American Oceans

What Do Anglerfish Eat?

More than a fish, an anglerfish might resemble a prehistoric animal found in the oceans’ deepest parts.

anglerfish diet

Anglerfish are typically found in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans’ depths, though they can be found worldwide.

Some Anglerfish are found along continental shelves closer to land, rather than the sea’s deep expanses.

Anglerfish are unique in the animal kingdom due to subtle differences between how males and females acquire nutrients at certain stages. But, what do Anglerfish eat?

The Anglerfish Diet


Anglerfish often hunt by luring prey in with fleshy lobe filled with the filament. It hangs in front of the mouth of an anglerfish, allowing it to strike when potential gravitates toward it. 

crustaceans to be hunted by anglerfish for diet

Anglerfish are typically passive, resting on the ocean floor to conserve energy and wait for potential prey.

By sitting on the ocean floor, anglerfish can attract various crustaceans, including crabs and shrimp. 


Snails and other mollusks are common along the ocean floor, and they are a common source of nutrition for the anglerfish.

Any creatures found near the sea floor can be easy options for an anglerfish.

Small Fish

Anglerfish can also attract smaller fish to them, and they serve as easy targets once they are lured in close.

anglerfish try to attract small fish
Anglerfish on rocky bottom

Small fish, crustaceans, and snails make up most of an anglerfish’s diet, though they are not incredibly picky eaters.

Dead Matter

While Anglerfish can eat live prey, part of their diet also consists of eating dead fish and other wildlife.

When dead marine life sinks to the ocean floor, it provides easy sustenance for an anglerfish. It can include the animals in its usual diet, plus small squids, turtles, and even seabirds.

Bigger Prey

Though anglerfish are typically on the smaller side, ranging from a few inches to a few feet in size, this does not preclude them from seeking much larger prey.

anglerfish looking to eat bigger prey for diet

A large jaw and flexible body allow anglerfish to eat prey up to twice their size. Bigger prey for an anglerfish can include haddocks, squids, octopuses, cods, and, on occasion, even sea turtles.

Though these meals are quite rare for anglerfish. Anglerfish are not very picky eaters, and as creatures that dwell near the ocean floor, they will try to find sustenance from any prey they encounter in a nutrient-poor environment.

Any variety of crustaceans, snails, small fish, and even some prey up to twice the size of an anglerfish can serve as a possible meal.

Male Anglerfish versus Female Anglerfish Diet

While female anglerfish hunt and eat like other marine wildlife, mature male anglerfish are parasites. Male anglerfish rely on nutrients from the blood of females to survive.

Once a male anglerfish reaches a certain age, its digestive system no longer works, so it must find a female.

The male then bites the female and attaches itself, and the two fish fuse to become one creature and form one bloodstream.

The male lives off the nutrients in the female’s blood as it continues to hunt and eat. So male anglerfish rely on females to provide their food via shared blood. 

Female Anglerfish and younger males are creatures of opportunity, usually adapting to eat animals located in their habitat.

Here are some of the things anglerfish will eat to get those required nutrients.

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