When you’re sitting on a beautiful beach looking out over the blue, rolling waves of the ocean, it’s easy to forget your troubles and worries. However, if you start to consider what lies in the deep, dark depths of that sea, you might not be happy to learn what’s lurking below.
The ocean contains some of the world’s most dangerous, deadly, and unknown creatures. Our list of the most poisonous and venomous fish in the world could have you second-guessing that beach vacation.
Everything you will learn here
- The Top 10 Most Poisonous and Venomous Fish
- Do you know the difference between venomous and poisonous fish?
- Everything else you need to know about venomous and poisonous fish!
- Venomous and poisonous fish: Conclusion
The Top 10 Most Poisonous and Venomous Fish
Below, you’ll find some of the most frightening fish who have uniquely deadly ways of taking the life of their prey – along with yours. From a jellyfish that can kill you with one zap to a camouflaged fish that can cause cardiac arrest, this list is not one you want to ignore.
The Cubozoa is most widely known as the box jellyfish. This beautiful, delicate-looking creature is anything but when you consider just how deadly it is. A reasonably large animal, the box jellyfish can weigh almost five pounds, and its many delicate tentacles can be as long as about ten feet.
Though almost elegant in appearance, the box-shaped invertebrate is considered to be one of the most toxic animals in the world. With a single sting, it can transfer potent venom that instantly stuns or kills its prey.
One sting contains deadly toxins that directly attack the heart, the nervous system, and the skin cells. While this sting is most commonly used for the jellyfish to attack its prey for food, a sting to a human can be deadly.
The venom is so powerful and painful that most human victims cannot make it to the shore before they die. They’re likely to go into shock and drown or die of heart failure.
It’s possible for a person to survive a Cubozoa sting; however, one can expect a nasty scar to go along with weeks of intensive pain. The venomous jellyfish causes as many as 40 deaths per year in the Philippines.
Pufferfish are distinctive sea creatures known for their ability to puff up their body, expanding an array of 360-degree quills to scare off their enemies. But did you know that these venomous fish can be quite deadly?
The pufferfish contains a dangerous toxin called tetrodotoxin. It runs throughout the animal’s entire body and is derived from bacteria. This toxin is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide, and one fish has the potential to kill 30 adult humans – with no antidote.
Pufferfish poison can cause symptoms such as vomiting, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and numbness, and it can be lethal if not treated right away.
That being said, the meat from this extraordinary being is actually considered a delicacy. That’s right – this super-poisonous fish deadly to humans doubles as a meal that people enjoy, especially in Japan.
Not only is this meal costly, but it takes a highly trained, licensed chef to prepare it. That’s because it must be prepared in a specialized way to ensure all the toxins are removed.
However, in many other countries, it is illegal to serve pufferfish due to the risk of poisoning.
Although there are trained individuals who are experts in the topic, there are still several deaths that occur from eating this venomous fish annually. Only a real daredevil would give this meal a shot.
3. Zebra Surgeon Fish
Boasting stripes that rival those of the mammal we all know and love, the zebra, this eye-catching fish isn’t as innocent as it may appear. You may not notice from afar, but the sea creature possesses an erectile spine that’s as sharp as a scalpel.
The spine sits at the base of the caudal fin and contains powerful, dangerous venom. It cuts into any prey who dares to get too close. In fact, this venomous fish is known to be overly aggressive and will attack any animal or person who comes its way.
Despite the deadly knife-like fin, the Zebra Surgeon Fish is actually edible. Many enjoy the venomous fish, but there’s still some risk to consuming it. It’s been known to cause a special kind of food poisoning called ciguatera. Ciguatera causes face numbness, itching, and in severe cases, hypotension and a slowing of the heart rate.
4. Crown of Thorns Starfish
The crown of thorns fish is actually a starfish, and it’s the only starfish in the whole world that is poisonous. Appropriately named, this spikey animal is covered with prickly spines. These sharp needle-like attachments can grow to be as long as two inches, and the venomous fish itself can have anywhere from 7 to 23 arms.
A beautiful contribution to the coral reefs, the crown of thorns fish come in a wide variety of colors. You might see an average brown one, or brighter colors like green and purple with red, yellow, or blue spines.
While not necessarily deadly, the spines of this starfish can impact human health. If you get pricked by one of them, you may experience pain, nausea, and vomiting. Redness and swelling at the injury site are also common.
For the most part, stingrays are considered calm and docile animals. They do not have a reputation for actively seeking out humans with the intention of causing them harm.
However, they do have a strong reaction in terms of defensiveness, and that attack can be deadly.
You may remember Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. This animal-obsessed, Australian zookeeper handled some of the most dangerous animals in the world, until he was fatally attacked by a stingray in a horrible accident.
Most stingray injuries happen below the knee on people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. In most cases, death is extremely rare. While a stingray does contain venom, it’s not usually deadly.
But if a stingray strikes you in the chest or abdomen with its sharp tail, it could kill you. A hit directly to the heart would most certainly be fatal. Any other kind of piercing can cause severe muscle contractions, which are very painful. It can also cause tissue or cell death.
Given the close relation of the boxfish to the pufferfish, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this square-looking fish is also poisonous. Don’t jump to conclusions here – this fish is not nearly as poisonous as the pufferfish. But, it’s still best to keep your distance.
The boxfish’s odd shape and fashionable appearance make it look harmless. It’s bright yellow color is certainly eye-catching, and it sports adorable black polka dots all over.
However, this fish has been known to excrete a dangerous toxin whenever it feels threatened or scared. Their skin cells release this toxin into the water, which will poison anything in the surrounding area.
The toxin can break down and destroy red blood cells, which can be harmful to both marine life and humans who get too close.
Image credit: Ivan Sazima & Jansen Zuanon – https://doi.org/10.1590/0037-8682-0540-2020
The Candiru is a fish found native to the Amazon River region. It is uncanny in its similarity to an eel, as it boasts a translucent appearance and does not have scales as other fish do.
This tiny fish is only about one inch long, so it’s difficult to even see it in the water. This fish doesn’t possess any poison, but it is quite deadly. It’s a parasitic catfish that likes to latch on to the gill cavities of other fish, feeding on their blood.
When the Candiru decides to make a human its prey, it will actually enter the body through a person’s urethra. Once inside, it lets loose its short spines, which attach it to the victim and cause inflammation. It can also cause hemorrhaging and eventually even death.
The lionfish is one that is quite impressive in terms of appearance. Entirely covered in brown and white strips, the fish boasts larges, billowing fins that flow gracefully through the water.
Though its fins are nice to look at, we wouldn’t recommend getting near this big cat of the ocean. A highly toxic animal, the lionfish has venom within its dorsal spines.
The dorsal spines can inject a toxic substance when the fish is touched or grabbed. The venom can cause severe pain and swelling, and it can be life-threatening in some cases.
Thankfully, the fish is not known to be aggressive whatsoever. In fact, it is actually a rather timid fish who likes to mind its own business. The dorsal spines simply act as a defense mechanism to protect him when predators get too close.
It’s best to stay far from these guys – contact with that dorsal fin results in a strong poison that can cause severe pain, vomiting, shortness of breath, and eventually paralysis of every muscle in the human body. Once the cardiac muscle is impacted, the result is death.
The stonefish is not a particularly attractive fish, but don’t say that to its face. Hidden in the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific, this fish houses 13 dorsal spines that are very much venomous.
The venomous fish can be challenging to spot, as it likes to hide on the seabed. It accomplishes excellent camouflage by burying itself in the sand or hiding within the rocks. When all is said and done, it merely looks like another stone in the ocean.
A sting from one of these many spines can cause a person to lose consciousness. That alone is a threat when you’re in the water. Plus, the venom can also cause cardiac arrest.
The venom can cause severe pain, swelling, and sometimes result in death. Stonefish are usually found in shallow waters near coral reefs, and they are well-camouflaged. When you look at the picture above, keep in mind how close it was taken, and that you wouldn’t see the details that make you recognize the living fish from some distance with your snorkeling mask on.
The very well-made camouflage makes the venomous fish extremely difficult to spot. Stonefish are not aggressive and do not typically attack humans. However, accidents can happen when people step on them or touch them accidentally while swimming or diving.
(You might also be interested in reading about the Most Dangerous Fish in the Ocean)
Many people fear the deepest depths of the ocean because it’s pitch black and relatively unknown. However, some fear this region of the world because of what we do know – like the venomous viperfish.
The deepsea dwelling fish has a nasty appearance, full of gnarly, jagged teeth that reach both inside and outside of its mouth.
Its appearance alone is enough to scare anyone who encounters this fish, but it’s also one of the most venomous fish you can find in the ocean.
The viperfish is most well known for its light-producing organ, which hangs from a line over its head. The light serves to attract other fish. The viperfish lies completely still as its prey approaches the light, and then it strikes.
While extraordinarily poisonous and deadly, this venomous fish lives far deeper than you will probably ever go in the ocean. Plus, it’s really only interested in its next meal, not humans.
Bonus: 11. Cone Snail
The cone snail is not a fish, but it completes this list nevertheless nicely. The marine snail that is found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world and can be found in many colors. It has a venomous harpoon-like tooth that it uses to capture its prey. The venom of some species of cone snail is very toxic and can cause serious injury or death if not treated instantly.
Luckily, cone snails are not aggressive. The venomous snails do not attack humans on purpose, but accidents can happen when people step on them accidentally.
(Fishing in Freshwaters? You must know about the Most Dangerous Freshwater Fish)
Do you know the difference between venomous and poisonous fish?
Venomous and poisonous are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different ways that animals can harm humans.
A venomous animal has a special organ or gland that produces a toxic substance, which it then injects into its prey or attacker using a bite, sting, or other means of delivery. The venom works by disrupting the normal function of the body’s cells and tissues, and it can cause a range of symptoms, from mild pain and swelling to serious illness or death.
So in short, a venomous fish bites you!
On the other hand, a poisonous animal or plant contains toxins that are harmful when they are ingested or come into contact with the skin. The poison works by being absorbed into the body and causing harm when it reaches certain organs or systems. Poisonous animals and plants do not have a special delivery system for their toxins and do not actively inject them into other organisms.
So in short, a poisonous fish is eaten by you!
To sum up, venomous animals use a delivery system to inject toxins into their prey or attackers, while poisonous animals or plants contain toxins that are harmful when ingested or come into contact with the skin.
Everything else you need to know about venomous and poisonous fish!
Which is the most venomous fish?
The most venomous fish is the stonefish. It is found in the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and it has venomous spines on its back that can inject a toxic substance when the fish is stepped on or touched.
Stonefish venom is very toxic and can cause serious injury or death if not treated right away.
What are the top 10 most poisonous fish?
Some examples of poisonous fish include the pufferfish, the red lionfish, and the cone snail.
The pufferfish, also known as fugu, is a type of fish that is highly poisonous due to a toxin called tetrodotoxin that is found in its skin, muscles, and internal organs.
The red lionfish is a species of fish that is native to the Indo-Pacific region, but it has been introduced to the waters of the Caribbean and the western Atlantic Ocean. It has venomous spines on its back and fins that can inject a toxic substance when the fish is touched or grabbed.
The cone snail is a type of marine snail that is found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. It has a venomous harpoon-like tooth that it uses to capture its prey. The venom of some species of cone snail is very toxic and can cause serious harm or even death if not treated right away. Cone snails are not aggressive and do not usually assault humans, but accidents can happen. When people touch them or step on them accidentally, treatment is required immediately.
What fish have venom?
Many sorts of fish have venom, which they use for either defense or to capture prey. Venom is a toxic substance that is produced by an animal and delivered to its prey or attacker using a bite, sting, or other means of injection. Venom works by disrupting the normal function of the body’s cells and tissues, and it can cause a range of symptoms. The effects range from mild pain and swelling to serious illness or death. Some examples of venomous fish include stonefish, stingrays, weeverfish, and lionfish.
Which fish Cannot be eaten?
There are several types of fish that cannot be eaten due to the toxins they contain. Eating these fish can cause serious illness or death. Some examples of poisonous fish that should not be eaten include the pufferfish, the lionfish, and the stonefish.
What freshwater fish are venomous?
There are a few species of freshwater fish that are venomous, such as the stingray and the weeverfish. These fish are found in rivers, streams, and lakes in tropical and subtropical regions.
Which fish can be lethally poisonous?
Some fish can be lethally poisonous if you eat them, as they contain toxins that are harmful to humans. These toxins can cause serious illness or death if not treated by a doctor right away. Some examples of fish that can be lethally poisonous include the pufferfish and the cone snail.
What fish can paralyze you?
There are several types of fish that can produce toxins that can cause paralysis in humans. These toxins work by disrupting the normal function of the body’s muscles and nerves, leading to muscle weakness and difficulty moving. Some examples of fish that can paralyze humans include the pufferfish and the stonefish.
Can you survive pufferfish poison?
It is possible to survive pufferfish poisoning, but it can be very serious and requires prompt medical treatment. Pufferfish poison can cause symptoms such as vomiting, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and numbness. If left untreated, it can lead to coma or death. The severity of the symptoms and the risk of death depend on the amount of poison that was eaten. You should seek professional aid right away to increase the chances to survive pufferfish poison, after ingestion.
Can you eat a blowfish?
Blowfish, also known as pufferfish or fugu, is a type of fish that is poisonous if not prepared properly. In some countries, it is considered a delicacy and is prepared by specially trained chefs who know how to remove the toxic parts of the fish. In other countries, it is illegal to serve blowfish due to the risk of poisoning.
It is generally not safe to eat blowfish unless it has been prepared by a trained professional. Blowfish contains a toxin called tetrodotoxin that is found in its skin, muscles, and internal organs. This toxin is extremely poisonous and can cause symptoms such as vomiting, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and numbness, and it can be lethal if not treated shortly.
Only certain parts of the blowfish are safe to eat, and these must be carefully removed by a trained chef to avoid poisoning. Thus, eating blowfish is risky, as it is difficult to know how much toxin is still present in the ready prepared fish dish.
Venomous and poisonous fish: Conclusion
Whether from a sting directly to the heart of an innocent meal in a foreign country, any one of these extremely poisonous and venomous creatures could be the last thing you encounter alive. We can certainly still enjoy the beauty, mystery, and intrigue of the ocean – but sometimes it’s best done from afar.
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