Moonfish - a stranger in the seas

It can reach 4 meters tall, its flesh is appreciated by some cultures.

A strange fish of extraordinary size can be found in the creepy and warm temperate seas of the Atlantic and Pacific. Its scientific name Mola mola, this is the moonfish.

Registered as the largest bone fish of all, it can reach up to 3 meters long, 4 meters tall and weigh over 2 tons. Its silhouette is circular and totally different from that of its relatives.

Another thing that differs from others are their fins. Instead of being on the side of his body, they are in the dorsal and anal area, causing the fish to move about slowly. They are often quite large and therefore while rising to the surface of the sea, they can be confused with sharks.

Moonfish in an aquarium

When it reaches the top of the water, the moonfish floats in order to stay warm with the sun. That's because they get tired and then cold every time they plunge into the immense depths in search of food (zooplankton and small fish).

Not only because of its size, this fish also calls attention for being a great carrier of parasites. Scientists have identified about 50 different species, between internal and external parasites in their bodies.

Due to its slow way of moving, the moonfish is easily captured by other animals (sharks) or even by man. Their flesh is appreciated by some in cookery by some cultures, although they contain several toxins.

It is very high in mercury levels, and adults are not recommended to eat more than one serving per month. Additionally, they may be contaminated with a toxin that causes ciguatera, a serious foodborne illness that improves with time, but has no cure.

Ciguatera is found in tropical reef fish, and cannot be cooked out of food. The fish has to be tested for the presence of this toxin. If eating this fish, consume small portions and select smaller-sized fish to avoid the more serious side effects of this toxin.


Information about this disease may be found here. 

Two of these specimens are exhibited in the central tank of the Oceanarium in Lisbon, Portugal.


Translated from the Portuguese version by:

Lisa Karpova


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Author`s name Lisa Karpova