Frogfishes are a very unique fish of the anglerfish family Antennariidae. These fish are found in almost all tropical and subtropical seas in the world, including the waters of North Sulawesi. In fact, in the Lembeh Strait, a regular dive site for guests at Gangga Island Resort & Spa, no less than 9 different species have been identified. If you’re looking for frogfishes, North Sulawesi is one of the best places in the world to find them.
The Unique Characteristics of Frogfishes
You might know frogfish as anglerfish thanks to the strange fishing rod-like appendage on their head. Different species of frogfish have different shapes and sizes of ‘rods’ but each serves the same purpose. The rod acts as a lure to bait pray close to the fishes’ mouth. Once the pray is close enough, the frogfish swallows its meal whole quicker than you can say “dinner”.
Frogfish can change colour. In fact they can pass through several colour phases depending on their habitat. This can make the individual species quite difficult to identify.
One of the fantastic things about frogfishes is that they love to hang around on the sea bed. They rarely swim and would much rather dwell on the bottom and wait for pray to come to them. They can even seen to be “walking’ or “jumping” using their pectoral and pelvic fins rather than swimming. This means they are great subjects for underwater photographers and can be identified back on dry land.
Identifying Common Frogfishes in North Sulawesi
Frogfish are pretty easy to spot in North Sulawesi, but there are 5 species that are more common than others.
Warty frogfish – This frogfish is just as its name suggests, warty. They can be pink, red, brown and black, but the most common colours are yellow and white. This is quite a small species at just around 11cm. Look out for the shrimp-like lure they use to attract their meals.
You may hear divers also mention clown frogfish. These are actually juvenile warty frogfish that are yet to develop their full coloration or warty skin texture.
Giant frogfish – You can guess the main characteristic of this frogfish…its size. These can grow up to 45cm – a good deal bigger than most other frogfishes. Their skin is also very unique. They are smooth rather than bumpy, although some can have a few lumps and bumps. Giant frogfish change colours depending on their habitat and can be seen in white, yellow, tan, brown, green, black and pink.
Painted frogfish – The painted frogfish is a medium-sized species that grows to around 20cm. It can be difficult to identify by colour as it can range from bright orange, yellow, green, blue-grey, spotted brown and purple, pink, brown to black, and white. Luckily it has dark spots or rings that cover its body, which often give it away as a painted frogfish. Juveniles, however, are black with bright orange spots and have blue borders on their fins.
Randall’s frogfish – Randall’s frogfish is quite easy to identify by its white spots which are usually found behind their eyes and above their pectoral fins. They can also be on the upper edge of their tail fin. They are small, only growing to about 5cm and have a short lure. They also aren’t quite as colourful as other frogfish and are usually yellow to red, brown and black.
Hairy frogfish – There is no mistaking a hairy frogfish, sometimes called the striated frogfish. Skin appendages on this fish give it the appearance of being hairy. Most commonly the fish of this species are green or brown but if they live near sponges they can be bright orange or yellow to blend with their surroundings. The lure of this species is the most distinctive, being made up of numerous worm-like appendages that are thick and very visible.
You may also get lucky and see these 2 rare species.
Ocellated frogfish – One of the smaller frogfish, the hairy frogfish reaches only about 5cm long. They are recognizable by the large orange-edged black spot on their rear dorsal fin and back. The rest of their body is dark grey to black in colour. This fish is usually spotted on sandy patches on the seabed.
Sargassum frogfish – These frogfish get their name from the type of seaweed that it lives in. Wherever there is sargassum they can live, so you can see them close to shore or far out to sea. This species can be identified by its large pectoral fins with claw-like edges and leaf-like appendages. It can be cream, light to darker brown and green, but is usually mottled with darker lines on its fins.
In search of the strange frogfish of North Sulawesi
Frogfish might not be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but they certainly are unique. Has this piqued your interest in diving in North Sulawesi? You can read more articles about the wonders of diving around Gangga Island Resort & Spa, or ask us anything in the comments section below.