Anglerfish Care – Can You Keep This Fish as a Pet in Your Tank?

Anglerfish are, arguably, some of the ugliest, angriest looking aquatic creatures on earth.  They have wide jaws with long, sharp, and translucent teeth, seeming like something out of a horror movie or a nightmare.  Plus, there are over 200 species of these deep-sea predators.

Can you keep this fish as a pet in your saltwater tank?

You can have this fish as a pet in a saltwater tank.  The varieties of anglerfish from shallower waters are fine to keep.  It’s unclear whether deep-sea anglerfish would survive or not because no one has ever had one.  If you’re thinking about getting one of these strange and mysterious sea creatures, you should make sure that it’s something you want to do. 

What do anglerfish look like?

They have flat, round bodies that range in color with hues like red, tan, orange, brown, black, and yellow.  Anglerfish have a little fleshy nodule that hangs over their swinish faces like a fishing pole, called illicium, which are bioluminescent and they use it to attract prey. 

Their abnormally large mouths match up with their freakish stomachs.  In fact, their mouths are so big and their skin so pliable, they can attract prey nearly twice their size.  They can adjust their jaws and then open their mouths to accommodate the size of their prey.

How big do anglerfish get?

Various species have different sizes they reach.  The males are smaller than the females.  But the average anglerfish reaches anywhere from eight to 40 inches and can weigh up to 110 pounds.  Most species have a size that is relative to a teacup.  But, there are some species that can reach up to four feet and weigh almost 200 pounds.

Are anglerfish aggressive?

Yes, anglerfish are very aggressive.  Finding tank mates is tricky because anglerfish will eat other fish twice its size.  What’s more, larger and more aggressive fish will harm an anglerfish because of its natural aggression and territorial behavior. 

For instance, puffers and triggers will bite off an anglerfish’s illicium.  This is why they are best kept alone.  Live rock and corals are suitable tank mates for anglerfish.  In fact, it’s advisable that a plentitude of these are in the tank to give them cover and a place to hide.

Housing with Females

Having an anglerfish would mean it’s the only species in the tank.  But, you can have both males and females, with a caveat to this.  The males latch onto a female’s body with their needle-like teeth and excrete an enzyme that will fuse his body into hers, even sharing blood circulation.  The male slowly shrinks its size which allows the female to move about unhindered. 

This means the male is something of a parasite to females and females can carry six or more males on her body at one time.  Although it’s rare for successful breeding to occur in a home tank, the males will still engage in this behavior.

How do you take care of anglerfish?

Anglerfish tend to be couch potatoes and are not active swimmers.  They spend most of their lives at the bottom of the tank hiding and covering themselves amid rocks and coral. 

These fish are also famous for creating large amounts of waste, so partial water changes and a good filtration system will be essential.

What do anglerfish eat?

Anglerfish will eat almost anything that will fit in their large, crescent-shaped mouths.  They eat brine shrimp, small fish, and ghost shrimp but you can train them to eat krill, mysis shrimp, and other chunks of fish. 

You should feed it live fish from time to time so that it can stay on top of its skill and instinct as a predator.  So, a variety of crustaceans, fish, and cephalopods will be imperative.  This includes squid and snails. 

To train them to eat something outside of their natural diet, attach the food to a stick and wiggle it in front of the anglerfish.  This will stimulate its predatory instincts and will swallow it whole.

What are the water parameters for anglerfish?

Because they often come from the North Atlantic Ocean and Antarctic Ocean, you must recreate these conditions.  But different species come from different parts of the world, like black-bellied anglerfish of the Mediterranean.

Anglerfish should have a 20-gallon tank or larger with lots of live rock and coral.  The pH balance should remain between 8.1 and 8.4 with a temperature range of 72°F to 78°F.  Salinity, gravity, and minerals will vary depending on the species.

Do anglerfish bite or harm humans?

In the wild, anglerfish do not target humans and rarely, if ever, interact with them.  In fact, most humans can’t reach the deepest parts of the sea where they live and lounge, so they aren’t dangerous per se. 

But larger varieties that can get up to three or four feet do tend to be cruel when disturbed or upset.  They display distinct ornery, undesirable behaviors.  But, fishermen who end up wrestling an anglerfish do report receiving bruises on their bellies because they will fight and struggle. 

If you own one, they are a hands-off type of fish and may bite you if you stick your fingers in the tank and wiggle them around.  This is because they’ll see you as food.  But, they don’t intentionally attack humans and the bite won’t hurt or rip your fingers off.

Having an Anglerfish for a Pet

If you’re into these horrid-looking things with mouths bigger than the whole expanse of their bodies, then getting an anglerfish might be perfect for you.  These carnivorous deep-sea predators are mostly lazy loungers, hanging out at the bottom of the tank. 

They don’t move much and they don’t need much fussing.  So, if you’re looking to get one of these bad boys of the sea, make sure you educate yourself well and think about it all the way through before jumping into it.