The Splendid Toadfish

The splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus) has to be my favorite critter in Cozumel.

The creature was thought by many to be endemic to this small island off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, but it has been spotted in nearby locations including the shallows of Playa Del Carmen on the mainland as well as in Belize and Honduras.

Splendid-toadfish

Unlike the other members of the toadfish family, the splendid toadfish is distinctive for its vibrant colors. With the exception of its pelvic fins, all of the fish’s fins are bordered with bright yellow coloring and the fins and body have very distinctive striped patterns. The toadfish has a wide, compressed head with whisker-like appendages called barbells.

This species is commonly found under coral outcroppings in caves and crevices. And as is the case with most fish that dwell close to the sand, the splendid toadfish has eyes on the top of its head that look directly upwards. Small and sharp teeth fill its wide, powerful jaws.

The best place to look for splendid toadfish in Cozumel is on the outer sides of shallow, low profile strip reefs like Paradise Reef. Get close to the sandy bottom, swim slowly and peer under ledges to look for the fish. During the daytime, the creature can be found peeking from caves and crevices underneath low ledges on the sandy bottom. Splendid toadfish are pretty difficult to coax from their dens during the day, but at night they can frequently be seen hunting out in the open. Since the fish is a nocturnal hunter, night dives are a good time to spot it. Look for toadfish prowling the reef in search of small fishes, snails and polychaete worms. As long as you let your dive guides know that you’re interested in photographing the creature you should have plenty of opportunities to get images.