The Garish Galapagos Red-Lipped Batfish

The Galapagos red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini) is a garish creature with an affinity for using entirely too much bright red lipstick, probably in an attempt to over-compensate from its odd appearance.

It is an unusual looking fish found on flat or gently sloping sandy bottoms usually at depths of 21 to 26 meters (70 to 85 feet). When the batfish reaches adulthood, its dorsal fin becomes a single spine-like projection that lures unsuspecting prey. These fish are not good swimmers; and often use their pectoral fins to “walk” on the ocean floor. If startled, they will lift off from the bottom and swim awkwardly through the water in a waddling motion.

There are a few dive sites in the Galapagos that almost always produce close-up photo ops of the batfish. These include the two protected anchorages at Wolf island, one located on the leeward (west) side of the island and the other on the north end of the island in the channel between Wolf and the North Islet.


It doesn’t take long to find a specimen or two perched provocatively on their “leg-like” pectoral fins. Get low on the sand and approach them very slowly or they will get spooked and swim awkwardly away. It is helpful to have your dive-buddy approach them first from the opposite direction and use a spotter light to mark where they are. This “usually” causes the batfish to turn away from the spotter and face the lens for a frontal shot. It also gives the photographer sufficient light to focus on the subject. You can also frequently find these critters on the sand slope at Punta Vicente Roca situated on the west side of Isabella Island.