Are Sunfish Dangerous? Are You Safe Around Sunfish?

Sunfish are one of the largest bony fish in the world. Their unique shape and size can be a fascinating sight for divers and snorkelers. But, over the past few years, several reports of sunfish being dangerous to humans have led to concerns among people who enjoy water activities or work in marine industries.

The average size of a sunfish is 10 feet long, and it can weigh around 2200 pounds (998 kg). However, the biggest sunfish can grow up to 5000 pounds (2,268 kg). So, with all this size and weight, it’s common to wonder, are sunfish really dangerous? Is it safe to be around them?

This article will explore these questions and provide all the information you need to know about interacting with sunfish.

Are Sunfish Dangerous?

Sunfish are from the family Molidae and are the world’s largest bony fish. But despite their size, sunfish don’t pose a threat to humans and are mostly harmless. However, they can be very curious and may often approach divers.

Sunfish, which look like a flattened silver dish, are typically found in temperate and tropical areas like the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes they may also venture as far north as the British Isles and the North Sea during summer.

Sunfish got their name because they are often found near the surface, apparently sunbathing. But there is no scientific reasoning for such behavior. While some scientists say the fish are warming themselves up after a long, deep dive, another theory says they just want to attract seabirds.

Although sunfish aren’t dangerous and, in fact, their biggest threat is from humans, it is advisable to stay away from them. They have some impressive fused teeth, so you should keep away from their large mouths.

How Many Types of Sunfish Are There?

Sunfish are the heaviest bony fish species that are alive today, and there are mainly four species of sunfish:

  • Common sunfish (Mola mola),
  • Slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis),
  • Sharp-tailed sunfish (Masturus lanceolatus) and
  • Southern Ocean sunfish (Mola ramsayi)

Also Read: How Do Sharks Die?

Are Ocean Sunfish Dangerous?

Ocean sunfish (a species of sunfish), also known as Mola Mola often seen lying near the surface soaking up the rays and appearing to be dead – until you see it waving its dorsal fin. Therefore, they are frequently mistaken for sharks when their huge dorsal fins protrude from the water.

This odd-looking fish is found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. Although they eat many small fish and huge amounts of zooplankton and algae, their favorite prey (food of choice) is jellyfish.

Note: The conservation status of Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is “vulnerable.” They can suffocate on sea trash like plastic bags, which resemble their favorite food (jellyfish).

The natural predators of these ocean sunfish are orcas, California sea lions, and great white sharks. Also, many sunfish are dying as victims of bycatch every year.

Are Sunfish Poisonous?

Sunfish aren’t poisonous as they don’t contain any toxins or harmful substances in their body, which can seriously harm humans.

Sunfish aren’t poisonous, and they are often used in a variety of cuisines on different continents. From their fins to internal organs, every part of sunfish will be deliciously eaten by people across the globe. And also, some of their parts are used in traditional medicine in some parts of the world.

Are Sunfish Friendly?

Sunfish are naturally curious and social creatures and are often known to swim right up to divers and snorkelers when they spot in their habitat.

Ocean sunfish are prone to be infested with parasites, so they invite other fish and birds to come and get rid of them.

Note: Unlike many other fish species, sunfish don’t have a tail and instead use their large ventral and dorsal fins to move through the water.

Also Read: Are Oarfish Dangerous?

Do Sunfish Have Teeth?

Sunfish do have teeth, but the interesting thing is they aren’t located at the front of the mouth; instead, they are located further back of the throat, which are fused together and look like a beak. These teeth crush the food before being swallowed and passed to the stomach.

Generally, sunfish have four fused teeth, because of which they cannot fully close their mouths. So they have many problems while hunting fast-moving and smaller prey, so they rely on easier options like jellyfish for their meal.

Final Thoughts:

Though sunfish are gigantic in size, they are neither aggressive nor a threat to humans. They are pretty curious creatures and like to dive deep into the Ocean for no reason, which is why they are often found by people when they snorkeling.

Some sunfish, captivated and placed in big aquariums, are seen as friendly and easily get along with other fish. Some even allow divers to feed them by hand.

Having said that, you should always be careful with everything you don’t know properly, as there can always be some exceptions.


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