Can You Name These 40 Saltwater Fish in 5 Minutes?
Image: Steve Woods Photography / Cultura / Getty Images
About This Quiz
Would you rather be a fish? Dive in and treat yourself to a fun and fishy five-minute challenge!
Marine habitats hold roughly 58% of all existing species of fish. Among them are some of the most unique-looking fish you will ever see. From hundreds of sharp teeth to extra long snouts, glowing sides to transparent heads, the marine waters are teeming with living proof of the diversity of life on the planet.
Some of these fish can be found in shallow coastal waters and others way down deep in the open seas — so deep that not even light from the sun can get to them and so deep that quite often humans actually know very little about them. There are quite a few which are familiar, such as the ones commonly used for food or hunted for sport. A number of them are also kept as pets in marine aquaria. Are any of their names swimming around in your head? Get started and see if they made it into the quiz!
If getting to know marine life is a hobby of yours, then five minutes is plenty of time to name all of the fish we picked out for you. Jump right in — the quiz is fine!
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Don't try to hitch a ride on this fish; it's one of the slowest around! Can you name it?
Seahorses are relatively small and have prehensile tails which they use to cling to coral and plants so that they are not carried away by sea currents. Interestingly, it is the male seahorse who carries the fertilized eggs (in a pouch at the end of his tail) until they hatch.
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This star of the Oscar-winning 1975 movie "Jaws" is the most notorious predator in the oceans. Do you know its name?
At 20 feet long and 4,000 pounds, the Great white shark sits relatively unchallenged at the top of its food chain. It is a ferocious feeder with up to seven rows of teeth containing over 300 teeth in all. Only the killer whale (Orca) and larger sharks pose any kind of threat to the Great white shark.
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If you see this fish stumbling about, it might be from a condition called eye-migration. Can you name the fish?
A flounder hatchling has one eye on either side of its head just as most fish do. After a few days, it begins to undergo eye migration where one eye slowly moves until both eyes are on the same side of its head. Some species have both eyes exclusively on the left and others on the right.
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This fish can inflate its body to up to three times its normal size. Which of these names does it go by?
Most species of pufferfish are considered to be highly poisonous. In fact, they are often ranked among the world's most dangerous fish, and its most dangerous animals. Pufferfish have tough skin and many also have prickles which are hidden until the fish puffs up.
It's no joke that this fish shares a mutually beneficial relationship with sea anemone. Do you recognize it?
In their mutualistic relationship, the sea anemone's stinging tentacles ward off the clown fish's predators. The clown fish in return rids the anemone of parasites and deters other fish from eating its tentacles. Most persons recognize the clown fish as the star of the 2003 Disney hit "Finding Nemo."
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This serious-looking fish has an appropriate "medical" name. Can you diagnose what it is?
The surgeonfish is named for the scalpel-like spines on either side of its tail. Dory, the fish with short-term memory loss in "Finding Nemo" (2003), is a female surgeonfish. Luckily, real surgeonfish do not have Dory's memory problem!
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If it looks like a snake and moves like a snake, it might just be the fish shown here? Can you name it?
Apart from its visible jaws, the moray eel has another set of jaws, complete with tiny teeth-like projections, hidden inside its body. It can bring this set forward to help it kill prey held by the outer jaws. The inner jaws also help to pull the food into the eel's body for digestion.
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It's not a bird or a plane but this fish certainly looks like it can fly. Do you know its name?
There are two types of manta ray: the familiar giant oceanic manta ray and the lesser-known reef manta ray. Like other rays, the manta ray has a flat body and fins which have evolved to look like wings, giving the impression that the manta ray is flying through the water.
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Can you identify this large apex predator which has a very close relative named after the Pacific Ocean?
Atlantic bluefin tuna are among the largest and fastest fish in the world. They are specially shaped for speed, with streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies which seem to slice right through the water. Together, Atlantic bluefin tuna and Pacific bluefin tuna are referred to as Northern bluefin tuna.
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This stripy, spiky fish from the Indo-Pacific waters goes by several names. Can you guess its feline-inspired name?
The aggressive lionfish also goes by the names zebrafish, firefish and turkeyfish. Although it is extremely poisonous, the lionfish is quite edible when properly prepared and reportedly has a delicate flavor! It is native to the Indo-Pacific but is an invasive species in areas such as the Caribbean.
Illustration by Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images
This deep ocean fish is named for its bent appearance and the lure it waves to catch prey. Do you know it?
The scary-looking humpback anglerfish might not seem to gruesome to prey since it lives in complete darkness in the depths of the ocean. In these deep regions where sunlight simply cannot penetrate, the humpback anglerfish's lure glows in the darkness as a way to attract prey and potential mates!
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One name for this beautifully colored fish is the fairy basslet. Can you name its more regal-sounding name?
This brilliantly colored two-tone fish measures just about three inches and is a popular addition to marine aquaria. Due to its peaceful nature, it is best to keep royal gramma with similarly docile fish. In the wild, it occurs naturally in reefs of the tropical western regions of the Atlantic Ocean.
Wiki Commons by J.E. Randall
This tiny tropical fish is so small you can see right through it! Do you know what it is called?
The seven-figure pygmy goby isn't just short (it grows about an inch long), it is also short-lived. In fact, its lifespan of just 59 days is the shortest of any vertebrate. It does, however, keep itself busy — the female seven-figure pygmy goby is able to go through seven breeding cycles in that time!
Wiki Commons from Annals of the Natal Government Museum
This fish uses its long snout to slash prey. Fortunately, it does not pose a danger to humans. Do you know what it is called?
The sixgill sawshark grows to roughly three feet long. Its typical prey includes fish, squid and shrimp which it slashes with the sharp projects running along both edges of its snout. There is very little interaction between humans and the sixgill sawshark since it lives close to 2,000 feet below the surface.
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Do you recognize this large saltwater fish whose snout can grow up to one-third its entire body length?
The swordfish stands out among other billfish (such as marlin and spearfish) because it has a much longer and flatter snout. It can grow up to 15 feet long with one-third of that length being its sword! In many regions, swordfish are sought after as both sport and food.
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This large fish has piranha-like teeth in its massive jaws. Can you identify it?
The barracuda is a large fish which can grow up to six feet long. It is found mostly in warm waters and tends to stay in areas, such as reefs, which have plenty of prey. The barracuda's few predators include large sharks, killer whales and humans, who hunt them both for sport and as a source of food.
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This small fish is named for its "horns" and is described as "naked" due to its lack of scales. Can you identify it?
This thick-bodied coastal fish is well camouflaged as it lies in-waiting on rocks to ambush passing prey. The longspined bullhead is aggressive, and although it will mostly eat small fish, prawns and mollusks, it is not afraid to take on larger prey — even some bigger than it!
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This hairy-looking fish doesn't really croak and is actually a type of anglerfish. Can you name it?
Like other frogfish, the striated frogfish is both stocky and lumpy. It is also called the hairy frogfish because of the numerous spinules growing out from its body. As a type of anglerfish, the striated frogfish has an appendage which looks like a fishing rod and bait, which it uses to lure prey.
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This distinctive-looking predator does everything on a grander scale than its relatives. Can you name it?
The smallest hammerhead sharks grow to three feet but the great hammerhead shark reaches over 20 feet long! While most hammerheads have litters of up to 12 pups, the great hammerhead's litter can get up to 40. It stamps its dominance on the group by preying on other hammerhead, even its own pups.
Illustration by Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images
Can you identify this fearsome-looking saltwater fish which is among the deepest-diving fish in the world?
The fangtooth fish have the largest teeth of any ocean-dwelling creature — in comparison to body size, that is. Adults only grow to about six inches long! Thanks to evolution, the fangtooth fish has pouches in the roof of its mouth so it can close its mouth without puncturing its brain.
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This large fish appropriately takes the name of Earth's largest continent. Can you figure out what it's called?
The Asian sheepshead wrasse grows to more than three feet long and more than 30 pounds. It isn't the largest of the wrasse; however, the humphead wrasse can get to over eight feet and exceed 400 pounds! Most wrasse are hermaphrodites with the ability to go from female to male at some point in their lives.
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The black spot on this fish's head looks like a crown and gives the fish its regal name. Do you know what it is?
The brilliant colors of the queen angelfish may seem hard to miss, but they actually work very well as camouflage! The queen angelfish's bright yellow body with its electric blue outline blends right in with the intense colors of the Atlantic Ocean coral reefs.
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This fish may have a dainty name but can become quite aggressive if its territory is invaded. Can you name it?
Damselfish are noted for being particularly territorial. They are always quick to defend their space from other damselfish to the point where some of them end up with no territory at all. Damselfish are both fast and active and are a popular choice for marine aquaria.
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Think of which two animals this fish resembles. Can you come up with its name?
Its distinctively striped face and timid manner make the foxface rabbitfish one of the most common fish in marine aquaria. Keepers of foxface rabbitfish should be aware that these fish tend to change to a mottled brown when stressed.
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The markings of this fish are meant to confuse its predators while it makes a hasty retreat. Which of these is it?
Predators looking to prey on the foureye butterflyfish can't be sure which end is which as the foureye has eye-like markings on its tail end. If the foureye is somehow caught, the predator is in for a nasty surprise as the spines of the foureye are sure to make a very uncomfortable meal indeed!
Long, sharp teeth and glowing sides should make this an easily recognizable fish. Do you know what it is called?
These deep-sea fish grow to be about a foot long and use the luminescent organs on their sides as a way to attract prey. Sloane's viperfish are able to go after relatively large prey since they can unhinge their jaws to allow their mouths to open much wider than normal.
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It doesn't sting like its namesake, but contact with its venomous spiny fins can be fatal. Can you name this fish?
The tassled scorpionfish lives in the shallow waters and reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its camouflage makes it dangerous to swimmers who might step on it accidentally. Even if a swimmer is spared the potentially deadly venom of its spines, the puncture wounds will still be very painful.
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The brightly colored fish shown here is a regular inhabitant of the Gulf of Mexico. Do you know what it is called?
Northern red snapper tend to form large schools and often make their home in the vicinity of reefs and shipwrecks. They can live up to 50 years; most of those caught in the Gulf of Mexico as food or for sport are around four to six years old.
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This extremely dangerous fish just lays around looking like a rock most of the time. Do you know what it is called?
The stonefish, the world's most venomous fish, is found in coastal Indo-Pacific waters, including Australia's northern coast. It has 13 spikes which it uses to inject venom into the foot of an unsuspecting swimmer or wader who steps on it thinking it is a rock. The pain is excruciating and the venom can cause death.
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Can you identify this saltwater fish which gets its shape from a protective shell-like covering?
The names boxfish and trunkfish refer to this fish's shape. Some varieties have projections which resemble horns and so the name cowfish is also used. Its heavy, bony armor slows down the boxfish but it has a defense mechanism for warding off predators — it secretes toxins from its skin!
Wiki Commons by Richard Ling
This large gamefish should have no problem seeing its prey (or its predators). Can you spot its name?
The bigeye trevally is a type of jack fish, inhabiting both rocky and coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific regions. This fast-moving fish is a nocturnal predator which tends to prey on shrimp, sponges and jellyfish. In return, the bigeye trevally has its own predators which include sharks and sea lions.
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Which of these is a tasty fish named for its birdlike beak and bright colors?
The parrotfish's distinctive beak is a result of the unusual arrangement of its teeth which it uses to grind coral so it can get to the algae inside. Parrotfish are noted for their extremely wide color variations, as well as for their tendency to change sex quite frequently throughout their lifetime.
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About 200 species make up this family of popular aquarium fish. Do you recognize it?
Cardinalfish are brightly colored, small and peaceful — traits which make them highly sought after in the aquarium trade. In fact, some species of cardinalfish are taken from their natural habitats in such large numbers that conservationists have raised concerns of the effect on their populations.
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You would be quite right to refer to this as a boxfish, but do you know its official name?
The spotted trunkfish is a reef dweller with the typical boxy shape of a boxfish. Like other boxfish (also called cowfish), the spotted trunkfish releases a toxin from its skin whenever it feels threatened. Keepers of boxfish should be aware that this toxin poisons the water and can kill other fish.
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This fish looks like and is named for a common reptile. Do you think you can figure out its name?
A long, rounded body and large, flattened head help to give this fish the appearance of an underwater lizard. The imagery is perhaps even stronger when the predatory variegated lizardfish lies in wait, partially covered on the seafloor and propped up on its fins, almost like they were feet.
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Can you identify this member of the grouper family which releases sudsy toxins when threatened?
The spotted soapfish grows to about a foot long and is found mostly in reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Its beautiful markings make it an attractive aquarium fish although it is not among the most popular.
Wiki Commons by Brian Gratwicke
The fish shown here may only get to three and a half inches long, but its fiery coloring is hard to miss. Which of these is it?
Like other hawkfish, the flame hawkfish is native to the warmer regions of the Pacific Ocean. It exhibits the interesting, perchlike habit of resting on a rock or coral and pouncing on prey as they pass by. This hardy little fish is popular among keepers of marine aquaria.
Wiki Commons illustration by A. Brauer
The name spookfish is very fitting for this strange-looking, little fish, but can you spot its other name?
The barreleye fish gets its name from its strange tubular eyes which are quite often pointing upwards. Stranger still is the fact that the barreleye's head is see-through, giving it an even spookier appearance. This deep-sea fish lives as far down as 3,000 feet below the surface.
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This froggy bottom-dweller is a favorite snack food for dolphins. Can you guess its name?
The toadfish doesn't just look like the amphibian for which it is named, it can also croak like one! Toadfish are found in shallow coastal waters of the Americas where they are often preyed on by dolphins. Care should be taken around toadfish as they are known to lash out and bite when touched.
Wiki Commons by Luc Viatour
This exotic-looking reef-dweller might evoke thoughts of the Orient. Do you know its name?
In the wild, the mandarin dragonet can be found in warm regions of the Pacific Ocean. It is a docile bottom-feeder which has become prized among keepers of marine aquaria. The mandarin dragonet can be difficult for some to care for, however, due to its special dietary needs.
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