bellows fish

Bellows Fish: The Snipefishes of the Deep Sea

Bellows Fish: The Snipefishes of the Deep Sea

Bellows fish is a common name for snipefishes, a group of about 18 species of marine fishes in the family Centriscidae. They are found in deeper tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans.

Snipefishes are small deep-bodied fishes that grow to 30 cm (12 inches) in length. They are commonly silver, pink, purple, or red and swim in a head-down position. They have long, narrow, tubular snouts that end in a small toothless mouth. Snipefishes often bear a partial coating of armoured plates along the back. They spawn pelagic (that is, open-ocean drifting) eggs that do not receive parental care.

Snipefishes are often referred to as “bellows fish” because of their resemblance to a hand-driven bellows. Snipefishes possess an erect dorsal fin that contains several spines. The longest of these spines and the fish’s tail appear to form the “handles” of the bellows, whereas the fish’s tubular snout forms the “nozzle.”

There are three genera of snipefishes: Centriscops, Macrorhamphosus, and Notopogon. Although all are typically placed in the family Centriscidae, some classifications place these genera in the family Macroramphosidae.

Snipefishes are not of much commercial importance, but they are sometimes caught as bycatch or for aquarium trade. They are also fascinating subjects for scientific research, as they have unique adaptations to living in deep-sea environments.


  1. Elanor Bell; Amanda Vincent; The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2022). “Snipefish | Description, Habitat, & Facts”. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  2. “Lophius americanus – Wikipedia”. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  3. “Notopogon – Wikipedia”. Retrieved 2023-05-04.

Adaptations of Snipefishes


Snipefishes have several adaptations that help them survive in the deep-sea environments. Some of these adaptations are:

  • Camouflage: Snipefishes can blend in with their surroundings by swimming in a head-down position and mimicking coral or seagrasses. They also have a transparent body that makes them less visible to predators and prey.
  • Ambush predation: Snipefishes use their long, tubular snouts to suck in small crustaceans and other planktonic organisms. They can also extend their mouths to catch larger prey. They have strong teeth and spines to hold on to their prey.
  • Pelagic eggs: Snipefishes spawn pelagic eggs that are attached to a floating mucus veil. This protects the eggs from predators and allows them to drift with the currents. The eggs hatch after 6 to 100 days, depending on the sea temperature, and remain protected within the veil for a few days.
  • Deep-water distribution: Snipefishes are found at depths of 25 to 600 m (82 to 1,969 ft), where they face less competition and predation from other fishes. They can also tolerate low temperatures and high pressures in the deep sea.

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