American Oceans

Blubber Fish

In 2013, The Ugly Animal Preservation Society let the public vote on what they thought was the world’s ugliest animal.

a blubber fish or blob fish swimming underwater

The blubber fish or blob fish won the contest with flying colors. Their ugly reputation comes from a commonly shared photograph from the Australian Museum of a dead blubber fish that had suffered disfiguration from decompression.

As they are deep sea creatures with bodies built for the ocean depths, blubber fish cannot survive above ground or in less pressurized environments.

Because they live so deep in the ocean, little is known about them, and myths abound. Keep reading to leave the myths behind and learn everything there is to know about the blubber fish.

What Is a Blubber Fish?

The blubber fish, Psychrolutes marcidus, is a type of sculpin, which are benthic, or bottom-dwelling fish.

As a member of the family Psychrolutidae, known as the fatheads, blubber fish have big heads, tapered bodies, loose skin, gelatinous bodies, and eyes set relatively high on their faces. 

These sea creatures of the deep waters are endemic or native to the depths surrounding Australia and New Zealand.

The western blobfish, Psychrolutes occidentalis, is a species of blubber fish discovered in 1990 that lives in the waters of north western Australia. 

The most famous blubber fish Mr. Blobby was caught by a trawler during the NORFANZ expedition on the north west of New Zealand on the north west shelf of the Norfolk Ridge.

Mr. Blooby, whose not-so-photogenic picture is all over the internet, is a part of the Ictylogical Collection at the Australian Museum


While they’re still not the most beautiful animals by a long shot in the deep sea where they live, they are not the ugliest fish either.

a blob fish in front of a coral reef

In the deep sea, blubber fish look more like ordinary fish. The Australian Museum has another photo of a Western Blobfish that was taken near Barrow Island, North West shelf, that illustrates this. 

Rather than scales, they have flabby, pink skin. They have large heads, but they don’t have much muscle mass.

The only hard bones they have is their spine. They are well adapted to their habitat, and it is the water pressure that holds their fishy shape together. 

Unlike other fish, blubber fish don’t have a swim bladder. Instead, their buoyancy comes from their gelatinous flesh.

Once blubber fish are pulled up from the depths, with little internal structure to hold them together, their bodies collapse into themselves, giving them a melted appearance. 


Since blubber fish live at the bottom of the sea and they disintegrate when brought up, there isn’t a ton of data showing the size ranges and how big they can grow to be. 

Based on the available information, however, they are believed to fall between 12 and 18 inches in length. 


Weight is also tricky to gauge in an animal that cannot be safely brought to the surface or feasibly weighed in its natural habitat. 

The estimated weight for an average blubber fish is 20 pounds. 


Whether you want to call them lazy or not, blubber fish don’t move much. They also don’t have teeth. Their basic eating strategy is to float around the deep sea with their mouths open and eat whatever food lands there. 

Luckily the blubber fish has a large mouth so that it can eat some pretty large sea creatures.

Typically the food that finds its way into a blubber fish’s mouth includes sea urchins, shellfish, crabs, mollusks, lobsters, sea pens, and microscopic bacteria. 

Because they are bottom feeders, carrion of dead animals, or the pieces of left-over prey that fall to the ocean floor are also a big part of the blubber fish’s diet.

They are not picky and will eat anything that falls into their mouths, even trash or plastic. 


Blubber fish live between 2,000 and 4,000 feet below sea level. The deep sea isn’t just a preferred habitat for this fish as their entire bodies are built for the depths and do not survive in lower-pressure environments. 

There are, however, different species that live in different areas of the world. Psycholutes microporous lives in the deep between Australia and Tasmania.

Smooth-head blobfish lives near Tasmania, Australia, and New Zealand, especially near the north west shelf. Western Australian blobfish live in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia. 

Another species, the blobfish sculpin, lives in waters of the pacific oceans as deep as 9,8000 feet, off the coasts of California and Japan

Life Cycle

Again, because it is difficult to impossible to study these fish in their natural environments, little is known about the life cycle of the blubber fish; however, here is what we do know. 


Most known about the life cycle of blubber fish is based on speculation and comparison with similar deep-sea fish. 

Life for a blubber fish begins as an egg. After hatching, assuming they survive, they grow. Because their growth rate is slow and scientists know fish of the deep tend to live much longer than shallow water fish, blubber fish may live up to between 100 and 130 years. 

Breeding Habits and Offspring

There is little existing information about the exact mating habits and behaviors of blubber fish. We know that female blubber fish lay a considerable number of pink eggs, possibly as many as 100,000. However, only about one percent of those eggs will survive to hatch. 

There is some disagreement as to how the eggs are cared for. Some scientists believe the nests are left untended, which partially accounts for the high loss of eggs. Some species have been observed sitting on the eggs. The egg-sitter can be either male or female. 

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