Giant Anglerfish, Antennarius commerson (Lacepède 1798)

Other Names: Black Angler, Commerson's Frogfish, Giant Frogfish

A Giant Anglerfish, Antennarius commerson, at Pulau Alor, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Source: prilfish / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution


A large well-camouflaged anglerfish that matches colour of sponges on which it lives. Individuals range from shades of yellow to brown, although white, pale yellow, tan, pink, red, green and black fish have been seen. Giant Anglerfish often have low, warty projections on their bodies, and the 'fishing lure' is a small tuft of flattened appendages.

Video of a Giant Anglerfish (aka Giant Frogfish) in Indonesia.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2023, Antennarius commerson in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

Giant Anglerfish, Antennarius commerson (Lacepède 1798)

More Info


Known in Australian waters from the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia, around the tropical north to Sydney, New South Wales. 

Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical and sub-tropical Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea, from East and South Africa across the Indian Ocean to Hawaii and Central America. 

Giant Anglerfish are bottom-dwelling fishes (benthic) and are usually solitary, although may occur in pairs or trios. They often live on sponges in coastal, lagoon and offshore reefs and reef-slopes to 45 m.


Dorsal fin I+I+I, 11-13 (rarely 11 or 12); Anal fin 8; Pectoral fin 10-11 (rarely 10); Pelvic fin I, 5.

Head and body sometimes partially or fully covered with low, rounded, wart-like swellings. 

Bony part of illicium about equal to length of second dorsal spine; second dorsal spine slightly tapered from base. Esca a small tuft of flattened appendages. 

Skin covered with close-set bifurcated spinules. Second dorsal-fin spine wider toward the tip, fin membrane thick, swollen and spinulose behind the spine, extending to base of third spine (width along attachment to spine usually as great as spine itself). Third dorsal-fin spine long and thick toward the end. Prehensile pectoral fins with an elbow-like joint.


To 38 cm. One of the largest shallow-water anglerfishes.


Well-camouflaged and highly variable in colour, mostly in shades of yellow to brown, although white, pale yellow, tan, pink, red, green and black individuals have been seen.

In preservative: light beige or tan, green, brown, to black; illicium usually banded, eye with  0-15 short, darkly pigmented bars present radiating from eye. Lighter color phases  finely peppered with small dark spots or mottled with reddish-brown to yellow-brown patches of variable size; dark-brown to black circular spots sometimes present. Dark, more or less interconnected blotches giving appearance of narrow, irregular, vertical bars on fin. Darker colour phases often with tips of pectoral-fin rays white.


Giant Anglerfish are ambush predators and rely on their excellent camouflage and  lure to attract prey. The first dorsal-fin spine is modified into a 'fishing rod (the illicium) tipped with a bait (the esca). The anglerfish remains motionless, moving its lure to attract fishes which are sucked into their large mouth at lightning speed.


Reproduction: Oviparous, sexes separate, fertilisation external. Eggs are produced in a gelatinous floating mass or 'raft' where they remain embedded until hatching. Larvae spend the first 1 or 2 months in the plankton before settling onto the reef.


Occasionally collected for the aquarium trade.

Similar Species

Antennarius commerson can be distinguished from other species of the genus Antennarius by the following combination of characters: 8 anal-fin rays, 13 dorsal-fin rays (rarely 11 or 12) and 11 pectoral rays (rarely 10).

The second dorsal-fin spine also becomes wider toward the end and has a thick membrane that reaches almost to the spine tip and extends to the base of the dorsal-fin spine. The third dorsal-fin spine is also long and thick toward the end.


The species is named commerson for Dr. Philibert Commerçon, a French naturalist.

Species Citation

Lophius commerson Lacepède (ex Commerson) in Anonymous 1798, Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 3: 681. Type locality: Mauritius, Mascarenes, southwestern Indian Ocean.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2023


Atlas of Living Australia

Catalog of Fishes

Giant Anglerfish, Antennarius commerson (Lacepède 1798)


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Anonymous. 1798. Paris b. Plassan: Histoire naturelle des poissons par le Cit. La Cepède, etc. (Beschluss der im vorigen Stücke abgebrochenen Recension). Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung  3(288): cols. 681-685. 

Arnold, R.J. & Pietsch, T.W. 2012. Evolutionary history of frogfishes (Teleostei: Lophiiformes: Antennariidae): A molecular approach. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62: 117-129

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Hutchins, J.B. 1997. Checklist of fishes of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. pp. 239-253 in Wells, F. (ed.) The Marine Fauna and Flora of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Larson, H.K. & R.S. Williams. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. In: Hanley, J.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds.) Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biological Workshop. The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Museums and Art Galleries, Northern Territory and Australian Scientific Association 1997: 339-380.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293

Michael, S.W. 1998. Reef Fishes Volume 1. A Guide to Their Identification, Behaviour and Captive Care. Microcosm Ltd. Shellbourne, Vermont 624 pp.

Pietsch, T.W. 1984. The Genera of Frogfishes (Family Antennariidae). Copeia 1984(1): 27-44.

Pietsch, T.W. 1999. Families Antennariidae, Tetrabrachiidae, Lophichthyidae. pp. 2013-2019 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. 3 pp. 1397-2068. 

Pietsch, T.W., Bauchot, M.-L. & Desoutter, M. 1986. Catalogue critique des types de poissons du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. (Suite) Ordre des Lophiiformes. Bulletin du Muséum national d'histoire naturelle. Section A, Zoologie, biologie et écologie animale 8(4 suppl.): 131-156 

Pietsch, T.W. & Grobecker, D.B. 1987. Frogfishes of the World: Systematics, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology. Palo Alto : Stanford University Press 420 pp. 

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific. University of Hawai´I Press, Honolulu. 707 pp.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Taylor, W.R. 1964. Fishes of Arnhem Land. Records of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land 4: 44-307 figs 1-68 (as Antennarius chironectes)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37210018

Depth:1-45 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:45 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map