Common name: PSYCHROLUTIDAE - Blobfishes, Flathead Sculpins, Toadfishes



Tadpole-shaped fishes with a flabby body enclosed in smooth naked skin, a broad rounded head, a short first dorsal fin often partly buried in skin connected to the longer second dorsal by the overlying skin making the fin appear continuous, a similar anal fin that is opposite to the second dorsal fin, large pectoral fins, and small pelvic fins originating below the pectoral-fin base.

Blobfishes live on the bottom in cool to cold waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. The family contains 8 genera and more than 30 species. Four described species in two genera occur in Australian territorial waters.

Key to Australian genera of Psychrolutidae

1a.   Vomerine teeth present …...…………………….Ebinania

 1b.   Vomerine teeth absent ...…….....………………..Psychrolutes

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Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Blobfishes, PSYCHROLUTIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Jul 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The blobfishes or tadpole sculpins were discussed by Nelson (1982), who presented a key to 20 of the 30 recognised species in eight genera, including those in the previously distinct Cottunculidae. Four described species in two genera occur in Australian waters, one of which was recently described. Nelson (1999) presented a key to genera and species of Psychrolutes from the region. 

Family Distribution

Widely distributed in the temperate and cold-temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans with 8 genera and more than 30 species; benthic fishes inhabiting continental shelf and slope waters.

Family Description

Deepwater fishes with a flabby tadpole-shaped body lacking scales, that tapers from a large depressed head; short 1st dorsal fin connected to longer 2nd dorsal by overlying skin, making the fin look continuous; anal fin similar and opposite 2nd dorsal; ventral fins small, originating below pectoral-fin origin.

Family Size

Maximum size is 500 mm.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Psychrolutidae, p. 523-524. In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter. Fishes of Australia's southern coast. New Holland Press & Museum Victoria, 928 pp.

Jackson, K.L.  &  J.S. Nelson.  2006. Ebinania australiae, a new species of fathead sculpin from southern Australia (Scorpaeniformes: Psychrolutidae). Records of the Australian Museum  58: 37-42.

Nelson, G.S. (1999). Family Psychrolutidae.  pp. 2427–2428 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes.  Rome : FAO Vol. 4, pp. 2069–2790.

Nelson, J.S. (1977). Fishes of the southern hemisphere genus Neophrynichthys (Scorpaeniformes : Cottoidei), with descriptions of two new species from New Zealand and Macquarie Island. J. Roy. Soc. N.Z. 7(4): 485–511, figs. 1–11.

Paxton, J., J.E. Gates & D.F. Hoese  2006. Family Psychrolutidae. In Hoese, D.F., D.J. Bray, G.R. Allen, J.R. Paxton, P.L. Beesley & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. Fishes. CSIRO Publishing & ABRS. 3 volumes.