Planning a Tropical Trip? Avoid These Seven Deadly Fish


Now that summer is well underway, many people across the country are either taking or planning vacations. No matter what time of year it is, there’s nothing quite a like a tropical getaway. Once you hit those beautiful white-sand beaches with turquoise waters and palm trees, you feel as though you’re leaving all of your cares behind. While this is surely enjoyable, we must give you a word of caution – if you don’t know about the dangerous marine life in these areas, your troubles won’t only be coming along for the trip, they’ll be flying first class. It is in this spirit that we would like to introduce seven of the world’s most dangerous tropical fish.

1. Pacu

The Pacu is a large and predatorial fish that mainly inhabits tropical waters. Some can be found further north though, thanks to rather unwise actions by sport fishermen. This is a fish that can grow up to three feet in length and weigh up to 55 lbs1. While the Pacu is omnivorous (eating both plants and animals), it is a fierce predator and is armed with some of the ugliest teeth on the planet. However, what they lack in physical beauty, they make up for in strength and hunting skills.

The Pacu is prized by sport fishermen and is enjoyed as a meal by especially fearless adventurers. Teddy Roosevelt was a large fan of the Pacu, having described it as one of the most delicious fish he’d ever eaten. We advise staying away though, as these fish are responsible for many human deaths and are not to be trifled with. Despite their unattractive appearance, dental woes, and violent tendencies, there is one crime there are unjustly accused of. Contrary to popular belief spread by baseless rumors, the Pacu does not feast on… human nether regions.

2. Giant Sawfish

Also known as Carpenter Sharks, Giant Sawfish get their name from their extremely long jaws which are lined with razor-sharp tooth-like structures known as denticles. Their bodies as a whole can surpass 23 feet in length. To put it in context, if laid head to tail on a basketball court, they’d be able to take a three point shot while still touching the baseline.

The Giant Sawfish is long but is also rather flat. It tends to dwell near the ocean floor and due to its muted grey and brown colors, it can be very hard to spot1. They are very strong defenders of their territory and will use their saw-like denticles to shred intruders to smithereens. While they tend to shy away from humans, they have very poor eyesight and will attack a human, especially if mistaking it for another marine creature trying to move in on their territory. Making matters worse is that they are a nocturnal species, so you’ll have as much trouble seeing them as they will trying to distinguish you from a marine foe.

3.  Barracuda

You’ve almost definitely already heard of this fish, especially if you’re a fan of Sanford and Son and remember Lamont’s less then complimentary name for Fred Sanford’s girlfriend Donna. This monster of the tropical seas can grow to 7 feet in length and 1 foot in width. They spend most of their time close to the surface of the water near coral reefs and sea grasses.

This highly predatorial fish will hide and then shoot out at potential prey at speeds of over 30 miles per hour, relying heavily on the element of surprise in its attacks. They will usually kill their prey by way of tearing off large pieces of its flesh – a pretty painful way to go. They mainly feed on other fish but will also attack a human, particularly snorklers who are mistaken for competing scavengers. They are also attracted to anything that is shiny or gleaming, so you won’t want to wear any jewelry in the water when they are around.

The Barracuda can be recognized by its very large head and  protruding lower jaw. Other common features are a blue or dark green upper body with silver colored flanks and a white underside.

4. Moray Eel

The Moray Eel can grow to be very large, with some specimen reaching a length of more than 13 feet and weights exceeding 65 lbs. The Moray Eel lacks pelvic fins and pectoral fins2 and this helps to add to their snake-like appearance. They are voracious predators who employ their excellent sense of smell in order to locate and capture their meals. Much like the other fish mentioned in this article, Moray Eels have many large and extremely sharp teeth that are ideal for tearing apart flesh.

Moray Eels mainly like to feed on crabs, shrimp, lobsters, and smaller fish, but will also go after a human for a taste treat, which can result in serious injuries and even death. While these eels generally will shy away from humans, they will viciously attack if they feel threatened or if their sandy burrows are disturbed. Adventurous divers who attempt to hand feed Moray Eels have been known to encounter severe injuries, as these eels will literally bite the hand that feeds. In addition to their powerful teeth and jaws, they possess a second set of jaws and teeth within their throats. This part of their anatomy is employed in restraining prey that is trying to escape and pulling it down into their digestive systems.

5. Surgeon Fish

The Surgeon Fish, whose scientific name is Acanthuridae, live among coral reefs and typically will grow to be about two feet long. They possess a very sharp projection that is hidden within their tail fins which they use to attack and slice into their prey with. This scalpel-like weapon that they use to hack off flesh and limbs is what leads to their name.

The Surgeon Fish is sometimes referred to as a Tang and is a very colorful and beautiful fish. As is the case with humans, the most beautiful fish are often the most vicious. This is the case with the Surgeon Fish, which will think nothing of slicing off an arm or a leg or causing death by way of slicing into an artery. Exacerbating the problems they cause is the fact that the blood that they draw will often attract a hungry shark to arrive at the scene. This is one fish you’re better off viewing online or at an aquarium where they are securely confined within a tank.

6. Rabbitfish

The Rabbitfish, which is also known as the Foxface, is another highly colorful and beautiful coral reef dweller. They normally grow to just a bit under two feet in length. They have small eyes and a mouth which resembles that of a rabbit, hence the name Rabbitfish.

Rabbitfish are sometimes hunted as a food source for humans and are also occasionally kept in the aquariums of salt water fish enthusiasts. Despite this, they are still a force to be reckoned with. This is a fish that is very easily frightened and when they are frightened, they respond with instant violence. They will attack prey and anyone they see as a threat with their venomous spines. These attacks are horribly painful to a healthy adult human, but rarely fatal. Children and the infirm however are at a much greater risk if attacked by a Rabbitfish.

7. Triggerfish

The Triggerfish is a brightly colored fish found in tropical and sub-tropical oceanic regions. They usually tend to dwell in somewhat shallow waters close to the shore. Most of them will not grow past 20 inches in length, though some have been known to exceed three feet.

The Triggerfish possesses a set of extremely sharp dorsal spines which they use for both self-defense as well as attacking prey. Their spines are the source of their name, as their when their larger anterior spine goes up into an erect state, their smaller posterior spine is “triggered” into an upright position3. They also have sharp and rough scales which serve as a coat of light armor against potential predators.

Triggerfish are bottom-dwellers who prefer to seek out bottom-dwelling and relatively immobile prey such as clams, mussels, starfish, sea urchins, and burrowing crustaceans. They will guard their eggs fiercely and frequently attack snorklers and scuba divers who come into their territory. Their teeth are large and extremely powerful, enabling them to cause severe injuries.

We hope that the information we’ve shared in this article will serve you well in keeping safe during vacations to tropical regions. After all, being maimed tends to ruin a person’s day.

Works Cited

1. Wesley, David J
10 More Terrifying Killer Fish, March 31, 2013

2. Author Unavailable
Moray Eel

3. Author Unavailable

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