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Lumpfish: The Wartiest Fish In The Sea!

Updated on April 7, 2020

Deep Purple

Lumpfish can be very colourful!
Lumpfish can be very colourful!

What Are They?

As you can probably infer from their name, Lumpfish are a species of fish; however, they're easily recognisable as a species due to their somewhat unique appearance.

Whilst many fish are long and sleek to allow them to cut through the water with ease, Lumpfish have more rounded bodies with relatively short heads and short tails. They have the amazing ability to essentially stick to surfaces using a suction motion (hence the name Lumpsucker) and can be nearly impossible to remove once they've attached themselves to a rock.

Their pectoral fins (fins underneath their body) grow into an orb-like shape, which allows them to essentially stick to the rocky seafloor. Whilst this is a useful skill for this species, the lack of more traditionally shaped pelvic fins ensures that they're quite poor swimmers and thus they enjoy spending time on the aforementioned rocky surface, rather than gliding through the water like other marine life. With regards to the differing appearance between genders, it's fair to say that females are the larger of the species, as female Lumpfish can grow to around 50cm - 10cm larger than their male counterparts.

Lumpfish are mostly covered in bumpy, warty, fleshy skin (they don't have scales) and can be found in a vast range of colours (although males will generally turn red or orange to indicate they're ready to breed). As indicated, their inability to swim particularly well makes them an easy target for predators such as seals, Sperm whales and other types of fish. However, owing to their ability to stick to the rocky seafloor, they are very good at camouflaging themselves and use this highly developed ability to avoid danger and ambush prey. Furthermore, when rising to the surface (a common act during mating season) Lumpfish like to find a floating mass of seaweed in which to hide from predators.

Conversely, with regards to their diet, Lumpfish have very small mouths which house very small teeth. As a result of this, they generally feed on smaller sea-faring creatures, including jellyfish, crustaceans and other species of fish. However, they will also eat small bacterial bodies and are thus quite often used as a cleaner fish in Salmon farms around the globe. In fact, they will quite happily swim alongside another fish and eat any parasites which are present on their body, providing a valuable service in doing so.

Interestingly, unlike a lot of other species of fish, Lumpfish have no swim bladder. This internal organ allows fish to swim from higher depths to lower depths (or vice versa) without expanding too much excess energy; however, as they don't have this organ they have to rely on their thicker cartilage to control their buoyancy when surfacing or sinking to the depths.

If left alone by both man and marine predators, this unique species of fish can enjoy quite a long lifespan, with an average Lumpfish thought to be able to survive for around thirteen years.

Where Are Lumpfish Found?

This particular species of fish is found in various oceans around the world, including the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and even the Arctic Ocean. Lumpfish are a versatile fish and can live in either shallow or deep water - mostly preferring to travel the deeper depths in the colder weather, and float around in the shallows enjoying the sun during the warmer months!

Lumpfish Reproduction

When it's time for mating season, the Lumpfish males will generally head inshore to prepare a nest for the eggs to develop in. Once this preparation is complete, the female fish will then arrive and dispatch thousands of eggs which the male will then guard for up to two months before leaving their offspring to develop independently.

Once born, the larvae will develop very quickly.

In just over a week, they'll develop a fully operational digestive system and grow teeth which allows them to begin feeding on live prey. They'll then spend the first two years of their lives floating around in shallow waters before travelling further out into the ocean as fully matured adults.

Do People Eat Lumpfish?

The Lumpfish is a fairly easy creature for fisherman to catch - due to their poor swimming ability and tendency to spend time near the surface - and thus are widely eaten in a few different countries (particularly Scandinavian countries). Interestingly, the male of the species is much more commonly eaten than the female.

However, their roe (or fish eggs) are often prepared as an alternative to Sturgeon caviar. Caviar is considered a delicacy in numerous countries worldwide, and their roe is regularly used by restaurants, and other eateries, as a cheap form of said delicacy. Whist their roe are considered to have a somewhat light taste, many people have created unique recipes to add more flavour and zest, making Lumpfish caviar an extremely popular meal in certain parts of the world.


Lumpfish Roe is often used as a cheap alternative to Caviar
Lumpfish Roe is often used as a cheap alternative to Caviar

A Lumpfish (or Lumpsucker) living in the water

A Lumpfish
A Lumpfish

Balloon Lumpfish

Aside from their usefulness as a bacteria-eating cleaning fish or as a key part of a protein packed diet, Lumpfish are also very popular with tourists when kept in aquariums. In Japan, they're nicknamed Balloon Fish because of their spherical appearance, and people enjoy watching these rounded, colourful orbs relaxing in a tank or becoming highly animated during feeding time.

The reason that they're called Balloon Lumpfish is twofold; firstly, their colourful rounded bodies give them a somewhat balloon-like appearance and, secondly, they occasionally attached to balloons by aquariums owners in order to please tourists.

Now, this brings me nicely onto my next point about Lumpfish.

Do Lumpfish Make Good Pets?

I guess the answer to this question depends on what you'd consider a good pet. You certainly won't develop the same emotional and mutually loving bond that you could develop with a dog or a cat, but they do provide a source of colourful entertainment nevertheless.

Yet, I'd urge anybody who is thinking of purchasing a Lumpfish for their aquarium to think carefully beforehand. Whilst they can provide a nice service and clean your tank of bacteria, they're also somewhat difficult to keep because of the conditions they need in order thrive.

Firstly, they need extremely cold saltwater in which to live and the temperature must be regulated properly or it is highly likely the fish will die. Secondly, they also need some form of stimulus or they'll become bored quickly, as well as a regular supply of live food to eat - both to forage for and to satisfy their particular diet requirements. Cleaning the tank can be a pain because they're very difficult to remove once they've stuck themselves to something so you'd have to ensure you removed them carefully. Finally, whilst there are certain financial advantages to owning a Lumpfish (free aquarium cleaner) they also grow very, very quickly and can outgrow a tank with relative ease - meaning you'd have to either purchase a larger house for them or re-home them.

Whilst the idea of adding a Lumpfish to your aquarium can be quite enticing, it can be a lot of work and I'd urge you to consider whether you have the correct resources and whether or not you can dedicate the time/effort required to properly take care of them.

Interesting Lumpfish Facts

© 2020 David


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