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For most of us, outside of photos in books or on the Internet, our first encounter with a Frogfish takes place in our local aquarium store. Unless you spotted their price tag, it is unlikely you even spotted the Frogfish the first time you peeked into the dealer's aquarium. Perhaps a store employee had to point it out to you, or perhaps its camouflage didn't match the aquarium's décor and it stood out like a sore thumb. Regardless of how you saw it, chances are good that you sat there and stared in wonder for a good long while, before finding your child or significant other to point it out to as well.

I can't say I know anyone who wouldn't be mesmerized by the sight of a Frogfish - once he figured out what it was. They are so strange and abnormal looking that they typically require minute-long gazes, yet they are as simple and complete as a highly effective and efficient predator can be. They do not need to possess razor-sharp teeth or be able to swim 70mph. Capturing prey is pretty simple for them - with camouflage as detailed in design and application as Ghost Pipefish, they just sit and wait. Sit and wait. Sit and wait.

Assisting with their at-ease predatory lifestyle is a unique first dorsal spine, which acts a fishing rod with an attached lure. With more skill than a retired ice-fisherman, a Frogfish dangles, jigs and teases small fish within its vicinity to come within striking distance. With curiosity the prey comes closer to inspect the Frogfish's esca, or lure, until the fateful moment when the Frogfish springs from its modified pectoral fins to swallow the prey whole.

For hours, and perhaps even days, a Frogfish sits motionless, waiting for prey to happen by. In an aquarium this is perhaps a bit of an annoyance at times. "Doesn't it do anything?" your less than enthralled houseguest will inquire, followed by, "It is," as your reply. Assuming your houseguest is less knowledgeable than your run-of-the-mill fish geek, this is promptly followed by an, "Oh," another moment or two of gazing into the tank, then a change of subject.

But us geeks (and you know who you are) can stare in amazement at this motionless piece of prey-capturing sponge for hours on end. If we expect to see it move, we may just have to.

For more information, check out Zubi's Frogfish website.

Text by Henry C. Schultz III. Photos by Reef Central members.
A special thanks goes out to Cheri Phillips (Reefcherie)
for her assistance on this project.

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