Brandon here. 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?