How Can Some Fish Be Bad At Swimming? It Works For Seahorses, Frogfish, and Other Marine Species

Source: National Geographic/Liz Langley

Photo: Naomi Tamar/Unsplash


Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly,” Jerome Kern wrote in a Broadway love song—but while it’s sweet as a lyric, it’s not entirely true.

Not only are there plenty of awesome birds that can’t fly, like ostriches and penguins, but a number of fish don’t swim as well as you’d think. That made us wonder: Why is it that some fish wouldn’t medal in swimming?

It turns out they all have their reasons for investing their energy elsewhere.

Slow But Sure

When it comes to fish, “slow swimmers tend to be those that don’t need to swim quickly or efficiently,” says Selina Heppell, head of the department of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University. This includes ambush predators that get the jump on prey without knocking themselves out.

Seahorses’ unique body shape makes them some of the slowest fish in the sea, for instance, but they’re incredibly fast predators as long as the waters around them are still. They eat copepods, tiny crustaceans that can flee in as little as two millisecond.

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Photo: Naomi Tamar/Unsplash

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