Ocean Sunfish

The largest bony fish in the world is the incredible ocean sunfish, a bizarre circular fish that can reach more than 4M across, weighing up to 2,300 kg… about the same weight as an Asian bull elephant… which is a lot… but don’t tell him I told you so as that would be terrible manners.


This enormous bony fish gets its name from its behaviour of thermal recharging, basking his big flat body to catch the warmth of the sun’s rays, after deep dives into the depths of the chilly ocean. Lying flat like a mirror image of the sun. In fact it has a number of apt monickers, in many countries it is known as the moonfish, in Germany it’s “the swimming head”, in Poland the “head alone” and in China it’s the “toppled car” which makes absolutely no bloody sense whatsoever.


Talking of talking sense, I’m a simple man who likes to keep things elementary; I call my dog “doggy”, Lady Gwendolene “darling” and a Frenchman a “stinking coward”. So I thought it pertinent to bring it to your attention that the very word ‘fish’ is probably misleading. There are 9 different classes of vertebrates; mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are a familiar and really rather nicely defined four, incredibly the other five are all different classes of fish. The Agnatha; weird eel-like fish like the hagfish and lamprey. The Acanthodii and Placodermi, who didn’t do frightfully well and went extinct. Then there are the Chondricythes, with their cartilaginous skeletons, like the sharks and rays. Finally there are the more ‘fishy’ fish, the Osteicythes, the bony fish like the tuna, the cod and our smashing ocean sunfish.


Thankfully the ocean sunfish doesn’t care what you call him as he’s bally stupid, the most stupid animal in the sea, after a Giraffe of course. His brain is quite literally the size of a peanut, weighing in at 4g. He doesn’t really need it of course, nature is like that… terribly efficient, he happily bimbles around the ocean, eating jellyfish and well having a bit of lie down, eating another blobby thing… and that’s it really. He eats the easiest of prey; starfish, sponges what not… anything that can’t get away from the slow moving oaf to be perfectly honest… it’s fair to say that the ocean sunfishes prey have about as much chance as a biscuit in a fat man’s bed. So how did he get so big? Well quite simply by eating lots and lots. All the really big animals around the planet have access to tonnes and tonnes of food. The elephant chows down on the grasses and brows of Africa and Asia. The blue whale, who incidentally has a tongue the same length as an elephant, slurps up tonnes and tonnes of krill. The ocean sunfish, the largest bony fish in the world, eats jellyfish and sponges… lots and lots of them.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Comments (20)  

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  1. Saw one at the Lisbon aquarium, what a monster! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLp3hdDWGe4

  2. That’s what I love so much about blogging: All the unnecessary but absolutely fascinating things you can learn! Many thanks.

  3. Oh my god, I’ve never seen such fish in my whole life. It is a fish right, cuz I can understand on which is a mammal and a fish and this is definitely a fish which I’d say the biggest and rarest fish I’ve seen. I just can’t help but to gawk on it.

  4. Saw one in Newquay Cornwall (they are amazing)

  5. Swam with a small one last week about 15 miles off the coast of southern ca.
    Very strange but cool looking creature. Just swam right up to me , very friendly. I reached out and touched him lightly a couple of times, and he couldn’t care less.

  6. That’s the stupidest fish I’ve ever seen!

  7. I would live to see to see one of those fish live! Amazing!

    Benny “The Tank”

  8. These things are great, saw one off the coast of North Carolina when I was out on the boat, not more than two years ago. Saw another just this past summer off the western coast of Australia; magnificent being, the Mola Mola.

  9. I’ve noticed a few physiological differences in these remarkable creatures. Do some of them have a domed “head”? Like the fish-dolphin or “mahi-mahi”? Also, the tails, or what hey use for tails seem to be lobed or smooth. Are there different races or different species?

  10. Good day,
    Indeed some Mola mola appear to have some sort of ‘melon’ on their head, and their tails do seem to be lobed or smooth as you can see in this chappy;
    and this fellow;

    What’s more there are a number of smaller chaps in the Molidae family who, while not being quite so enormous, are really rather smashing in their own way;


  11. wow, nice catch. =]

  12. Wow! I’m speechless. What an incredible fish! Thanks for all the info and pics. Looks like an interesting site. Will explore further!

  13. whoa im going 2 catalina island this march, and my teacher said we mite c these while we r there! that would b so awesome.

  14. Whomever wrote the story about the fish, you have a great sense of humour and had me laughing like I haven’t in quite awhile. Kudos!

  15. Saw two large ones off from Boynton Beach Inlet in Florida last year. Even the first mate stated he knew of them but never seen them. They are by far the most mythical fish to be seen. There is a big article regarding these ocean sunfish in March’s Florida Sportsman Mag.

  16. I was sailing off shore the island of Majorca in the Baleares on Friday 9th May. One was loafing on the surface and we passed it about 3 meters to our port side… I was unsure if it would get out of the way had the boat headed directly at it… 🙂

  17. Really interesting. thanks fo this. =]

  18. I’m a retired deep sea diver, In 1970 in the gulf of Mexico I was profileing a stinger is when I had an encounter with a Sunfish. At that time, I had no idea what it was. It certianly scared the dickens out of me!

  19. this is hilarious guys…..its amazing getting to know such things. All this time i thought the the whale was the heaviest…thank you

  20. I was out salmon fishing off the coast of Washington, and hooked up to one. I thought it was a log until I got it to the boat. It was mammoth!

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