Lumpfish

Cyclopterus lumpus

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Nonnative

  • Habitat

    These saltwater fish are found in waters that range from 140 to 490 feet deep. When spawning, they come closer inshore. They generally stick to rocky bottoms but can also be found among seaweed.

  • Range

    Lumpfish occur along both coasts of the North Atlantic, but only occasionally come as far south at the Chesapeake Bay in the winter and early spring.

  • Diet

    Jellyfish, crustaceans, marine worms and small fish

  • Lifespan

    Six to seven years in the wild

  • Status

    Stable

Lumpfish are saltwater fish, generally living in the North Atlantic but occasionally coming as far south as the Chesapeake Bay. They have a skin-covered fin that gives them a high crest on their backs, and they have three rows of bony protrusions on their sides.

Appearance

Lumpfish can vary in color, but they are usually greenish or gray. During the spawning season, males become reddish on their undersides and females turn blue-green. Their first dorsal fin on their backs is covered by a thick layer of skin, creating their characteristic high crest without visible spines. Along their sides, lumpfish have three rows of large, bony protrusions called tubercles. Their pelvic fins are shaped to act like suction discs, allowing the fish to attach itself to rocks and other objects.

They can grow to be as large as two feet in length and weigh up to 21 pounds. In the wild, lumpfish live to be between six and seven years old, but the oldest known lumpfish was 13 years old.

Feeding

Lumpfish eat jellyfish, crustaceans, marine worms and small fish.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

These are solitary, not schooling fish. Lumpfish come inshore to spawn from May to June. The males guard the egg masses after they are laid, and they can be as large as 300,000 eggs.

Did You Know?

  • The lumpfish gets its scientific name Cyclopterus from the Greek kyklos, meaning “round,” and pteron, meaning “fin.”
  • Lumpfish are also known as lumpsuckers.
  • People in northern Europe eat smoked lumpfish, and they are highly valued for their eggs which can make an inexpensive caviar.

Sources and Additional Information

  • FAO FishFinder – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes by C. Richard Robins, G. Carleton Ray and John Douglass
  • FishBase – R. Froese and D. Pauly
  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Fish: Lumpfish – NatureGate

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Nonnative

  • Habitat

    These saltwater fish are found in waters that range from 140 to 490 feet deep. When spawning, they come closer inshore. They generally stick to rocky bottoms but can also be found among seaweed.

  • Range

    Lumpfish occur along both coasts of the North Atlantic, but only occasionally come as far south at the Chesapeake Bay in the winter and early spring.

  • Diet

    Jellyfish, crustaceans, marine worms and small fish

  • Lifespan

    Six to seven years in the wild

  • Status

    Stable