Queen Triggerfish

Queen Triggerfish with big lips
Scientific Name:Balistes vetula
Origin:Western Atlantic, from Canada to Brazil
Habitat:Coral and rocky reefs, sandy bottoms
Size:Up to 24 inches
Diet:Omnivorous, consuming tunicates, sea urchins, crabs, mollusks
Temperament:Territorial and can be aggressive
Unique Features:Bright blue body with yellowish streaks; sharp dorsal spines; “trigger” mechanism on the dorsal fin

The Queen Triggerfish is a big-lipped fish that draws attention with its eye-catching appearance. The bodies of these fish are a mix of blue and green, with electric blue lines radiating from their eyes. 

Hailing from the Atlantic Ocean, the big lips of these fish are their standout feature. They can grow quite large, with larger individuals reaching up to 24 inches.

Their unique characteristics include a specialized “trigger” spine on their dorsal fin, which they use for protection against predators.

When it comes to food, these fish enjoy a varied diet consisting of crabs, snails, and other small invertebrates. 

While these big-lipped fish are a beauty to look at, potential aquarium owners should note their strong territorial instincts, especially when housed with non-friendly fish species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fish with big lips in an aquarium

What Fish Has Big Lips in the River?

The Pacu is a freshwater fish known for its big lips and human-like teeth. These fish are native to South American rivers and are often found in the Amazon Basin. 

Other big-lipped fish found in rivers are the Carp, Arowana, and Red-Bellied Piranha, among others.

What Fish Has Big Lips in the Ocean?

The Sweetlips Fish, Queensland Grouper, Lionfish, and Queen Triggerfish are some big-lipped fish found in the ocean. These fish are native to the Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions.

What Is the White Fish With Big Lips?

The White Humphead Wrasse, also known as the Napoleon Fish, has notably large lips. These striking fish are predominantly white or pale blue and are found in coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific.

Have you learned something new from this in-depth guide? Share with us your thoughts about these big-lipped fish by leaving a comment below!

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