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Frogfish Behavior

Colors and Camouflage
Reproduction
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The Antennarius pictus Group

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Help with identification

Frogfish species are divided into groups of species related closer to each other. The Antennarius pictus Group encompasses species with a lure which is about twice as long as the second dorsal spine. All Frogfishes of this group show a lot of color variations and have round, darker spots (some also have ocelli) but never stripes.

Three of these Frogfishes are found in the Indopacific and belong to the Antennarius pictus Group: Antennarius commerson, Antennarius pictus and Antennarius maculatus. The distribution range of these three Frogfish-species overlaps in large parts.

I introduce these three frogfish species here seperately, because they are most commonly found by divers and are also most frequently confused with each other.

Two additional species from the Atlantic (Antennarius multiocellatus and Antennarius pardalis) are also part of the Antennarius pictus Group, but since they live in geographically narrow areas, their identification is much easier.

Lure (Illicium) and bait (Esca)

The identification of a Frogfish is linked to a close observation of the lure and the bait. Nevertheless even with the use of photos and further observations alone only a rough identification can be made.

The 3 Frogfishes from the Antennarius pictus Group all have different lures (illicium) and baits (esca). Unfortunatelly these two characteristics can't always be seen clearly.


Giant-Frogfish (Antennarius commerson)

Long lure, Esca bushy at the base but with fine long filaments (Reference)

Painted Frogfish (Antennarius pictus)

Long lure, bait bushy below, broad with compressed appendages (Reference)

Warty Frogfish (Antennarius maculatus)

Long lure, bait esca looks like a small fish or shrimp, it even has an "eye spot". Rather flat, mottled white and brown and with vertical bands. (Reference)

The identification keys on this website are simplified. Ichthyologist use tables with the length of the illiciums and the number of dorsal, anal- and pectoral rays to exactely determine which species of Frogfish they have found. Examples can be found in the book Frogfishes of the World (Link to Google Books, choose page 30).

Example of a definite identification

Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
FOUND WHERE?
Indonesia, in a coral reef sitting exposed on a large sponge
SIZE?
About 30cm
FOUND WHERE?
Indonesia, between coral blocks on sand, hidded besides a sponge
SIZE?
About 20cm
FOUND WHERE?
Indonesia, hidden close to a sponge
SIZE?
About 15cm
LURE AND BAIT
Long lure, Esca bushy at the base but with fine long filaments
LURE AND BAIT
Long lure, bait bushy below (not visible here - broad with compressed appendages)
LURE AND BAIT
Long lure, bait (esca) looks like a prey animal
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Typically the second and third dorsal spine is thick and bulb-like.
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Nearly always 3 light-edged spots on tail fin.
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Second and third dorsal spine with thin membrane.
Sometimes covered with wart-like swellings
Some wart like swellings
Skin very warty.
Large triangle patch starting at the eye
Identification
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson
Antennarius commerson - Giant frogfish (Commerson's frogfish) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Identification
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
Antennarius pictus - painted frogfish - Rundfleck-Anglerfisch
Identification
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
Antennarius pictus - painted frogfish - Rundfleck-Anglerfisch

Difficult identifications

The three Frogfishes listed below look very similar and on first sight would probably all be identified as a Warty Frogfish. A close look shows, that they are a juvenile of the Painted Frogfish (A) and a juvenile Warty Frogfish with a skin which is not so warty as usual (B).

Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
FOUND WHERE?
Indonesia, on a sponge on sand
SIZE?
About 8cm
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
FOUND WHERE?
Indonesia, in a coral covered wall
SIZE?
About 5cm
LURE AND BAIT
Long lure, bait bushy below (not visible here - broad with compressed appendages)
LURE AND BAIT
Long lure, bait (esca) looks like a prey animal
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Nerly no membrane, second dorsal spine not so thick.
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Second and third dorsal spine with thin membrane.
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
No patch starting at the eye, only a saddle
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Large triangle patch starting at the eye
WEITERE CHARACTERISTICS
Nearly always 3 light-edged spots on tail fin. No red margin around the tail.
WEITERE CHARACTERISTICS
Skin very warty (here not so well visible, because it is a juvenile frogfish)
Identification
A) Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
Antennarius pictus - painted frogfish - Rundfleck-Anglerfisch
Identification
B) Juvenile Warty Frogfish - Antennarius maculatus
Antennarius pictus - painted frogfish - Rundfleck-Anglerfisch

The colors

Unfortunately memebers of the Antennarius pictus Group can't be identified by their color, because each of these Frogfish species can have so many different colors.

One exception is the color black - here the three Frogfish species are easily told apart.

Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
ONLY BLACK
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY: BLACK, YELLOW-ORANGE SPOTS, BLUE
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BLACK, ORANGE SPOTS

There are several other Frogfish species that can be black: Antennarius biocellatus, Antennarius hispidus, Antennarius multiocellatus, Antennarius randalli, Antennarius striatus, Fowlerichthys avalonis, Phyllophryne scortea.

Colors of the Giant Frogfish (to 30cm)

Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
WHITE
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
YELLOW
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
ORANGE
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
GREEN-RED-GRAY
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
PINK
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
BLACK
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
BABY
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
BABY
Giant frogfish - <em>Antennarius commerson</em> (commersonii) - Riesen Anglerfisch
Giant Frogfish - Antennarius commerson (commersonii)
BABY

Colors of the Painted Frogfish (10-16cm)

Juvenile: Antennarius pictus - painted frogfish - Rundfleck-Anglerfisch

Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
YELLOW
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
ORANGE
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BROWN-ORANGE
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
ORANGE
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
WHITE
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BLACK
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
PINK
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
PINK-GRAY
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BROWN
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY BLACK, YELLOW_-ORANGE, BLUE
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY
Painted frogfish - <em>Antennarius pictus</em> - Rundflecken Anglerfisch
Painted Frogfish - Antennarius pictus
BABY

Colors of the Warty Frogfish (8-10cm)

Antennarius maculatus
        Warty Frogfish (Clown frogfish) - Warzen Anglerfisch (Clown Anglerfisch) Antennarius maculatus
        Warty Frogfish (Clown frogfish) - Warzen Anglerfisch (Clown Anglerfisch) Antennarius maculatus
        Warty Frogfish (Clown frogfish) - Warzen Anglerfisch (Clown Anglerfisch)

The Warty Frogfish is the smallest of the three Frogfishes mentioned here and its range is also limited. As the name implies it's skin is very warty, a characteristic that the Giant Frogfish also has but diminished. Unfortunaletly the irregular shaped redish patches on the body radiating from the eye and forming a saddle are not a characteristic only typical for theis species but is found in variations with all three species. The Painted Frogfish also shows theses characteristics and the juvenile of the Giant-Frogfishes looks nearly the same as the Warty Frogfish - only the lure is different.

Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
YELLOW
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
WHITE
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BLACK, ORANGE SPOTS
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BABY
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BABY
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BABY
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BABY
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BABY
Warty frogfish (Clown frogfish) - <em>Antennarius maculatus</em> - Warzen Anglerfisch
Warty Frogfish (Clown Frogfish) - Antennarius maculatus
BABY

Habitat

Antennarius commerson: Coral reefs, lagoons, outer reefs to about 30m depth. This Frogfish often perches on large sponges. It is perfectly camouflaged, so you nearly can't detect it although it is quite a large fish. It seems to like exposed areas, even where there is some current. Sometimes it is also found in sandy areas, if there are large sponges growing there or on ropes or under jetties.

Antennarius pictus: shallow, protected reefs, lagoons, sandy areas. The Painted Frogfish is found in different habitats form sandy areas covered with algea and sponges to coral reefs. The prefer to live close to or on top of colorful sponges and change their skin color accordingly.

Antennarius maculatus: shallow, protected reefs between algae, sponges and soft corals. To about 20m depth.

Range

The range of the three Frogfish species from the Antennarius pictus group largely overlap .
Antennarius commerson: Red Sea, Indopacific to the Society islands, Eastern Pacific, north to Southern Japan.
Antennarius pictus: Red Sea, Eastern Africa to Hawaii and Southern Japan to Australia.
Antennarius maculatus: Mauritius to Solomon islands, Papua New Guinea, probably New Caledonia, mainly the Philippines and Indonesia.

Map: Range of the Frogfishes Antennarius commerson, Antennarius maculatus and Antennarius pictus according to Fishbase

Map: Range of the Frogfishes Antennarius commerson, Antennarius maculatus und Antennarius pictus according to Fishbase

I identified all frogfishes (anglerfishes) to my best knowledge. Frogfishes are specially difficult to identify (see tips for identification) so mistakes are possible of course! Please write to me, if you have any questions. Latin names according to the newest scientific findings, ITIS Standard Report and Fishbase.


. Copyright Teresa Zubi