10 Facts about Stonefish: The Most Dangerous Fish on Earth

Synanceiidae fish are referred to as stonefish. This is because they can blend in with their environment which is almost rock, reef, and stones. These fish are well-known for being the most venomous fish in the world. They have stings that can cause extreme pain to humans. These abilities make them extremely dangerous. Let’s get started with some stonefish facts! 

Scientific name: Synanceia
Kingdom: Animal
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Scorpaeniformes

1. Stonefish look like rocks

As the name implies, a stonefish looks like a stone resting on the shallow water along the coast of the ocean. It can reach lengths of 11.8-15.7 inches (30-40 cm). On the back, 13 dorsal fin spines carry extreme venom.

They are not good-looking at all. However, their appearance actually helps to defend them from predators. Because of their distinctive skin color and texture, they are regarded as masters of disguise. It also allows them to blend in with their surroundings, such as coral reefs and stones, or rocks.

2. Stonefish are the most venomous fish in the world

The stonefish is one of the world’s most poisonous fish. Its venom is deadly to humans. Because of the looks, they are frequently stomped on, which triggers their venom glands. They have 13 spines on their back, each spine has 5 to 10 mg of venom which can kill you quickly in less than an hour.

If an adult human steps on their venomous spines by accident, the venom stings can cause him/her death. And don’t blame them because this is their way to survive in a harsh world like this. The venom can cause you intensely painful, paralysis, heart failure, and even death if left untreated.

A woman was stung by a stonefish

If you unintentionally step on a stonefish, get immediate medical attention. You can use hot water as a temporary solution to ease the sting. However, you still need (and have to) to take medical treatment and anti-venom. The symptoms of the sting might last for weeks or months. So here are what to do if you’re stung by a stonefish.

If you usually go to the beach, don’t worry too much. These creatures are not aggressive and they don’t suddenly attack you for no reason. They just use their venom, a mix of proteins, to defend themselves. When it is attacked by a predator or trodden on by a human, the pressure is placed on their spine, making the venom discharged.

So be careful not to step on a stonefish. It can even sting through your soft-soled shoes. To avoid stings, you should wear thick-soled shoes, shuffle your feet when walking in the shallows, and avoid picking up stones on reefs.

Interesting Facts:
This fish is honored in an ancient Australian Aboriginal dancing tradition aborigines conducted an ancient dance ritual as a lesson after seeing this species cause severe pain for hundreds of years. The dancer demonstrates this misery before collapsing to the ground and surrendering to death in order to educate people how dangerous this creature is.

3. Stonefish are camouflage masters

These fish are experts in camouflage, making them challenging to spot. First, their colors are similar (or sometimes the same) to coral and rocky reefs where they spend most of their time here. As we mentioned above, these fish are in grey or brown with red, yellow, and orange blotches.

Secondly, they barely move. They almost stay absolutely still on the sea bed in their natural home. How can you see something if it doesn’t move and have colors that match perfectly to the substrate?

Stonefish are masters of camouflage

Lastly, they are as small as a stone. With the size of 30 – 40 centimeters, they are often mistaken for a rock or a piece of coral reef.

With this perfect camouflage, they can protect themselves from predators and surprisingly ambush their prey.

Some of the other Camouflage Animals related articles:

4. They can attack their prey in just 0.02 seconds

The fish are carnivores, they eat fish and shrimp. As we know that they have the most venomous stings. However, they don’t use it to hunt, but the camouflage skill. Thanks to their remarkable camouflage ability, they can attack their victims out of nowhere.

Their hunting strategy is to remain motionless on the seabed, waiting for hours for the prey to pass by. When the time comes, they attack them at high speed and consume them. Their muscular jaws and enormous mouths generate so much pressure that they can effortlessly suck down and devour their unwary victim in as little as 0.015 seconds. Despite this incredible speed, stonefish swim really slow, except for chasing their prey. You can see how they eat on the video below:

5. They are in charge of many stings per year

Despite being the most venomous fish in the world, these animals barely cause deaths in Australia, and few in other nations. However, several individuals have been stung by this creature after accidentally treading on them. And they had to look for medical assistance.

Because so many people are being stung, an anti-venom was developed in the late 1950s to avoid the worst happening.

6. They can live out of water

Unlike other fish, stonefish can still live for 24 hours when out of water. However, this only works when their surroundings remain moist because the fish will absorb oxygen via their skin. This situation usually happens when the tides retreat, exposing them somewhat. Nonetheless, they will usually die from asphyxia and dehydration after that.

7. Types of stonefish

Stonefish include any poisonous marine fish species in the genus Synanceia and family Synanceiidae. There are 5 types of them:

  • Reef stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa)
  • Estuarine stonefish (Synanceia horrida)
  • Red Sea stonefish (Synanceia nana)
  • Midget stonefish (Synanceia alula)
  • Synanceia platyrhyncha 

The fish live in the shallow waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific, including Northern Australia, India, and the Philippines. They are also found in shallow seas off the coasts of Florida and the Caribbean. Stonefish are native to tropical areas, so you won’t be stung by them in the UK.

Facts: Freshwater stonefish don't belong to family Synanceiidae
The bullrout (Notesthes robusta), also known as freshwater stonefish or kroki, is a dark-brown fish. They are native to eastern Australia, ranging from southern New South Wales to northern Queensland.

8. They have many predators

Despite being the world’s most venomous fish, it still has many predators. They are hunted by sea snakes. Sea snakes bite stonefish to inject their venom. When the fish are no longer resist, they eat them, begin from the head to avoid getting their jaws hooked on the spines.

They can also be eaten by stingrays, eels, whales, and white sharks. It is also reported that a killer whale may consume up to fifty stone fish at the same time. They can all eat the fish without being affected by its venom.

If properly prepared, the fish are also edible to humans. Their venom loses its efficacy when cooked due to the heat. Its venomous fins are completely removed when eaten raw, as in the sashimi dish Okoze. The remaining body flesh is excellent and harmless.

9. Mating rituals

Except during mating season, which runs from February to March, stonefish live alone. To reproduce, females lay eggs on the seafloor and the males will males fertilize with sperm. Most eggs are fertilized, hatch and develop well. The male stays with the mother for 3 or 4 months after the eggs hatch to protect them.

It can take up to three years for baby fish to mature, therefore only a few can fully grow! Many sea species feed on these eggs, and only a limited number of fertilized eggs survive and mature.

10. Stonefish and Scorpion fish

Are stonefish and scorpion fish the same? These fish are easily confused with one another. However, there are still distinctions between them. Both are members of the order corpaeniformes, which includes 36 families and approximately 1,600 species such as gurnards, lionfish, and even lumpsuckers.

Both have no swim bladders because they reside on the seafloor, and they reproduce by laying bunches of eggs among seaweed and stones.

– Stonefish are larger than scorpionfish and they can develop to be 40cm long.

Scorpionfish body

– Stonefish are very dangerous and are regarded as the world’s most venomous fish with a deadly sting. Scorpionfish, on the other hand, also sting but with less intense venom. However, the stings of both of them are not pleasant at all.

– Both stonefish and scorpionfish are masters of camouflage, but they do that in different ways. Stonefish sit still in stone and coral reefs which have colors that are similar to them, they also bury in the sand; whereas scorpionfish can mimic the pattern of their environment.



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– They all have enormous heads covered with bony plates and spines. There’s a bony ridge that runs over their cheeks. If you look from above, a stonefish are resemble a rock rather than a fish, but a scorpionfish still looks like a fish.

– Both have distinctive spines on their fins that store extreme venom. Stonefish spines, on the other hand, are far more noticeable and thicker than scorpion fish spines.

Scorpionfish don’t look grumpy like stonefish

– Stonefish eyes are smaller and more difficult to recognize, but scorpionfish eyes protrude from the body.

– They have a very large mouth that can swallow enormous prey like fish and crustaceans in one attempt (without stopping). They are not attractive fish, but at least scorpionfish are much better. They appear to be smiling all the time. In the contrast, stonefish always seem to be grumpy or in a terrible mood.

– The scorpionfish’s tail is straight, whereas the stonefish’s tail is bent to one side.

12. Stonefish Infographic

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