Record Breaking Fish: Nine Incredible Aquatic Creatures

Need to know the fastest fish? The longest fish? We’ve got all that covered and more with this guide to record breaking fish

The oceans are full of strange and incredible fish, from 20 tonne giants to bizarre deep sea creatures. Here are some of the really remarkable fish – the record breakers.

From the longest to the heaviest and the fish that can survive the longest out of water, we’ve got the main record breaking fish listed here.


The massive whale shark

Throughout the years there have been countless exaggerated tales of fish reaching massive lengths. However, not all of these stories can be believed. The longest fish scientifically documented was a whale shark in the Arabian Sea that measured a whopping 18.8 metres (61 feet and 8 inches). There are reports of the mysterious giant oarfish reaching up to 30 metres (98 feet) in length but due to the fish’s elusive nature they are hard to authenticate. The few oarfish that have been measured more commonly reach only about 3-6 metres (10-20 feet).


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The record whale shark in Karachi

Once again, the whale shark wins by a long shot. The largest one ever caught weighed in at 21,500 kilos (47,000 pounds). This monster was caught off the coast of Pakistan in 1947, and is still displayed at the Marine Fisheries Department in Karachi.

This enormous weight makes the whale shark one of the largest fish to ever exist, and indisputably the largest alive today and the record breaking fish in terms of weight.


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A sailfish hunting. Courtesy of Paul Nicklen, National Geographic.

The record breaking fish in terms of speed is the Indo-Pacific sailfish. Despite its large size (100 kilos/220 pounds) the sailfish is incredibly agile, and can reach speeds of 110 kilometres per hour (about 70 miles per hour) for short periods of time. The black marlin and swordfish take the second and third spot respectively, with evidence suggesting that they can both reach almost 100 kilometres per hour (60 miles per hour).


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The snailfish found at 8336 below sea level. Courtesy of the University of Western Australia.

The record breaking fish for survival at depth is the snailfish. In early 2023, scientists exploring a trench near Japan were astounded to discover a snailfish at a depth of 8.3 kilometres (5.1 miles) below surface level. This discovery shocked the scientific world, as there was now irrefutable video proof of fish existing at depths that most experts believed were impossible to survive. There had previously been some evidence of cusk eels living at similar depths, but many dismissed it as unreliable. Both snailfish and cusk eels are built to survive the crushing pressure and complete lack of sunlight that come with life in the deep sea, and continue to amaze experts by living their entire lives at depths that they physically shouldn’t be able to survive.

Most Poisonous/Venomous

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The well-camoflaged stonefish (top) and pufferfish (bottom)

For this record it’s important to understand the difference between a poisonous and venomous animal. Poisonous animals must be touched or eaten to deliver their poison, while venomous animals inject their toxins. The most poisonous fish is the pufferfish. There are many types of pufferfish, and some are deadlier than others. Just 2 milligrams of the tiger pufferfish’s potent tetrodotoxin (which is 1200 times stronger than cyanide) is enough to kill an adult man. The most venomous fish in the sea is the Indian stonefish, which disguise themselves as rocks in order to hunt, and as a result are very difficult to spot. They inject venom into anyone unlucky enough to step on them through their 13 sharp spines. It only takes 18 milligrams of their venom to kill someone.


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The mysterious Greenland shark. Courtesy of Nick Caloyianis, National Geographic.

The oldest fish in the ocean, without a doubt, is the Greenland shark – the clear record breaking fish in this category. These ancient creatures can grow to be hundreds of years old. However, there is some debate as to exactly how old they can live to be. The oldest verified age is an incredible 392 years.

However, reports suggest that 500 and even 600 year old Greenland sharks exist. These claims aren’t as outlandish as they may seem at first. Many experts believe that there are several Greenland sharks over the age of 500 swimming through the Arctic Ocean, but since they mainly inhabit the deep sea, they are very difficult to study.

Longest Survival Without Water

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The lungfish, a type of fish with primitive lungs, is seemingly designed to break this record. When the water level lowers, this remarkable fish burrows into the ground, creates a cocoon around itself, plugs the entrance to its burrow with mud and enters a dormant state. Two types of African lungfish can survive for up to four years in this state.


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The Devils Hole pupfish. Courtesy of Olin Feuerbacher.

The Devils Hole pupfish is the rarest fish, being only found in Devils Hole, a cave in Nevada. It’s unknown how this fish ended up in Devils Hole and how long ago it evolved. What we do know is that the US government monitors the Devils Hole pupfish extensively, and counts how many pupfish there are in Devils Hole twice every year. In September 2022 there were only 263 left. Still, this is a massive increase from just 35 in 2013.

Longest Flight

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The flying fish mid-flight. Courtesy of Brent Barnes.

While no fish is capable of true flight, the flying fish comes pretty damn close. This fish has been filmed remaining airborne for an unbelievable 45 seconds, and travelling 400 metres (1312 feet) in a single flight. They ‘fly’ by leaping out of the water at high speeds, then spreading their large pectoral fins. These fins catch air in the same way that wings do, allowing the flying fish to soar for hundreds of metres at a time.


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