Bat Fish: Types, characteristics, care and more……

There are two types of bat fish, those belonging to the family Ogcocephalidae and the members of the Ephippidae family. Although batfishes are taken regularly in commercial fishing operations, they are rarely eaten and don’t support a fishery.

In this article I want to show you the most important species of both families, so we will explain more in depth their characteristics and habits so that you have no doubts of any kind. Don’t be surprised by the variety of colors and shapes, as some species inhabit the seabed and walk, while others seem more normal fish.

Family Ogcocephalidae


Animalia Kingdom  Phylum :Chordata  Class: Actinopterygii Subclass: Neopterygii

Infraclase: Teleostei  Superorder: Paracanthopterygii Order: Lophiiformes

General Traits

This family is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical waters of all the oceans and seas of the world except the Mediterranean Sea.

Its name comes from the Greek: ogkoo (swell, bulge) + kephale (head) . They are known as deep-sea batfishes, handfishes, and seabats

 AnatomyBat fish: pancake batfish

They usually measure about 20 cm, although there are specimens of up to 40 cm. seabats have a considerably depressed and ventrally flattened body; almost horizontal mouth; gill opening located at the base of the pectoral fin, the first gill arch being reduced and without filaments.

It should be noted that they have small dorsal fin and soft rays, not always present, while the anal fin is small. Their teeth are small and conical, arranged in bands over the jaws.

Other Traits

The skin always has scales, with very variable shapes and sizes depending on the species. In some the scales have tiny spines that give them the appearance of being covered with hair.

Some others  have so thick and calcified scales that they give the appearance of being fish coated with a large shell expelled with ridges, or simply covered with strong spines.

The structures related to the lateral lines, which normally have the appearance of stairs or the side of a ship, perforated by the sensory cells, are exceptional; Variations in these types of scales can be used to identify species.


Its habitat is the continental slope, between 200 and 3,000 meters deep, some species live even at greater depths.

The species from America usually inhabit shallow water and even cases of specimens that have been seen in rivers

Red-lipped bat fish

The red-lipped bat fish (ogcocephalus darwini) is a species of actinopterygium fish, that is, it has a skeleton that has a bone spine on its fins. This fish belongs to the family ogcocephalidae, being one of the 60 species of the genus ogcocephalus.

This species is considered as endemic to Ecuador (Galapagos Islands) and Peru, that is, it belongs only to these places.

Specifically it’s found in the waters of the Pacific Ocean around the Galapagos Islands and off the coast of Peru at depths between 3 and 76 meters, being more frequent from 10 meters.

It’s present in coasts and estuaries, in general on the sandy bottoms of the reefs.

Anatomical characteristics red-lipped bat fish

This species reaches a maximum length between 20 and 40 centimeters. Its triangular shape makes the body and head look as if they were crushed. ogcocephalus darwini has a large head and its body is covered with scales, hairs and gnarled lumps.

Moreover, it’s cinnamon colored, with dark brown spots and two moles on the back. The lower part of the body is light in color and the upper part is dark, to mislead possible predators confusing with the color of the seabed.

Something very characteristic of this species is given by its bright red lips a trait that is believed to be related with sexual attraction within its species.

The lips are curved down which gives them an aspect of constant anger.

In addition, the red-lipped bat fish has small and conical teeth, arranged in bands on the jaws.

The lower part of its body is covered with bone scales, and its tail is glazed with small spines. The dorsal fin known as illicium is an outstanding structure in the middle of the face, shaped like a horn covered with small hairs. This fin has its maximum size when it reaches maturity and becomes an extension of the spine.

Behavior and conservation

Despite being an aquatic animal, the red-lipped batfish is not a great swimmer. He crawls awkwardly across the ocean floor using his pectoral fins. It also has a small fleshy anal fin under its helix-like tail that helps it move. 

It worth mentioning, that this is carnivorous fish, that feeds on other small fish complementing its diet with marine invertebrates such as crustaceans (shrimp) and mollusks (squid).

To attract prey, the red-lipped bat fish secretes a fluid that serves as bait.

This species is considered on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the category of Minor Concern. Therefore it’s not threatened. This is possible thanks to its habitat at the bottom of the sea, which prevents human influence from directly affecting it.

Clearly this strange fish is one of the demonstrations that biological evolution is an unpredictable process, giving surprising results.

Let’s meet them

Ogcocephalus parvus (Roughback Batfish)

This is a small fish of about 3.9 inches, (about 10 cm in length), that lives along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in North Carolina and Brazil.


The Roughback Batfish has a strange aspect that helps it completely mimic its surroundings. The first time it was observed was in 1940, by William Harding Longley and Samuel Frederick Hildebrand.

They can be found living on the coasts of Brazil, North Carolina and all the Atlantic coasts.

Ogcocephalus parvus live pleasantly in areas where reefs and soft seabeds abound with abundant sand or mud: they choose depths ranging from 29 to 126 meters.

The rough morphology that it presents in the upper part of the body, with exceptionally angular, steep contours and large prominent buckling, is probably the cause of a name as striking as Roughback Batfish

Feeding Habits

Like the rest of the fish in this family, Ogcocephalus parvus is also carnivorous and likes to feed on smaller species. Among them we find shrimp, clams, crabs, mobile and bivalve benthic gastropods and mobile benthic worms.

Here it is


The family of the Ephippidaeis is made-up by the Platax, which are edible marine fish owners of a delicious meat.

However,  we are more interested in its qualities as a marine aquarium fish, its colorfulness and the ability to live in a controlled environment.They are characterized by having a tall and laterally compressed body.

In their youngest stage Platax are very original fish, with a livery of very striking colors, and their dorsal and anal fins are more developed, than when they reach adulthood.

Let’s meet the most interesting species of this family.

Platax orbicularis, (Orbicular batfish)

Its body is a little different from that of its relatives, since it’s compressed and short but tall, giving it a slightly oval shape, which is accentuated by having its dorsal and anal fin close.

Its color is uniform in a gray tone with some irregular streaks as well as several dark transverse bands; the first one is going through the eye, which as the batfish gets older, the tone accentuates. The fins are yellow with black outer edges.

The young specimens have a reddish brown coloration, with small black spots and patches in addition to white ocelli that have a black line that surrounds them. Its caudal fin is almost transparent.

As a curious fact its tail covers approximately 20% of the total length of its body also having a fan shape but taller than long. Its particular shape reminds an angel fish(int) of much larger size.

Humpback  Platax/ Zebra Platax (Platax Batavianus)

It can reach more than 40 centimeters in length as an adult. Its snout is large with a concave shape and a large bone swelling between the eyes. Their jaws have thin, flattened bands that cover the tricuspid teeth.

When they are adults, their body is silver with a dark tone bar that passes through the eye and an equal one that passes behind the head a little lighter. Its fins are dark.

In sub-adult specimens the pectoral and pelvic fins have a dark brown tone with slight dark tones. In young specimens the lines are a bit paler having white lines vertically on the body and fins.

They are usually found in moderately deep waters that have open substrates and coral reef heads. Young people can also be found in deep waters although they prefer coastal waters.

Pinnatus Batfish (Platax pinnatus)

This is a very spectacular fish during its juvenile state and somewhat similar to Angel Fish, because of the height it reaches, due to the great development of its dorsal and anal fins. We can find it in freedom in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as in the Red Sea.

Pinnatus Batfish can measure up to 75 centimeters tall and weigh 25 kilograms. 

Although in nature it’s very widespread, it’s not easy to find it for sale for aquariums, and its prices are really high.

Its classification is a bit confusing, because there are large morphological variations depending on the age and the natural biotope from which the specimen comes.

Platax pinnatus  are very voracious, since they eat almost everything. their growth is equally spectacular and their adaptation to a community aquarium is very easy, since they seldom have problems with any tenant.

They are not very demanding in terms of water quality, although due to their size, they need an aquarium of at least 2,000 liters.

Let’s enjoy them

Golden spadefish

The young specimens of this species have extremely elongated fins vertically, giving the most prominent appearance of a triangle. Its color is silvery. The caudal fin is usually transparent except for the base that is black.

In more adult specimens the tone changes to a golden color with small black spots that are scattered on the body.

They also have a dark line in the eyes and another behind the head as in the previous case.

Its fins have a slightly green and yellow tone, while the margin of the anal altera and the outer margin of the caudal fin are black. Its pelvic fins are completely black.

Their behavior differs from that of their relatives as it concentrates on large shoals that gather along slopes or on outer reefs

Teira Batfish (Platax teira)

The Platax teira is less striking than its close relative, the Platax pinnatus, although it’s still a very interesting fish. They are native to the Red Sea and the Sea of ​​Japan.

This species has a laterally compressed body and very tall. Its color is uniform gray, with black vertical bands. 

It’s not easy to distinguish females from males, because they don’t have a well-marked sexual dimorphism.


Let’s watch them

Platax Batfish in Aquariums

We must take into account the size this species will acquire in its adult stage and therefore we should never introduce it in aquariums smaller than 1000L. The water temperature must be Tropical between 24 and 27ºC

What size aquarium should they have?

Bat fish need a salt water environment to survive. However, they can occasionally be found in brackish water.If you intend to tame them, you must provide an aquarium of approximately 200 gallons of water. This size is important for them so they can have a great space to swim.

Although Platax Batfish initially have a very small size in the juvenile stage, they grow large very fast and can grow up to 30 inches in the aquarium.

Due to the fact that they feed on reefs and corals, a reef aquarium is not suitable for them.

Your fish tank should have an open water swimming region and also a place where your fish can hide if they feel threatened.

Live rocks and caves are a good dark place that gives fish safety.When trying to guarantee this hiding place, you should be careful not to include too much, as it would end up limiting the space available for free swimming.

As much as the water level is important, the water quality must also be in accordance with the standard.

Feeding Platax Batfish

In nature it feeds on zooplankton, zoobenthos and plants. In captivity and due to its shyness, feeding can be very complicated and should be kept away from aggressive species that can intimidate it further and nibble on its wide and beautiful fins.

If we manage to get the shyness barrier closer and break, there is a wide variety of foods that are acceptable, natural chopped mussels, shrimp and even frozen food. In addition we could even observe a decrease in reef algae due to their dietary trends.

Differences between sexes

No sexual dimorphism is observed but it’s important to know that animals juvenile specimens don’t look like the adult ones, since there is  great metamorphosis.

Juveniles have the characteristic color of the species: a dark brown body. As they reach adulthood, that color acquires a less colorful gray hue. Association

At first, it’s essential to keep Platax Batfish in quarantine aquariums, where they can overcome their initial shyness. They require peaceful and calm companions that don’t haunt them.  Platax batfish aren’t skilled eaters, so fast fish accustomed to captivity will eventually be a lethal companion for them..


At first, it’s essential to keep Platax Batfish in quarantine aquariums, where they can overcome their initial shyness.

They require peaceful and calm companions that don’t haunt them. Platax batfish aren’t skilled eaters, so fast fish accustomed to captivity will eventually be a lethal companion for them..

Will you need any water filtration?

Maintaining good water quality is very important for the survival of your aquarium. Your salt water aquarium should be well filtered. Water parameters must also be checked regularly.

To keep your batfish in good health, as they grow due to their large sizes, you will need a strong and efficient biological and mechanical filtration.

It will be necessary to add a protein skimmer to be able to handle its large biological discharge in the system and maintain a clean water condition.

The most recommended filtration for an aquarium with a size of 200 gallons is a sump design with wet / dry filtration.

The sinks are competent to move the water in the aquarium through the filter quickly, ensuring that the water flows several times.

The wet / dry filtration system in the sump helps to break down nitrites on a large scale.

Chemical filtration is also essential. This can be done by inserting a bag of aquarium charcoal in an area where the flow of water is high inside the sump. Coal will help remove dirt from water; dirt such as acids, fats and dissolved wastes. By removing these impurities, the water will look crystal clear.

How much do Bat Fish cost?


Like any exquisite fish, bat fish is a very expensive species. Not only are they expensive, but they

Pinnate Spadefish / Platax pinnatus

Are also difficult to achieve. When you go to buy bat fish, you can get one from nature or one that has been bred in captivity.

The difference between the two is that, for those of nature, it’s quite difficult to meet their dietary requirements. While for captive bred, you can easily meet their food requirements.

The batfish costs about $ 70- $ 200 depending on the species you wish to obtain, according to your aquarium configuration.  It’s said that the pinnatus species is the most expensive of all.

Unlike the Platax pinnatus, the teira is more aggressive, especially with specimens of the same species, which is increasing in the breeding season if the aquarium does not have the right size.

Let’s have a final look of them


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