Are Toadfish Poisonous? What You Need To Know

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

A blue splendid toadfish
A blue splendid toadfish / Wirestock via Istock

Sly, slimy, and frightening, these three words perfectly describe the toadfish.

Because of their strange-looking appearance and bizarre behavior, the toadfish is one of the most intriguing marine life to exist.

You may not know much about this frog-looking sea fish. Are toad fish poisonous?

Many ask themselves this question and a variety of others about one of the strangest fish in the waters.

Sliver-cheeked toadfish from Cyprus
Sliver-cheeked toadfish from Cyprus | Sakis Lazarides via iStock

Despite being known as bottom-dwellers, toadfish can also be found in near-shore areas.

In fact, you can discover toadfish across the globe, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

There is an undeniable abundance of toadfish in the world.

Let’s get down to the basics of the poisonous toadfish, and go over exactly how dangerous this fish is. 

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What are Toadfish?

Common Toadfish from the surface | Jonathan Steinbeck via Getty Images

Toadfish is a common name used for a variety of fish.

This name typically refers to fish of the Batrachoididae family.

This toad fish family is made up of four subfamilies which include Batrachoidinea, Halophryninae, Porichthyinae, and Thalassophryninae.

There are around 83 toadfish in total within the Batrachoididae family.

Pufferfish are a close relative to the toadfish and some members of the Tetraodontidae pufferfish family are also called toadfish.

pufferfish
Blowfish or puffer fish underwater in the ocean | FtLaudGirl via iStock

Other fish like those in the Psychorlutidae family such as the dark toadfish (Neophrynichthys latus), the frilled toadfish (Ambophthalmos magnicirrus), and the pale toadfish (Ambopthalmos angustus) also hold this name. 

Another fish holding the name is the toadfish goby (Cryptopsilotris batrachodes), which is a member of the Gobiidae family.

There are several fish species that hold the common name toadfish, but only not all of them are dangerous.

So the question still is, are toad fish poisonous? 

Are Toadfish Poisonous?

Silver-Cheeked Toadfish | Sakis Lazarides via Getty Images

Yes, toadfish are poisonous, and their toxins are one of the most dangerous in the sea.

Being related to the pufferfish, toadfish have potent poison, which is said to be over 100 times stronger than the black widow spider’s venom.

Even though plenty of animals hold the name toadfish, that does not mean all of the species are poisonous. 

These fish are not only comparable with real toads because of their appearance, but some toadfish have powerful poison that can rival the most poisonous toad.

Members within the Batrachoididae family are typically the poisonous ones. 

poisonous toadfish
Poisonous toadfish | Sakis Lazarides via iStock

Fish like the common toadfish of the Tetraodontidae family are types that have deadly venoms.

Others like the Thalassophryninae toadfish that live in South America are venomous and inhabit murky muddy waters.

Just stepping on the wrong toadfish can give you a dose of their dangerous poison. 

Although some toadfish that have poison glands may not be dangerous to humans since their poison can be weak.

Members like the gulf toadfish are mistakenly believed to be poisonous because of their more deadly relatives.

There are various toadfish that lack venom completely.

Can You Eat Toadfish

Yummy toadfish
A yummy toadfish out of its hole | Gerard Soury via GettyImages

Considering toadfish are poisonous, it may surprise you that they can actually make a tasty treat.

While toadfish bodies do not hold much meat, many still see them as delectable.

Their meat is denser than other white fish and has a subtle flavor.

Toadfish can even be eaten raw if prepared properly. 

Poisonous toad fish like those in the pufferfish family are edible but must be prepared properly.

If you have ever captured a toadfish you may have gotten an up-close look at their odd appearance, but that has not stopped many who wanted to taste them.

What Type of Poisonous Do Toadfish Have?

Eastern Toadfish | Nigel Marsh via Getty Images

Toadfish are known for having tetrodotoxin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tetrodotoxin is one of the most potent mainly found on livers or gonads of pufferfish, globefish, and toadfish.

As further stated in the report, their poison may have a rapid or delayed onset.

Signs and symptoms might surface in the first 10 minutes up to the 6th hour of exposure.

Fatality might occur as early as 20 minutes or as late as 48 hours.

This means that it is not safe and advisable to try your chances.

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for tetrodotoxin for thrill-seeking adventurers.

The CDC clearly stated that the cure for this type of poison is yet to be found.

toxic
Be aware of poison | matejmo via iStock

In an independent study conducted in 2021 by Kotipoyina, Kong, & Warrington called “Tetrodotoxin Toxicity”, exposure to tetrodotoxin can cause the victim to experience gastrointestinal, neurologic, and cardiac symptoms.

Kotipoyina and her colleagues further pointed out that there is a drug called “anti-tetrodotoxin” available for public consumption.

But as of the moment, there has been no study conducted on its efficacy yet.

The researchers’ suggestions for the tetrodotoxin treatment are only respiratory support and intensive care until the toxin is excreted through urine.

What Do Toadfish Look Like?

An Oyster Toadfish waits in its lair | Swimwitdafishes via Getty Images

Several kinds of toadfish are currently existing in the world.

It is easy to distinguish a toadfish from other kinds of fish because of their odd appearance. 

Toadfish have broad flat heads and wide mouths with flaps or barbels around them.

They are usually scaleless and, as the name implies, they have toad-like eyes.

That is why toadfish are also commonly known as frogfish.

Yellow Shaggy Frogfish
Yellow Shaggy Frogfish | richcarey via iStock

The adult toadfish can grow long anywhere between 7.5 centimeters to 50 centimeters in length.

They are scaleless, covered in mucus-like substances, and some of them have poisonous spines coming out of their skin to protect themselves from potential predators.

As for their color, they like to mix it up. Some toadfish are brown in color but some dare to be unique; like the gulf fish that’s orange in color and the coral toadfish that has bright yellow fins with white and black stripe patterns on its head.

Where Do Toadfish Live?

A perfectly camouflaged Toadfish | Swimwitdafishes via Getty Images

The poisonous toadfish are found in the New World and inhabit warm seas and fresh waters.

Toadfish live at shallow depths, often living in bays, and estuaries.

They are also called rockfish, since their coloring and pattern resemble stone, and they enjoy nestling in rocks. 

Toadfish hang around the bottom of the water floor since that is where the majority of prey they hunt live.

Toadfish lurking at the bottom
Toadfish lurking at the bottom | Brandi Mueller via iStock

Poison helps defend the toadfish from various predatory encounters.

Animals like sharks, sea turtles, large fish, and carnivorous mammals are what prey on them.

Along with their poison, they are also able to hide, and camouflage in their habitats. 

What Do Toadfish Eat?

The Splendid Toadfish | Rob Atherton via Getty Images

In exchange for their peculiarity is their ability to survive in a hostile environment.

Toadfish are ninjas! Silent but deadly. Calm but collected.

With their ability to camouflage, they satisfy their diet by preying on poor, unwary, clueless fish, mollusks, and worms that get past their ambush spots.

They are patient predators and will wait for their meals to come to them.

Gulf toadfish
The mouth of a Gulf Toadfish | Medioimages/Photodisc via iStock

When an unsuspecting prey is within reach, they will vacuum it in with suction-like power using their wide mouth.

The size of their meal depends on the size of their mouths.

Some toadfish have small mouths while some have large mouths.

Toadfish dwell in the shadows of rock fissures, underwater vegetation, and dens in bottom sediments, waiting for their victim to come by. 

How Do Toadfish Reproduce?

Silver-Cheeked Toadfish
Silver-Cheeked Toadfish | Sakis Lazarides via Getty Images

But despite being sneaky assassins, Toadfish are also romantic lovers!

They attract females to mate with by “singing”. Toadfish “sing” by releasing gas through the contraction of muscles in their swimming bladders.

This produces a vibrating phone-like sound called “boops”.

Boops are loud enough to sometimes reach the surface!

Boops serve are signals for female toadfish to mate with male toadfish in their nests.

A male toadfish protecting eggs | Image via Cavan Images

The female toadfish will lay anywhere between 5,000 to 15,000 eggs which the male toadfish will then fertilize.

The offspring usually hatches within a day or so and they are on their own from that moment on.

For a silent and mysterious guy, that is some next-level talent and charisma!

Final Thoughts

Toadfish are poisonous, but luckily not all of them are dangerous.

It is truly remarkable how nature can stump our scientific advancements in the most simple ways—like finding the antidote for tetrodotoxin in the 21st century.

Even though deaths from them do not occur often, you should still be wary when out in the water as there may be animals like the toadfish lurking. 

So next time you that you’ll travel, maybe in the Atlantic or the Pacific, and you accidentally come across a sly, slimy, and scary fish.

Toadfish like much of the other aquatic life found on Earth will always

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