7 Fish That Sting (Here’s How They Look)

Fish that stings

Aquarium fish are usually attractive, colorful, and harmless. But there are fish that can give you a nasty sting.

Here are seven of them…

7 Fish That Can Sting You

1. Stingrays

Image of a Stingray

Stingrays are a type of cartilaginous fish related to sharks.

They’re found worldwide in the coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters.

They often burrow under the sand in the shallow waters and swim in open waters.

Stingrays have a distinct physical appearance with a diamond-shaped flattened body and a long tail fin used primarily for protection.

Stingrays’ venomous stinger is located at the tip of their tail. However, they don’t use their stinger to catch prey.

Stingrays are usually non-aggressive and don’t attack humans.

They sting in self-defense and attack only when disturbed or stepped on accidentally by unaware swimmers.

A stingray will whip its tail to sting you.

The spines on its tail will pierce your skin, and the sheath around each spine will break and inject venom into the wound and surrounding tissues.

These fish often sting people on their feet, legs, and ankles. But sometimes, they can sting on other body parts too.

Stingray stings usually cause immediate, intense pain. The pain can last as long as two days.

Additional symptoms include inflammation, bleeding, redness, or blue coloration around the wound.

Some people stung by stingrays have also experienced weakness, dizziness, and muscle cramp.

While wild stingrays can sting, captive stingrays are safe as their stingers or barbs are removed.

2. Scorpionfish


Scorpionfish belong to the Scorpaenidae family.

They’re widespread in temperate and tropical areas but primarily found in Indo-Pacific.

They blend well along the coral reefs in their natural habitat.

As their name suggests, these fish have a type of string in the form of sharp spines covered with venomous mucus.

They mostly sting predators to defend themselves. However, they usually don’t attack humans.

Stings to humans can occur while they handle scorpionfish. Their stings cause intense pain and swelling at the site of the sting.

The venom can also spread to other parts of the body.

Hence, immediate medical attention is required if you get stung by one of these fish.

3. Stonefish

Image of stonefish

Stonefish is a genus of ray-finned fish belonging to the Scorpaenidae family. They inhabit the coastal regions of the Indo-Pacific.

Stonefish are one of the most dangerous and venomous fish.

They have thirteen stout spines in their dorsal fins having the capacity to inject a highly toxic venom.

Stonefish appear like rocks and live among rocks on coral reefs. They camouflage themselves so well that it’s difficult to spot them.

Besides, they also sit outside the water for several hours during low tide.

Hence, your chances of stepping on one of them are very high.

Stonefish can sting humans if they step on them accidentally or when caught by anglers.

They have sharp spines that can pierce through a soft-soled shoe.

The pain caused by the sting is excruciating, causes swelling, and lasts for weeks or can even take months for a full recovery.

Their sting can even be fatal if not treated immediately.

4. Weeverfish


Weeverfish are found all over Europe and in the East Atlantic Ocean, including the Mediterranean sea.

They’re up to 37 cm in length and mainly brown.

These fish inhabit the warm waters of the shallow areas just below the low tide mark.

Weeverfish nestle and hide in the sand to safeguard themselves from potential predators.

They also spend considerable time outside the water and therefore can be found anywhere along the beach.

These fish have spines along their back that are needle sharp. They inject venom from their long spines into their prey.

As these fish lie buried in the sand on the beaches, they’re almost invisible to humans.

Hence, most people get stings from these fish while standing on the sand barefoot or while bathing, fishing, or handling the fish.

Their stings are quite painful but not fatal.

Common symptoms include itching, swelling, numbness, joint aches, and occasional vomiting.

5. Lionfish


Lionfish are one of the most dangerous fish in the ocean.

They’re native to coral reefs in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region.

They’re popular aquarium fish due to their distinct appearance.

While these fish aren’t aggressive, they can sting humans accidentally if they perceive humans as predators.

Lionfish have venomous spine-like fins located at the anal, dorsal, and pelvic regions.

They use their fins or spines as self-defense to ward off predators.

Although not fatal, their sting is painful and can be dangerous to children, the elderly, or people with allergies.

Hence, using a hand net and wearing gloves while handling them is advisable.

6. Catfish


Catfish are a diverse group of ray-finned fish.

Extant catfish species inhabit every continent’s coastal or inland waters, except Antarctica.

They’re most diverse in tropical South America, Africa, and Asia, with one family in Europe and one native to North America.

These fish are called catfish because their barbels resemble a cat’s whiskers.

Catfish don’t have true stingers. However, they can sting with their dorsal and pectoral spines.

Many catfish species also contain venom glands at the base of their spines.

Venomous catfish have a sharp and stout sting in front of a soft-rayed portion of their dorsal and pectoral fins.

Although catfish can sting, they usually don’t sting unless threatened.

Stings are more common in saltwater catfish than in freshwater catfish.

Young catfish are more toxic than the older ones.

Young catfish spines are pointed and sharp in contrast to older ones, which are dull and harmless.

The sting of a catfish isn’t fatal at all. The pain usually lasts for a few hours and then subsides.

However, the problem can be the secondary infection that can sometimes result from the sting.

7. Rabbitfish

Foxface rabbitfish

Rabbitfish belong to the family Siganidae and are native to the Indo-Pacific and Mediterranean seas.

These fish are usually found in shallow tropical waters.

They live in areas near shore among seagrasses or hidden among coral rubble.

They’re called rabbitfish because of their rabbit-like snout and habit of grazing on seaweeds.

Most rabbitfish are herbivores and primarily feed on algae and other plants.

They have spines on their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins and contain venom glands.

These fish use their spines in self-defense and not for catching prey.

Rabbitfish don’t hurt humans on purpose. If you get accidentally stung by them, it can be painful but not fatal.

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