Lanternfish: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Read these lanternfish facts about this fish found in the depth of seas around the world.

The species of lanternfish, also called Symbolophorus barnardi, is a deep-sea fish that gets its name from its light-producing ability. The light is given off by little organs called photophores.

The lanternfish can be found in all the open oceans in the world. Lanternfish contribute to over 65% of the biomass in the deep-sea layer, also called the deep scattering layer.

A chemical action within the photophores provides light, and this chemical phenomenon is called bioluminescence, wherein they glow. It is the same phenomenon exhibited by fireflies as well. The photophores are on the lanternfish's head, underside, and tail. These light organs help illuminate light that allows this fish to attract small fish that it preys on.

Let's have a look at these interesting facts, and if you like these, do read our redbreast sunfish facts and clownfish facts.=


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Shrimp, Fish Eggs, Fish Larvae

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

100-2000 eggs

How much do they weigh?

0.02 lb (12.11 g)

How long are they?

1-6 in (2.5-15 cm)

How tall are they?

6 ft (1.8 m)

What do they look like?

Silver, Green

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Humans, Predators

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Seas and oceans


Open oceans of the world





Scientific Name





Not known

Lanternfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a lanternfish?

Lanternfish are small deep-sea fish of the large family Myctophidae.

What class of animal does a lanternfish belong to?

These deep-sea light-producing lanternfish belong to the class Actinopterygii.

How many lanternfish are there in the world?

There are about 250-300 different species of lanternfish.

Where do lanternfish live?

Lantern fish live most of their lives 3,000 ft (0.914 km) under the surface of the oceans. These lanternfish swim up nearer to the surface in the dark to seek food, abundant larger organisms, and to avoid predators.

What is a lanternfish's habitat?

The different species' preferable areas are the ocean surface, lakes, ponds with gravel, sand, or bedrock bottoms. They can be found at 1,200-3,000 ft (360-914 m) sea level. These fish occupy the twilight zone, which is the deep-sea layer with very little sunlight. With increasing latitude in the water and decreasing temperature, these fish are capable of developing more.

Who do lanternfish live with?

Lanternfish live with fish from the same family, Myctophidae. They live in groups called schools or shoals.

How long does a lanternfish live?

Giant lanternfish live up to three or four years.

How do they reproduce?

Lanternfish do not guard their eggs once they drop them. Lanternfish females drop their eggs into the water column as a splurt. These eggs are then fertilized externally by the males. Up to 2,000 eggs can be released by each fish.

What is their conservation status?

Lantern fish are considered to be of Least Concern by the IUCN.

Lanternfish Fun Facts

What do Lanternfish look like?

Lanternfish glow because these fish species have photophores that help them emit blue or green light in the open ocean.

Lantern fish usually have a sleek body coated with tiny, silvery cycloid scales. They have a big rounded head, giant elliptical to spherical eyes, and a big mouth with jaws set with rows of tiny teeth. The fins are usually tiny, with one high dorsal fin, a forked caudal fin, and a fatty fin. The anal fin is supported by a cartilaginous plate at its base and comes after the rear part of the fin. Most soft-finned fish have a gal bladder. However, it degenerates or fills with lipids when the species mature in the ocean.

In all but one species, the Taaningichthys paurolychnus, lanternfish photophores (light-producing organs) are present. Some may have these photophores near the eyes or near the bottom of the fins. The photophores emit an ambient light that is a weak blue, green, or traffic signal. These lights emitted can follow species-specific patterns. In some species, the pattern varies between males and females also.

How cute are they?

They are fascinating because of the way they radiate light through their photophores in the depth of the ocean amidst biomass, though we wouldn't necessarily call them cute!

How do they communicate?

Lantern fish uses bioluminescence through photophores for camouflage. They have light organs that act as a beacon for communication. In the ocean waters, they use these lights to attract small fish that they prey on and communicate with other lanternfish while mating.

How big is a lanternfish?

Lantern fish are typically tiny, about 0.79 to 11.81 in (2-30 cm) long, with most being less than 5.9 in ( 15 cm).

How fast can a lanternfish swim?

Lanternfish can swim very fast to escape predators, however, their exact speed is not known.

How much does a lanternfish weigh?

A lanternfish weighs 0.02 lb (12.11 g) on average.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to the male and female of the species.

What would you call a baby lanternfish?

There are no specific names given to baby lanternfish.

What do they eat?

Lanternfish follow the diel vertical migration where they feed during the night and migrate during the day. These carnivores tend to feed on food like planktonic animals at a depth from the surface of 1300 ft (400 m).

These fish are a major supply of food for several marine predators, being heavily preyed upon by whales and dolphins, massive water fish like salmon, tuna, sharks, grenadiers, and other sea fish (including blue lanternfish).

Are they eaten by humans?

Humans do not eat these light-producing fishes as food because they are typically deep-sea fish and many regulatory bodies warn against consuming these fishes.

Would they make a good pet?

They would not make good pets because they are deep-sea fishes, and we wouldn't be able to provide them with an ideal environment.

Did you know...

Lanternfish use bioluminescence via their photophores to shield themselves from predators. By making their bodies glow, their silhouette becomes less visible.

Lanternfish are famous for their diel vertical migrations.

Sampling by deep trawling tells us that lanternfish species account for 65% of all deep-sea fish biomass.

Anglerfish use their outgrowth to attract their prey, whereas lanternfish use bioluminescence to lure in their prey. They are two different fish types.

What are some other names for a lanternfish?

Lanternfish are also referred to as myctophids.

What are the adaptations for a lanternfish?

Sensitivity- The lanternfish's vision is generally poor because these mesopelagic organisms live in dim surroundings, but their eyes have adapted to be extra sensitive. To constantly reinforce sensitivity, lanternfishes possess many visual diversifications that optimize light absorption.

Acuity And Specialization- As a necessary trade-off for their high sensitivity, myctophids have terrible acuity, meaning their peripheral perception of their surroundings is very poor. When there is a school of lanternfish, you should know they stick together only when they need to support each other.

Sexual Dimorphism- A novel retinal adaptation was found in 10 species of lanternfish out of 61 analyzed, all from the Myctophinae taxon. They developed a yellow pigmentation that acted as a filter, absorbing smaller wavelengths of light waves.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including conger eel facts, or neon tetra facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Lanternfish coloring pages.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.
No items found.