Psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica)

Also known as: Maluku frogfish, Psychedelic frog fish
GenusHistiophryne (1)
SizeLength: 8 cm (2)
Top facts

The psychedelic frogfish is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List. 

The weird and wonderful psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica) was first described in 2009 (3), following its discovery in Indonesia in 2008 (1) (4). With vivid stripes of bluish-green, white and yellowish-orange (4), this strange-looking fish is a type of anglerfish (a species in the order Lophiiformes). However, unlike most in this order, and indeed its own family of frogfish, the psychedelic frogfish is unusual in not having a lure growing from its forehead (5). In other anglerfish, the lure is a fleshy, modified dorsal fin spine that the anglerfish uses as ‘bait’ to attract prey (6). The psychedelic frogfish also has forward-facing eyes on its flattened face, a trait not seen before in frogfish, and which is rare among fish in general (5).

The broad face of the psychedelic frogfish has an expanded, fleshy chin and cheeks (1) (7), giving it the appearance of a lion’s mane (8). This species also has a large, gaping mouth (9). Its body has thick skin with many folds (5), and its tail is slightly off-centre (9). As in other frogfish, the pectoral fins on each side of the psychedelic frogfish’s body have evolved to be more like legs than fins (2) (3). The fish also has three spines along its back (7).

The psychedelic frogfish originates from Ambon Island in the Indonesian archipelago (4).

The psychedelic frogfish was discovered in the coral reef of Ambon Harbour, Indonesia, at depths of 5 to 7 metres, and within 100 metres of a commercial pier. Individuals hide among coral debris covered in algae, sponges and ascidian species. The reef itself is highly polluted with human refuse (7).

Like other anglerfish, the psychedelic frogfish prefers to ‘walk’ rather than swim, using its leg-like pectoral fins. The fish also appears to ‘hop’, using the fins to push off when it hits the sea floor and expelling water from the gill openings as it does so to propel it forward (5). The tail is curled to one side, sending the fish in unpredictable directions as it pushes off the sea floor (4). No other frogfish or similar species have so far been observed to ‘hop’ in the manner of the psychedelic frogfish, although using the pectoral fins to push off prior to swimming is common (5).

Anglerfish generally have the ability to change colour and become camouflaged against their surroundings to stay hidden from prey attracted by their lure. In contrast, the psychedelic frogfish’s lurid colouring does not change, which appears to be reflected in its behaviour as it is a shy and elusive species, hiding itself away. This is presumably due to its inability to become camouflaged in the open. Researchers speculate that the psychedelic frogfish’s flamboyant colouring may be a way for the fish to mimic the corals within its habitat (5). Each individual psychedelic frogfish can be identified by its unique pattern of stripes and concentric rings (5) (7).

With no lure or camouflage, the psychedelic frogfish instead catches its prey by concealing itself tightly in coral crevices where small fish hide (2). Its thick skin serves to protect it from the sharp edges of coral as it wedges itself between the tiny cracks (5).

There are currently no known threats to the psychedelic frogfish. However, the species appears to have now disappeared from the area in which it was first found (2). There is speculation that it may have moved to deeper waters, but scientists are unsure as to why (4).

There are no known specific conservation measures for the psychedelic frogfish at present. 

Find out more about the psychedelic frogfish:

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  1. Pietsch, T., Arnold, R. and Hall, D. (2009) A bizarre new species of frogfish if the genus Histiophryne (Lophiiformes: Antennariidae) from Ambon and Bali, Indonesia. Copeia, 1: 37-45.
  2. New Scientist (2009) Bizarre animals that are new to science. New Scientist, 07 May. Available at:
  3. University of Washington (2010) H. psychedelica makes top-10 new-species list. Universityof WashingtonToday, 3 June. Available at:
  4. University of Washington (2009) Findings: One fish, two fish, weird fish, new fish. Universityof WashingtonAlumni Magazine. Available at:
  5. Hines, S. (2009) DNA evidence is in, newly discovered species of fish is dubbed H. psychedelica. Universityof WashingtonToday, 26 February. Available at:
  6. BBC Nature - Anglerfish (January, 2013)
  7. FishBase - Histiophryne psychedelica (January, 2013)
  8. Hall, D. (2008) Exposed: First reported frogfish sighting in Ambon. Sport Diver Magazine, 16: 16.
  9. McDowell, R. (2009) “Psychedelic” fish picture: New species bounces on reef. National Geographic News, 29 February. Available at: