Coffinfish Facts: They Can Hold Their Breath for 4 Minutes and Live for 25 Years

Meet the coffinfish, the deep-sea’s own cryptic maestro. With bioluminescent finesse and a knack for eerie disguises, the coffinfish is the fearsome predator of the abyss. You know what’s more amazing? It can hold its breath for 4 minutes. Let’s join us to find out more about interesting facts about the fish below!

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Lophiiformes
Family: Chaunacidae
Genus: Chaunax

It has a weird look

Meet the coffinfish, a distant relative of the anglerfish. Belonging to the Chaunacidae family, it shares its family tree with the sea toads—a quirky bunch of deep-sea inhabitants celebrated for their inflatable bodies and preference for the ocean floor. The fish is named for its uncanny resemblance to a miniature coffin.

With its peculiar name and appearance, it is a fascinating creature of the ocean. This small fish has a special appearance with a spinny, globe-shaped, soft, and gelatinous body, reaching a maximum size of 8.7 inches. This loose skin and gelatinous body helps the fish to withstand the intense pressures of its deep-sea home, where the environment can exert forces 60-120 times greater than those at the surface.

Coffinfish can walk along the ocean floor

This adaptation is similar to its cousin blobfish, also a denizen of the deep sea. Much like the blobfish, the coffinfish will have a pale and swollen look when brought to the surface, where the pressure rapidly drops.

In its natural habitat, this creature has vibrant colors, ranging from pinkish to reddish-orange with potential yellow or olive green mottled patterns. It is said that the fish uses its colorful appearance to communicate with other fish in the dim environment or to camouflage.

With short, leg-like pectoral fins, the coffinfish can walk across the seabed like the frogfish.

Coffinfish Habitat

The coffinfish is a deep-sea creature, living in the mysterious depths of the world’s oceans, particularly the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It is often found in the temperate waters of the southwestern Pacific, caressing the eastern shores of Australia. In this watery domain, it stays at astonishing depths ranging from 50 to an astounding 2,500 meters (164 to 8,202 feet).

The pressure of this depth can easily crush us. However, with its distinctive body shape and appendages, the coffinfish can skillfully survive here, and maneuver through the abyssal darkness and scarcity of food.


The coffinfish is a cunning ambush artist. With its robust, spiky physique, it seamlessly blends into the dark of the ocean. Its pectoral fins serve as miniature anchors, securing it in its hiding spot. However, the real secret weapon is located at its head.

Like other anglerfish, the coffinfish is equipped with a bioluminescent lure that hangs delicately from its forehead, known as an illicium. This luminous “fishing rod” serves as a captivating beacon, irresistibly drawing in its unsuspecting prey. When a prey comes into its reach, the coffinfish swiftly ensnares its prey using its sizable mouth with razor-sharp teeth.

Coffinfish is laying on the sea bed

The coffinfish often eat small fish and crustaceans. However, it also takes on larger prey such as diminutive squids, mantis shrimp, and the occasional unfortunate turtle or seabird that ventures too near. Its stretchable stomach allows it to consume the prey that surpasses several times its own size.

Despite its fearsome appearance and formidable hunting skills, the coffinfish is not dangerous to us. Its isolated habitat makes encountering one in the wild virtually impossible.

Although this species is quite scary, it has predators like the cow shark. To protect itself, the fish use a distinctive defense mechanism like pufferfish. It swells its body by ingesting seawater into its expansive gill chambers, turning into a spiky, unwelcome balloon. This big and prickly look makes it a far less enticing prey for the cow shark, affording the coffinfish a chance to get away.

They can hold their breath for 4 minutes

The coffinfish boasts a remarkable ability to hold its breath for an astonishing 4 minutes. This is a survival tactic of this incredible species for the deep sea.

In the deep sea, where oxygen and food are rare, the coffinfish has developed a way to save it. It inflates its body with water, expanding its gill chambers. This adaptation enables the fish to ingest substantial amounts of oxygen and retain it over extended durations.

This reserved oxygen is used for essential activities such as hunting and reproduction. By minimizing motion and depending on the ability to hold its breath, the fish maximizes the use of its limited resources. This is why the creature is often mistaken as being lazy.

This skill of holding one’s breath is not exclusive to this fish alone. Catfish, Weddell seals, sperm whales, and elephant seals also boast remarkable breath-holding capabilities. Yet, what sets the coffinfish apart is its inflated body and its reliance on this technique for a prolonged period.

So, next time, when you get stuck, remember that even in the darkest corners of the ocean, life finds a way to flourish.

Life cycle

Coffinfish reproduction starts at the bottom of the ocean, where they deposit an impressive multitude of eggs arranged in floating, ribbon-esque formations. This approach has 2 purposes: first, it facilitates the eggs’ drift across extensive distances, enabling them to locate ideal feeding grounds for the larvae; second, it guarantees a sufficient number of descendants to sustain the fish lineage.

After the eggs hatch, these see-through, round larvae set out on a risky upward journey, moving towards reaching the ocean’s surface where they indulge in the plankton-rich waters. They can be easily attacked by many predators.

If the young survive through this stage, they will go back to the ocean floor, undergoing a stunning metamorphosis. Their bodies expand and become more vivid, exchanging their previous translucency for vibrant colors. The lifespan of coffinfish can last for about 25 years.

The fish is not listed as an Endangered species, thanks to its widespread presence, preference for secure habitats on the ocean floor, and the lack of attention from commercial fisheries.



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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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