American Oceans

What Are The Different Types of Billfish

Native to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea, Billfish are considered to be among the largest and most powerful species to swim in the oceans.

Billfish Striped-Marlin swimming under the ocean

There are four main types of billfish inhabiting the tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters worldwide: marlin, swordfish, sailfish, and spearfish.

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of billfish you may come across in the ocean and the unique characteristics that distinguish them from each other.


Featuring an elongated body and spear-like bill that looks like a sailor’s marlinspike, marlin is the largest of all the billfish.

Marlin Billfish swimming near the ocean surface

It has about ten species, the most prominent being the Atlantic blue marlin. The blue marlin has some striking similarities to the swordfish and sailfish; however, it is the largest and strongest apex predator in the oceans having very few predators other than killer whales and sharks. Besides that, the blue marlin is a popular game fish worldwide.

Found in the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, female blue marlins can reach about 1985 lbs and grow as long as 180 inches.


Swordfish feature an elongated, sharp bill it uses to slash its prey. It resembles a sword and is longer than other billfish, and it is this distinctive feature from which the swordfish derives its name.

The species varies in color but is typically brownish-black with a white underside. They feature a tall first dorsal fin on the back and a smaller second fin close to the tail.

Being a highly migratory species, they are widespread in the tropical and temperate areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Swordfish rank among the fastest fish on Earth and can reach speeds up to 97 km/h. As large predatory creatures, swordfish commonly grow 120 inches long and can weigh over 1400 lbs.


As the name implies, sailfish are distinguished by their extraordinarily large dorsal fin, which is often the length of their entire back.

Colors of Sailfish when in hunting mode

They are dark blue on the upper body and white under the belly. Swordfish can weigh up to 220 lbs and grow around 132 inches long. They have a long upper jaw which they use to hunt down prey.

Newly hatched sailfish commonly fall prey to other fish that live on eating plankton. Having the ability to swim at speeds exceeding 109 km/h, these types of billfish are regarded as the fastest marine creature in existence. They inhabit the epipelagic zones of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.


Spearfish are pelagic, open ocean fish typically characterized by their lean, lightweight appearance and a dark blue, spotless dorsal fin.

Spearfish near above ocean surface

Spearfish can reach a maximum weight of 115 lbs and grow as long as 100 inches. However, the average weight and length for most species are 50-75 inches and 20-60 lbs.

There are four types of spearfish: long bill, short bill, Mediterranean, and round scale spearfish.

The long bill and round scale inhabit the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, whereas the short bill spearfish is native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

The Mediterranean spearfish can be found within 200 meters of the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.

Spearfish genus Tetrapturus near above ocean surface

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