There is truth behind the idea that something can be so ugly it’s cute. One animal that certainly fits this philosophy is the humble frogfish. Frogfish are a favorite encounter amongst divers whenever encountered. For a fish that is known for blending in and rarely moving, they have become a much sought after critter for divers. In fact, the frogfish is one of the most requested critter encounters our guides receive.
Frogfish are a short and squat bottom dwelling fish that have perfected the art of camouflage. They can be found throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world. Ranging in size from 2.5 cm to over 30cm, they come in a variety of size and shapes. Typically the female is much larger than the male and she will produce eggs which the male fertilizes after. The male must do this quickly or he risks being eaten by the large female.
As ambush predators, frogfish rely on their ability to blend in with their surroundings. With an ability to remain motionless for hours on end, frogfish have perfected this strategy. They even have the ability to change colour to blend in with their surroundings. Unlike a chameleon, it takes days or weeks for them to change. Once they have done so, they will likely remain in the same area for a long time. It’s not only their colour that helps them hide. Frogfish often have warts, lumps or hair that helps as well.
One of the most interesting species of frogfish is the hairy frogfish. There are two species which are often called hairy: Antennarius striatus and Antennarius hispidus (the shaggy frogfish). These two have longer appendages protruding from their skin which look similar to hair. Each of these species are found in a variety of colors including a dramatic looking black colouration.
In Bali, we have a large variety of frogfish throughout the dive sites of the island. From the coral reefs of Nusa Penida to the black sand sites of Tulamben, they are plentiful. Of course the different habitats are normally home to different species. Giant frogfish are found on both coral and sand sites, whereas some of the more cryptic species are specialized. Particular sites that are good for encounters include Secret Bay, Melasti, and the pier at Candidasa. Ranging in size from tiny juveniles to football sized, it’s always difficult to choose the best lens as you never know what size fish may appear.
Photographing these charismatic fish is a good challenge. They are not technically difficult to shoot, as they mainly sit in one place. However, it can be a challenge for to photograph one in a way that it stands out from the background. This is where lighting comes into play. A variety of methods can be used to photograph them: from using a snoot, shooting super macro or even with a wide angle set up. There are many techniques to experiment with other than the standard macro portrait photo. Check out this short tutorial on different lighting techniques for shooting underwater.