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Looking For an Unusual Aquarium Fish – Try a Toadfish

Brandon hOrange Toadfishere. One of my favorite types of fish is one that is often overlooked because it lacks the cute appearance that so many other saltwater fish brandish.  In fact, many people believe them to be one of the ugliest saltwater fish we import here at That Fish Place.  The orange toadfish and freshwater lionfish are just two of many different species that belong to an order of very odd looking fish.

All toadfish belong to the order Batrachoidiformes.  This order is home to around 80 different species of toadfish, most of which are saltwater and brackish species.  Toadfish are characterized by their scaleless bodies, extremely large mouths, powerful jaws, and drab color (with the exception of a few reef species).  They get their name from the croaking sound they produce from their swim bladder to communicate with one another and attract mates.  Caution should be taken when handling toadfish.  Many species have spines that can inflict painful wounds, and in certain species the spines are connected to venom glands.  Most species have very powerful jaws that, in a large individual, are even capable of breaking fingers!

In the aquarium, most toadfish are extremely hardy, although they are shy and tend to hide.  You can usually spot their faces poking out from under the rock work in your tank.  They can persist for extended periods of time without eating, but will gorge themselves when food is available.  Toadfish do well on a varied diet of frozen meats including shrimp, krill, squid, and fish.  Their food should be enriched with a vitamin supplement such as Vitachem to ensure that they are receiving proper nutrition.  Tank mates should be chosen carefully as toadfish will not hesitate to eat anything small enough to fit into their mouth, including each other.

Several classmates and I have been successful at breeding the Oyster Toadfish (Opsanus tau) in captivity.  In fact, they have been extremely easy to breed.  We placed seven individuals into a very large tank, fed them well, and the fish did the rest of the work.  A pair of toadfish would lay several dozen eggs on the roof and sides of a rock cave.  One of the parents would remain and stand guard.  The eggs were yellowish in color and about the size of a pea.  After about a week the eggs would hatch and the fry would stay bonded to the rock.  After a few more days the fry became free swimming and would go off in search of food.  They will not take frozen food, so live brine and ghost shrimp would be a better offering.

 While breeding the oyster toadfishes’ tropical cousins may not be as easy, they are still an interesting fish to keep in the home aquarium.  If you’re looking for a predator that is a little out of the ordinary, why not try a toadfish?


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    Do these fish usually like a lot of fauna or coverage in their tanks ? Also, would you recommend placing them in a tank with other toadfish or would they be alright by themselves?

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    Hello Maria, Tank mates should be chosen carefully as toadfish will not hesitate to eat anything small enough to fit into their mouth, including each other. They don’t need plants but do need plenty of places to hide.

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    I caught these guys off of Smith Island in the Bay and were fascinated with them ever since! They feel like you’re reeling in a huge bass and then you see their actual size–so cool…so, here’s the question- had an ich crash last week and tank was nearly completely drained and has been back for a week…I’m going to wait a few more weeks before stocking. The Zebra Moray that I got from you guys in January is the sole survivor along with the hermits and few snails..I know the hermits may be bait for a Toadie…but how would he be with the Zebra? The Zebra is about 2 feet if he’s stretched out…


  4. avatar

    Hi Dave, Sorry to hear you had a crash! A Toadfish and a Zebra Moray may be OK together, but it would depend on the size of both and the size of the tank. Since the eel and toadfish would both be in the same region of the tank (around the rockwork), you definitely would want to make sure there is plenty of territory to accommodate both. I wouldn’t recommend trying them together in anything smaller than maybe 100-120 gallons. If you are close to our store, we have a Toadfish right now that is close to full-grown if you want to stop by and get an idea of just how big they get!

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    Hi great post as there’s not much written about these fish in aquariums. It has been my dream to keep 3 or 4 of these guys in a tank since i was a kid. I’m finally getting around to it after 30 years! So would small toadfish (plan is to get as small as I can) eat larger live prawns/shrimp/shellfish and snails? I would like to have a few of these in my tank too.

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    Hi Paula, A toadfish will eat anything it can get in its mouth, and we’ve even seen larger toadfish bite other fish in half. I wouldn’t recommend keeping more than one in a tank, and any tankmates have to be chosen carefully. Shrimp or other crustaceans would almost surely get eaten.

  7. avatar

    I live in northern Jersey how would I get one of these lovely creatures

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    Hello Anonymous, We are out of stock at the moment but you can find Toadfish on our website or by visiting our Lancaster, PA retail store.

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