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Toadfish species are found in the family Batrachoididae in the order Batrachoidiformes. Toadfishes will typically inhabit sandy and muddy marine bottoms and are found in many different parts of the world. There are however a few toadfish species that live in freshwater, including Daector quadrizonatus that is found in the River Arato in Colombia, and Thalassophryne amazonica that is native to the River Amazon.

Shared characteristics among the toadfish species are the broad head and a drab coloration. Their resemblance to toads is what has given them their name. Toadfishes can also make a characteristic sound using their swim bladder. Most toadfish species are without scales. They have large heads with a large mouth, and the eyes are set high. The pelvic fins of the toadfish are forward of the pectoral fins, and are usually located under the gills.

If you encounter a toadfish from the genus Thalassophryninae, you should keep in mind that this fish is poisonous. It has one dorsal spine on each opercle and two dorsal spines, and these four spines are all hollow and connected to venom glands. The poison is potent enough to cause a painful wound. Another interesting group of toadfishes are those found in the genus Porichthys, the so called Midshipman fishes. These fishes are equipped with photophores; light-emitting organs that forms glowing spots on their body.

One of the most well known toadfish species is the Oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau. It is not an appreciated game or food fish, but will make an interesting aquarium inhabitant and is sometimes sold as “Ugly toad”. It has even been kept in aquariums by NASA since this fish has fluid-filled aural canals that are similar to those found in other vertebrates. NASA has therefore used the Oyster toadfish to study how microgravity might affect the balance system and the development of otolithic (balance) organs. Two Oyster toadfishes from Woods Hole in Massachusetts participated in a shuttle mission that also brought Senator John Glenn and five other astronauts into space. The fluid-filled aural canals of the Oyster toadfish have linings covered with cilia. These cilia are sensitive enough to sense when calcium carbonate crystals move. When the cilia detect a movement, it will pass this information on to the brain.

If you keep an Oyster toadfish in your aquarium, you can feed it small feeder fish, molluscs, squids, crustaceans and amphipods. The Oyster toadfish is an omnivorous ambush feeder that will stay hidden in the muddy or sandy bottom until a suitable prey ventures close enough.

An Oyster toadfish can grow up to 38 centimetres, but this is uncommon, most Oyster toadfish specimens will not grow larger than 30 centimetres. The body is slimy and has a ragged appearance that functions as camouflage. The coloration is yellowish and the body is decorated with a brown oblique bar. In the wild, this fish will survive even under harsh conditions and can stay alive on a very poor diet.

To attract females, the male Oyster toadfish will use his “foghorn”. During the mating season, the male fish produces a sound with this specialized organ and this sound makes it possible for the females to find him and the nest. The breeding period for Oyster toadfish begins in April and ends in October. The female Oyster toadfish will deposit her eggs in a nest and immediately leave them. The male will then fertilize the eggs and protect them from harm. The eggs are comparatively large from the beginning and will hatch after roughly one month. The hatched offspring will not learn to swim until they have fully consumed their yolk sac. The male Oyster toadfish continues to watch over his offspring even after they have become free swimming.

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