Venomous fish

For toxins used to stun fish in the fishing practices of certain cultures, see Fish toxins.
The most venomous known fish is the reef stonefish. It is an ambush predator which waits camouflaged on the bottom.
The beautiful and highly visible lionfish uses venomous barbs around its body as a defence against predators.
The stargazer buries itself out of sight. It can deliver electric shocks as well as venom.
The stinger of a stingray

Venomous fish produce a strong toxin harmful to humans (called venom) which they deliver by means of a bite, sting, or stab. This results in an envenomation. As a contrast, poisonous fish also produce a strong toxin, but they do not bite, sting, or stab to deliver the toxin. Instead they are poisonous to eat because the human digestive system does not destroy the toxin they contain in their body.[1] Venomous fish don't necessarily cause poisoning if they are eaten, since the digestive system often destroys the venom.[1]

A 2006 study found that there are at least 1200 species of venomous fish.[2][3] There are more venomous fish than venomous snakes. In fact, there are more venomous fish than the combined total of all other venomous vertebrates.[2] Venomous fish are found in almost all habitats around the world, but mostly in tropical waters. They wound over 50,000 people every year.[4]

They carry their venom in venom glands and use various delivery systems, such as spines or sharp fins, barbs, spikes and fangs. Venomous fish tend to be either very visible, using flamboyant colors to warn enemies, or skilfully camouflaged and maybe buried in the sand. Apart from the defense or hunting value, venom helps bottom dwelling fish by killing the bacteria that try to invade their skin. Few of these venoms have been studied. They are yet to be tapped resource for bioprospecting to find drugs with medical uses.[3]

Treatment for venom stings usually includes the application of heat, using water at temperatures of about 45 °C (113 °F), since heat breaks down most complex venom proteins.


See also


  1. 1 2 Poisonous vs. Venomous fish: What’s the difference? Reef Biosearch. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  2. 1 2 Smith WL and Wheeler WC (2006) "Venom Evolution Widespread in Fishes: A Phylogenetic Road Map for the Bioprospecting of Piscine Venoms" Journal of Heredity 97 (3):206-217.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Grady, Denise Venom Runs Thick in Fish Families, Researchers Learn New York Times 22 August 2006.
  4. Venomous Fish Outnumber Snakes, LiveScience, 22 August 2006.
  5. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Synanceja verrucosa" in FishBase. July 2009 version.
  6. "The Stonefish – The Deadliest Fish in The World", Virginia Wells,
  7. Reef Stonefish, Synanceia verrucosa (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) Australian Museum. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
  8. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Pterois volitans" in FishBase. July 2009 version.
  9. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2009). "Uranoscopus sulphureus" in FishBase. July 2009 version.
  10. Taylor, Geoff (March 2000). "Toxic fish spine injury: Lessons from 11 years experience" (pdf). Journal of the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society. 30 (1): 7–8. ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
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