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Fangtooth Fish: Characteristics, Diet, Facts & More [Fact Sheet]

Delving into the mysterious depths of the ocean, the Fangtooth Fish, known scientifically as Anoplogaster cornuta, emerges as one of the most intriguing and lesser-known inhabitants of the deep sea. With its menacing appearance and formidable teeth, the Fangtooth Fish is often considered the stuff of nautical legends.

However, this deep-sea dweller plays a significant role in the marine ecosystem. This article aims to shed light on the Fangtooth Fish, exploring its classification, anatomy, behavior, and ecological significance. Join us as we journey into the abyss to uncover the secrets of this fascinating creature.

The Fangtooth Fish at a Glance


Superclass:Osteichthyes (Bony fish)
Species:A. cornuta

Essential Information

Average Size:Length: 15-18 cm (6-7 inches)
Average Weight:Not commonly documented due to rarity of encounters
Average Lifespan:Estimated up to several years, exact lifespan unknown
Geographical Range:Worldwide in tropical and cold-temperate waters, primarily in deep sea
Conservation Status:Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Species and Subspecies

The genus Anoplogaster contains two species:

  • Anoplogaster cornuta (Common Fangtooth): Recognized for its large, protruding teeth and deep-sea habitat.
  • Anoplogaster brachycera (Shorthorn Fangtooth): Lesser-known, smaller teeth compared to A. cornuta, and a slightly different body shape.

While both species share the genus’s characteristic menacing appearance, the key differences lie in their size and tooth structure. The Common Fangtooth (A. cornuta) is more widely studied and known for its distinctly long teeth, while the Shorthorn Fangtooth (A. brachycera) has shorter teeth and a slightly deeper body.


The Fangtooth Fish is renowned for its extreme and intimidating appearance, primarily due to its large, protruding teeth and deep-sea adaptations. These fish typically grow to about 15-18 cm (6-7 inches) in length.

The most striking feature is undoubtedly their teeth, which are among the largest, relative to body size, of any fish in the ocean. The teeth are so long that the Fangtooth Fish has special sockets on the roof of its mouth and upper areas of the eye sockets to accommodate them when the mouth is closed.

Their bodies are compact and stout, with a dark, brownish-black coloration that helps them blend into the deep-sea environment. The skin lacks scales and is covered in small spines. Despite their fierce appearance, Fangtooth Fish are relatively small and harmless to humans.

There is limited information on sexual dimorphism in Fangtooth Fish, but generally, deep-sea fish tend to have few externally visible differences between males and females.

Habitat and Distribution

Fangtooth Fish inhabit some of the deepest parts of the world’s oceans. They are found in tropical and cold-temperate waters globally, typically dwelling at depths of 200 to 2,000 meters (656 to 6,562 feet). However, juveniles are known to inhabit shallower depths and have been found near the surface.

The deep-sea environment of the Fangtooth Fish is one of the most extreme and least explored habitats on Earth. It is characterized by complete darkness, high pressure, and low temperatures.

The Fangtooth Fish has adapted to these conditions with its enhanced sensory organs, which aid in navigation and hunting in the absence of light.


Fangtooth Fish are believed to be solitary creatures, like many deep-sea species. Due to the scarcity of food in their deep-sea habitat, they are opportunistic feeders, likely consuming anything they can catch, including small fish and crustaceans.

Their behavior remains largely a mystery due to the difficulty of observing them in their natural, deep-sea habitat. However, it is thought that they may undertake diel vertical migrations. This means they possibly travel to shallower depths at night to feed before returning to the deep during the day.

Communication among Fangtooth Fish, if any, is not well understood. In the deep sea, where light is absent, communication is likely to rely on other senses such as touch or sound.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Fangtooth Fish are carnivorous, primarily feeding on smaller fish and crustaceans. Due to the scarcity of food in the deep sea, they are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat almost anything they can catch. Their large, prominent teeth are perfectly adapted for capturing and holding onto prey.

Despite their fierce appearance, Fangtooth Fish are not active predators. Instead, they rely on a sit-and-wait strategy. They remain motionless, waiting for prey to come close enough to be snatched. This energy-conserving approach is crucial in the nutrient-poor depths of the ocean.


Given their deep-sea habitat, the Fangtooth Fish’s natural predators are not well documented. However, they are likely preyed upon by larger deep-sea predators.

This might include other larger fish species and cephalopods like squid. Juveniles, residing at shallower depths, might face a wider range of predators, including larger fish and marine birds.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Little is known about the breeding habits of the Fangtooth Fish due to the challenges of studying these creatures in their deep-sea environment. It is presumed that, like many deep-sea fish, they have external fertilization, where eggs and sperm are released into the water column.

The development period of their eggs in the open ocean remains unknown. Once the eggs are fertilized, they likely drift as plankton near the surface of the ocean. The larvae are also pelagic, living near the surface until they mature and gradually descend to deeper waters.

There is no known parental care among Fangtooth Fish, which is typical for many deep-sea species. The larvae and juvenile fish must fend for themselves from the moment they hatch.

Conservation and Threats

The Fangtooth Fish is currently listed as “Least Concern” by conservation authorities. This classification reflects a lack of immediate threat to their populations. However, the population trend of the Fangtooth Fish is unknown due to the challenges in studying these deep-sea creatures.

While direct threats to the Fangtooth Fish are not well documented, deep-sea environments are generally vulnerable to broader oceanic issues. These include climate change, ocean acidification, and deep-sea fishing practices. The impact of these factors on the Fangtooth Fish population is not clearly understood but could be significant.

Specific conservation efforts for Fangtooth Fish are not in place, largely due to their deep-sea habitat and current conservation status. However, general efforts to protect oceanic ecosystems, such as regulating deep-sea fishing and reducing carbon emissions, indirectly benefit deep-sea species like the Fangtooth Fish.

Fun Facts

  1. Deep-Sea Giant: Despite their small size, Fangtooth Fish have the largest teeth relative to body size of any fish in the ocean.
  2. Masters of Adaptation: These fish have adapted to some of the most extreme conditions on Earth, thriving in the high pressure, low temperature, and complete darkness of the deep sea.
  3. Surface Survivors: As juveniles, Fangtooth Fish live near the ocean surface, only descending to the depths as they mature.
  4. Teeth and Eyes: The Fangtooth Fish has evolved sockets in its skull to accommodate its large teeth when the mouth is closed, and its eyes are specially adapted for the dark environment.
  5. Solitary Hunters: Fangtooth Fish are solitary creatures, using a sit-and-wait strategy to conserve energy in their food-scarce environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How deep do Fangtooth Fish live?

Fangtooth Fish are typically found at depths of 200 to 2,000 meters (656 to 6,562 feet), but juveniles live nearer to the surface.

Can Fangtooth Fish be dangerous to humans?

No, despite their fearsome appearance, Fangtooth Fish are small and harmless to humans.

How big do Fangtooth Fish get?

Fangtooth Fish usually grow to about 15-18 cm (6-7 inches) in length.

Why do Fangtooth Fish have such large teeth?

Their large teeth help them capture and hold onto the scarce prey available in the deep sea.

Are Fangtooth Fish important to the ocean ecosystem?

Yes, as part of the deep-sea food chain, they play a role in the ecological balance of their environment, though this role is not fully understood due to the depth at which they live.

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