Animal Species:Sargassum Anglerfish, Histrio histrio (Linnaeus, 1758)

Unlike most other shallow-water anglerfishes the skin of the Sargassum Anglerfish is smooth rather than prickly. The species occurs in all tropical marine waters except the Eastern Pacific.

Standard Common Name

Sargassum Anglerfish


The Sargassum Anglerfish can be recognised by its body shape, dorsal fin structure, colour and presence of skin flaps and filaments. Unlike most other shallow-water anglerfishes (family Antennariidae) the skin of the Sargassum Anglerfish is smooth rather than prickly.

This fish has a dorsal fin divided into four parts. The most anterior part is the "fishing rod and lure" comprising the illicium and esca. This is followed by two separate spines and finally by a long-based soft-rayed portion.

The Sargassum Anglerfish varies from pale cream to greenish or dark brown. It has an irregular pattern of blotches and spots.

Size range

The species grows to 16 cm in length.


The Sargassum Anglerfish occurs in all tropical marine waters except the Eastern Pacific.

In Australia it is known from Rockingham, Western Australia, around the tropical north of the country, and south to Batemans Bay, New South Wales.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Histrio histrio

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Sargassum Anglerfish specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


Eggs, juveniles and adults usually live closely associated with floating algae. Adults are sometimes seen swimming under clumps of floating Sargassum weed.

Other behaviours and adaptations

When threatened by a predator a Sargassum Anglerfish can jump out of the water onto the top of an algal mat. It may stay out of water for some time.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  3. Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. New Holland. Pp. 433.
  4. Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Sargassum Anglerfish, Histrio histrio, Antennariidae, shallow-water, smooth skin, tropical water, marine, odd-shaped, skin flaps, dorsal fin divided into four parts, fishing rod and lure, pale cream, green, dark brown, complex patterns, blotches/mottled, dots/spots, 10 cm - 30 cm, floating algae,


Mark McGrouther - 9.03 AM, 21 March 2011

Hi Kerryn.  Thank you so much for telling me about the clip that you put on YouTube.  You will be interested to hear that 'your fish' is south of the officially recorded distributional range.  I have added a small post on your sighting to the Australian Museum's Fish Bits blog.

Kerryn - 8.03 PM, 20 March 2011
Hi there. I found and video'd a small brown sargassum anglerfish at Bar Beach, Merimbula (about 2 hours south of Batemans Bay) recently (March 2011). I've copy and pasted my youtube link as I am currently unable to attach links. Hope it works. Kerryn Wood

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