Fish are one of the main sources of food to many different species, with some species eating exclusively fish. Animals eat fish primarily because of the protein it provides them with, but also because they’re plentiful and often easy to catch.
Learn what animals eat fish from the list below:
- Fishing Spiders
- Bulldog Bats
- Flat-headed Cats
- Grizzly Bears
- Bald Eagles
- Aquatic Genets
- American Minks
- Other Fish
- Sea Lions
- Bottlenose Dolphin
1. Fishing Spiders
Scientific name (genus): Dolomedes
Appropriately named, fishing spiders are insects that eat fish. It might seem weird at first, since most fish are much heavier than spiders (not to mention that they’re underwater), but these spiders have developed an interesting technique.
They’ll wait near the surface of the water and when they see a ripple, they’ll run on water to subdue the fish with their strong front legs. Then, they inject the venom and eat the prey.
Even though they primarily eat insects, larger members of this genus have been documented to actually catch and eat fish!
2. Bulldog Bats
Scientific name (family): Noctilionidae
First spiders, now bats. Yes, these flying rodents eat fish, and they’ve become quite good at catching it. They use their supreme hearing to locate the fish via echolocation.
Then, the bat will fly above water with their talons hanging below the surface. The animal uses its talons as a hook, similar to a fishing hook, to catch fish. In a single night, they can catch up to 30 small fishes this way.
3. Flat-headed Cats
Scientific name: Prionailurus planiceps
These wild cats, which are unfortunately endangered, feed almost exclusively on fish. Animals captured in the wild were found to have processed fish in their stomachs.
Sometimes, they’ll also feed on frogs, rats and chicken – but that’s rare. They’re also very intelligent, as they usually take their fish away from the shore once they catch them to prevent a possible escape.
Scientific name: Panthera tigris
There’s an untrue rumor going around that cats avoid water at all costs. That certainly isn’t true in the case of the tiger. The largest cat in the world is more than willing to take a dive to catch a fish.
These cats eat fish just as gladly as any other food, and they’re not afraid of swimming, nor are they afraid of being pulled into the water. Their immensely powerful jaws are usually strong enough to kill a fish in a single bite.
Fish are an inexhaustible source of food for them and they usually need about 10 pounds of food a day.
5. Grizzly Bears
Scientific name: Ursus arctos horribilis
Grizzly bears are a big fan of fish and the sight of them catching salmon with their mouth as they jump the rapids is a sight to behold. These massive animals also eat trout and bass.
Fish is more important to the diet of the grizzly bear than some people think. Bears with access to a more protein-rich diet (this most often means bears in coastal areas) will grow to be larger than inland bears!
6. Bald Eagles
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
These animals are also known as the “sea eagle”, it’s not shocking that these birds eat fish. Although they’ll often eat other fish and small mammals, fish comprise over 50% of their diet.
Depending on the area they live in, some eagles will eat nothing but fish (those living near rivers and seas). Bald eagles are incredibly strong, with some eagles being able to successfully hunt, catch and eat fish weighing up to 35 pounds.
Scientific name (order): Crocodilia
Gharial, alligators and even some crocodiles have been documented to eat fish. Although fish aren’t the primary objective for crocodiles, gharials live almost exclusively underwater and they hunt there too.
Therefore, fish are their primary food. Alligators have also been seen catching and eating fish. This is, however, more common when the fish in question is really large. These massive predators don’t have the time to bother themselves with tiny fish that aren’t going to fill their stomachs.
Scientific name (suborder): Serpentes
These reptiles eat fish in the wild gladly, but not all of them will do so. Sea snakes, for example, find fish as one of their primary sources of food, and the same rule applies for snakes that are often found in swamps, rivers and lakes.
Larger snakes, however, won’t eat fish unless they themselves are large. Eating fish is usually something we see in smaller, venomous snakes. Interestingly, the largest snake to ever exist – the Titanoboa – is thought to have eaten exclusively fish.
Keep in mind that this massive animal lived 60 million years ago when everything on planet Earth was gigantic in comparison to today’s species. Fish were much larger too, which is why the occurrence of terrestrial animals eating fish wasn’t that odd.
Scientific name (subfamily): Lutrinae
There are 13 existing species of otters, some of them spending time in seas and oceans, while others live near lakes and rivers. However, all of them feed primarily on fish. If times become tough, they’ll eat frogs and crabs too.
They’re so good at hunting fish, actually, that these animals can open shellfish to eat the insides. They don’t have a problem with hunting clams and sea urchins either. Otters actually use stones to break shellfish open to eat them.
10. Aquatic Genets
Scientific name: Genetta piscivora
These incredibly rare animals that eat fish from freshwater ponds, rivers and lakes on a daily basis. Not much is known about this animal, since it’s one of the rarest species in all of Africa, but it’s suspected that they use their whiskers to detect fish movement below the surface.
It’s possible that they even use their whiskers to attract the fish towards the surface. When the fish come close enough, the genet throws itself at the fish and pulls it out of the water.
11. American Minks
Scientific name: Neogale vison
Minks are semi-aquatic animals that feed on fish along with rodents and birds. They have large canines that they use to kill their prey. Minks usually eat smaller fish, such as minnows and gudgeons.
They’re not afraid of getting wet and they’re quite strong for their size, as they’re able to pull out foot-long fish out of the water to eat them. Interestingly, they rarely eat more than they can eat – so they’ll only eat one fish per day if that’s enough for them.
12. Other Fish
Scientific name (class): Actinopterygii
The saying “There’s always a bigger fish.” doesn’t exist without reason. Although many terrestrial animals eat fish as their primary source of food, other fish gladly eat fish too.
The largest number of fish-eating animals are actually found in the water, not on the ground. In this regard, we could exclude piranhas as the most popular fish predators, as they’ll converge on a larger fish and devour it in minutes.
Scientific name (clade): Pinnipedia
Seals are carnivores that mainly feed on fish, but they’ve also been found to eat sea birds. They’re an opportunistic group and they’ll eat any meat that they can find.
Similar to snakes, they prefer to swallow their prey whole. If the fish is too large, they’ll take it to the surface to rip it into parts. This is most likely because they don’t want other seals stealing their food. These animals live in groups, so they’re constantly huddled together.
If a single seal was to take the fish out of the water every single time they catch one, they likely wouldn’t eat the entire fish as the other seals would rip it out of its grasp.
Scientific name: Orcinus orca
Orcas are apex predators – there are no natural predators to put them in danger and they hunt in packs. These animals are found all around the world and they prey on about 30 different species of fish.
Their specific diet depends on the exact area they inhabit – for example, salmon accounts for 96% of the diet of the orcas inhabiting the northeast Pacific.
They’ll also gladly eat seals and other animals that they come across, but fish are the easiest to catch. These predators are so massive, they’re not afraid of attacking and eating sharks!
Scientific name (family): Spheniscidae
Although penguins are flightless birds, they’re still great swimmers! In the wild, these birds eat fish, squid and krill. They usually spend so much time hunting that they spend approximately half of their entire life underwater.
They usually live in large groups, but they hunt alone. Because they’re so highly adapted to living in water, they’re also often the target of different fish species.
Scientific name: Pandion haliaetus
If you were wondering what animals eat fish the most, ospreys are probably the answer to that question. Fish make up 99% of this bird’s diet. Not only do they exclusively eat fish, they also eat all and any fish.
They’ll hunt every single species of fish they come around, regardless of the fish’s size. In extreme circumstances (if there isn’t enough fish), ospreys will eat rodents, rabbits and small reptiles. This, however, is extremely rare as these birds love fish.
Scientific name (family): Anatidae
Even though you’ll see them eating grass and aquatic plants, ducks will gladly eat fish. There are even specialized species of duck that actively hunt fish by diving under the surface of the water.
These species of duck have serrated edges of their bills to grip prey and take it out of the water. Fish, however, make up only a small part of your everyday duck’s diet, as these waterfowl prefer eating aquatic plants and grass.
18. Sea Lions
Scientific name (subfamily): Otariinae
These opportunistic predators are some of the most skillful marine predators and they feed on many different species of fish. Sea lions will hunt together, in groups of up to twelve, and they’ll coordinate and effectively shepherd a school of fish in any direction they want in order to eat.
Sometimes, they’ll even eat seals and sea otter pups, but this is much rarer as they spend the largest part of their lives in the water. These supremely intelligent animals have also been documented to follow fishing vessels and feed on the discards from the boat.
19. Bottlenose Dolphin
Scientific name (genus): Tursiops
Fish are on the top of the bottlenose dolphin’s food list. They will also eat squid, shrimp and cuttlefish. These animals need to eat more than 20 pounds of fish a day to maintain their weight!
Just like orcas and sea lions, they’ll work as a team to herd the fish towards the shore where they can maximize their efficiency and eat as much fish as possible.
It’s also possible for a dolphin to hunt alone. They’ll often slap the fish with its fluke, stupefying it and knocking it out of the water, after which they can eat the fish freely.
Fish, in fact, eat the most fish out of all animal species in the world. Despite that, there are many terrestrial animals that will often eat fish, such as different species of snakes, crocodilians and big cats. Brown bears are particularly fond of eating fish.
Some animals that eat fish are completely unbelievable in their acts, such as the fishing spider or the bulldog bat. These animals have evolutionary advances that ensure the hunting and capture of underwater prey and the processing of the same.