What do Ocean Fish Eat

The Animalista What Do Ocean Fish Eat
The diets of ocean fish can be a little bit of a mystery, so we took a closer look at eight of the most common ocean fish types to discover what they eat

One of the most popular questions people ask is, “What do ocean fish eat?” The answer is more complicated than you think. There is a diverse variety of fish in the ocean that eat small crustaceans, like krill, crab, barnacle, prawn, shrimp, lobster, etc. to large mollusks and invertebrates. Other foods that fish eat include small fish, seals, sea lions, and certain sharks had been seen attacking whales. An individual fish normally has a very varied diet.

The way in which different species eat is also quite varied. Smaller species usually engulf their prey as a whole unit, while certain medium-sized species will eat their prey by tearing them into small chunks. Most large species of fish and sea mammals perform filter feeding.

In this article, I will discuss various well-known fish species and what they eat in the ocean.

What do Sharks Eat?

What a shark eats varies significantly among the different species. However, the most commonly consumed animals include mollusks, crustaceans, fish, etc. They can also consume marine mammals like porpoises, sea lions, seals, dolphins, as well as some large species of fish including mackerel, tuna, or even small whales.

Although sharks can eat any type of sea creature, different shark species often have their own prey preferences. For instance, tiger sharks like to eat turtles, while hammerhead sharks feed mostly on rays. Blue sharks, on the other hand, love to eat squid. These sharks either engulf the prey as a whole, or they tear it into large chunks with the help of their razor-sharp teeth in the case of a Great White.

Some large species of shark prefer plankton to meat. Yes, you have read this correctly! Whale’s, basking sharks, and megamouth sharks are just some examples of sharks who prefer plankton to meat. Plankton eating sharks have small teeth and they also don’t use them in the feeding process as they filter feed.

shark in deep waters looking for food

What do Rays Eat?

Rays are widely distributed throughout the globe. Most of them live at the bottom of the sea, while some are found near the shore. Rays are carnivores in terms of diet and feed on a variety of sea creatures. However, the way they look for food and their prey varies according to species.

Small species have rounded teeth that feed on snails, clams, oysters, and crustaceans. Large species, like manta rays are mostly filter feeders. Some of them actively prey on bottom-dwelling crustaceans and small fish. Most of them have a sting at the base of their tail and some of them have developed special ways of catching their prey. For example, electric rays use electricity to stun their prey.

Rays eat a variety of sea creatures

What do Snappers Eat?

There are more than a hundred species of snapper in the world. They normally live near shores with coral reefs and in tropical areas. There is not much of a size difference when you compare the various species of snapper. Examples of snapper species include dog snappers, emperor snappers, yellowtail snappers, gray snappers, and bluefish (which is the most famous member of the snapper family).

Like most fish, snappers are carnivores when it comes to their diet. Young snappers are understandably small and feed mostly on plankton. Adult snappers are hunters and their diet consists of crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. Because they live near rocky areas, their diet is very varied.

Snapper fish close up

Diet of The Scorpionfish.

Scorpionfish have feathery fins that range in color from dull shades to bright hues, depending on the species. Their fins have venomous glands covered in mucous that can stun prey.

Most scorpionfish are bottom dwellers of shallow water and certain species have been known to live as deep as two kilometers to the ocean floor.

As described previously, scorpionfish are omnivores, so their diet is very varied. They prey on small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other bottom-dwelling creatures.

Scorpionfish at the bottom of the ocean

What do Bass Eat?

The term bass normally refers to a large number of fish which encompasses three different genera. However, they all belong to the common order of the perciform. Bass have a wide range of habitats and although they are largely marine species, some are freshwater species.

With their varied habitat, they feed on a wide variety of food. Although they are omnivores, many of the scientists consider them to be opportunistic hunters. They eat plankton, small fish and even vegetation.

What do Clownfish Eat?

Clownfish (or the Anemonefish) is one of the most charming species of marine fish. It is well known for its synergistic partner, the anemone. Some people mistakenly believe that clownfish can’t survive without an anemone, but this has not been proven.

Clownfish are omnivores in their diet behavior and ones living in aquariums enjoy eating processed food. Most clownfish eat sea plants and small sea animals in the ocean. Sometimes they will eat the residue left behind from their partnering anemone, but their diet consists mostly of zooplankton.

clownfish hanging out at the bottom of the ocean

Diet of The Hawkfish.

Hawkfish do not have a swim bladder so they try and avoid deep water and are mostly found in coral reefs near the shoreline. Hawkfish have bright colors and sometimes one or two lateral stripes. Hawkfish are so-called due to their hunting techniques, which are very similar to that of a hawk. They wait for their prey on the upper surface of the coral reef and as soon as their prey appears, they dive and pounce on their prey, just like a hawk. They eat mostly plankton, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish in the ocean.

hawkfish swimming along coral

What do Lionfish Eat?

The lionfish is an exceptionally beautiful fish with long coarse spines all over its body. Zebrafish, fire fish, turkey fish, tasty fish, and butterfish are some other common names for this fish. Their spines are venomous and they use these to kill prey.

Their diet is carnivorous and they hunt nocturnally (normally at dawn and dusk). The primary source of food for this species includes small fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and invertebrates. Cannibalism of smaller members of the same species has been identified in this fish.

lionfish showing off its beautiful spines

Although I can’t describe the food and feeding behavior of every fish species, I have tried to include information on the most popular species in the ocean.

Generally speaking, fish are willing to eat any creature that cannot attack them.


By: Ahmad

Contributing Animalista

The Animalista contributors are animal people from around the world who use their writing talents to produce content that educates, entertains, and raises awareness for animal related topics.  


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