Bottom Feeders Fish: BIG List with Pictures

Bottom feeders fish list

Bottom feeders are quite interesting and useful fish species.

But there is often a lot of misconceptions and false information related to them.

Because of that, some anglers avoid them for no reason at all ...

Besides that, a lot of people don’t know which species are actually real bottom feeders, and often associate just the catfish species with this term.

Here I am going to explain some facts about these fish species and give you a bottom feeders fish list so that you can identify them, in the following chapters:



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Which fish are bottom feeders?

Bottom feeders fish by definition are those fish species who feed on the bottom of a body of water. We can find those species in both freshwater (catfish, carp, bass, etc.) and saltwater (halibut, flounder, eel, cod, snapper, grouper, rays, etc.). Bottom feeders are not just fish species; crabs, shellfish, snails, starfish and similar aquatic organisms are considered to be bottom feeders too.

When we talk about fish species, bottom feeders can be exclusive (those species that eat only from the bottom) or they can be like catfish, who partially feed from the bottom but also in other layers of water.

Some of the bottom feeder fish species are detritivores, which means that they eat dead organic material from the bottom.

Among numerous fish species that are bottom feeders, we can find the following species: flatfish species like halibut, flounder, and sole, eel, cod, bass, grouper, cod, snapper, catfish species and even some shark species.

Most of the fish species mentioned are not exclusive bottom feeders, and their diet consists of various foods that the fish eats in different layers of water.

Exclusive bottom feeders usually have a flat body shape and mouth positioned very low so that they can hide on the bottom and suck in the food without being seen by predators. Mouth shape enables them to collect any kind of materials and even live organisms from the bottom. Some bottom feeders are herbivores while others can be predators or omnivores.

When talking about body shape, some species, like flatfish, that lie on their sides, as their body is laterally flattened, instead of vertically.

Bottom feeders are very useful for the environment, especially detritivores.

Those species collect dead organic material and consume it, which is a way of filtering. By removing those materials from the aquatic environment, they create balance and healthy surroundings for other organisms, including fish species, which live in the same waters.

Bottom feeders can be observed as biogeochemical cycle guards.

Bottom Feeders Fish: BIG List with Pictures

Now when you know a bit more about them, here is a bottom feeders fish list that covers species interesting to anglers.

The list is divided into two groups of fish, saltwater and freshwater.

Freshwater bottom feeders fish (for ponds, lakes and rivers)

Freshwater bottom feeders are frequent residents of ponds, lakes and rivers.

However, the majority of them are not exclusive bottom feeders, which means that they will consume various food in other layers too. One of the best examples of this is a catfish, the first one on the bottom feeder fish freshwater list.


There are a few catfish species interesting to anglers, the most popular ones are flathead, wels, channel and blue.

All of them are omnivores and opportunistic feeders. They will eat almost anything, from aquatic animals to plants, and even small mammals.

Catfish often feed on the bottom, where they search for anything that can fit into their mouth. There are some catfish species, among hundreds of existing ones, that are exclusive bottom feeders, but those are not even similar to species which anglers like to catch.

Except for the bottom, where catfish like to spend time during the day, you can often find the feeding on the surface, or in middle layers of water.


Bottom Feeders Fish List - Carp

Carp is probably one of the most popular fish species among anglers, and it can be found in numerous places across all continents. Same as previously mentioned catfish, carp is not an exclusive bottom feeder ...

There are different carp species like silver, common, grass, bighead, crucian and black carp.

All of them get a part of their food from the bottom and they are a frequent bottom feeder fish for ponds.

Common carp will eat a variety of food including crustaceans, insects, larvae and fish eggs that can frequently be found on the bottom. Unlike catfish, people don’t think of carp as being a bottom feeder, but it partially is.


To some it can seem surprising, but bass is also a partial bottom feeder, although it is a predatory fish. There are different species of bass, including striped, largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted.

Bass will eat smaller fish species, frogs, crayfish, minnows, perch and similar. Some of the small fish species can spend their time on the bottom, and bass will hunt them there.

Every bass angler knows that bottom fishing for bass can be very productive. This bottom feeder lake fish likes to bite a lure near the bottom.

Saltwater bottom feeders fish

In saltwater across the world you can find numerous fish species that feed on the bottom.

Here is bottom feeder fish saltwater list that includes those species interesting to anglers.

Halibut (Atlantic and Pacific)

The main difference between Atlantic Halibut and Pacific Halibut is the ocean they live in and their size.

Among these two flatfish species, Atlantic one is bigger, and also the biggest flatfish specie in the world. These fish species are exclusive bottom feeders.

They feed on other fish species and basically any other aquatic animal that fits into their mouth. Although they hide and feed on the bottom, sometimes you can see them higher up in the water. They have almost no natural enemies, except sharks, humans and sea lions.

Atlantic Halibut can weight over 200 kilograms and their physical characteristics include white belly and dark brown upper side and their eyes are located on one side of the head in adult specimens.


Flounders are also in a group of flatfish species and they live on ocean bottom across the world. European, Gulf, Southern, and Olive flounder are the most famous ones among these exclusive bottom feeders.

Same as Halibut, Flounder is born with one eye on each side of the head and when it grows bigger, one eye will migrate and both eyes will be on the same, upper, side of the body.

Flounders vary in colour, but their upper side is darker (brownish shades) than the belly, and they can easily hide in sandy or muddy bottom. Their size varies according to the species and it is usually between 25 and 95 centimetres.

They will eat small fish, shrimp and similar prey when they reach adulthood, but as juvenile fish they feed on spawn and crustaceans.


Among bottom feeders fish we can find numerous species of eels and one of the most popular ones among anglers is European Conger. That one is also the heaviest among them.

Eels can significantly vary in size but their lifestyle is quite similar. Most of the species interesting to anglers live in shallow seas, near the coast, and spend their time in the sand, mud, or beneath the rocks.

Their body is long and sleek, and the longest species are not the heaviest. Some, rare, eels can be found in extreme depths too, such as Gulper Eel.

These nocturnal fish species feed mostly on smaller fish species, but they will also eat an occasional crustacean or cephalopod.

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Cod (Atlantic and Pacific)

Two most popular species are Atlantic Cod and Pacific Cod. Atlantic cod can be considered as cold water bottom feeder fish because it mostly lives in north Atlantic.

Atlantic cod is also known for its colour changing ability. Depending on a depth where the fish lives, colour can vary between grey-green and red-brown. They usually weight around 8-10 kilograms and are very tasty to eat. Their body is not flat and on the first sight they don’t look like a classic bottom feeder.

Atlantic cod spawn at very low water temperatures, between 4 and 6°C. Pacific Cod lives in warmer regions, such as eastern and western part of the northern pacific.

Both species feed on smaller fish species, lobsters and different invertebrates.


Snappers are a group of fish found in tropical regions of oceans across the world.

There are numerous species of snappers, but one of the most popular snapper fish species among anglers is Northern Red Snapper, native to Gulf of Mexico. Among other species, we can find mangrove snapper, mutton snapper, and lane snapper.

They all have similar body shape which includes sharp, thin teeth and strong body. Red snapper has red skin colour and reaches the length up to 60 centimetres. Some specimens can be quite larger but that is not very common.

Snappers, depending on a size and specie, will eat shrimp, octopus, squid, crustaceans, small fish, mollusks and similar marine organisms.


Groupers have strong bodies and very large mouth. Some species, like Atlantic goliath Grouper can grow huge, weighing almost 400 kilograms.

There are various species of groupers and their habits and appearance can vary, but most of them have no teeth and need to swallow their pray because they can’t bite it.

Groupers mostly eat fish, octopus, crustaceans and other smaller marine creatures. Some species actively hunt while others wait and ambush.

Their large mouth enables them to suck the pray from a distance and also to dig into the sand to build a shelter. They suck the sand in and let it out through their large gills.


We can find a lot of species of rays across the world, from small ones to enormous. From Manta Ray and Sting Ray, to Spotted or Bluespotted Ray, they vary in size, colour and habitat.

All of them have flattened bodies, gills that are placed on their ventral parts and large pectoral fins that are connected to their heads.

Their mouth is located on the front or bottom side of their head and some species have strong teeth to be able to eat bottom feeding creatures like snails, oysters, clams, and similar. Other species feed on fish or plankton, and are not exclusive bottom feeders.

Rays usually have pale belly and the darker upper side. Some species dig into the sand and hide from both predators and prey, so that they can surprise it.

Bottom Feeders Fish List - Rays

Why do people buy bottom feeder fish for aquarium?

As already mentioned, bottom feeders are important for the ecosystem.

Aquariums can be seen as small enclosed ecosystems that function in the same ways as ponds or lakes.

Aquarium bottom feeder fish are necessary to eat food leftovers that end up on the bottom after feeding other fish. Bottom feeders in aquariums will also eat algae and dead organic matter. In that way, the aquarium will stay clean and there will be a good biological balance.

If there are no bottom feeders, the food leftovers will rot and pollute the aquarium. It will need frequent cleaning or you will have to add chemicals to keep it in a good condition.

Bottom feeders are actually natural cleaners. Algae eaters will increase the amount of oxygen in the aquarium and it will also look nicer and cleaner.

Are bottom feeder fish safe to eat?

Some people see bottom feeders as scavengers who eat unhealthily, rotting material and mud.

That is far away from truth!

Catfish is usually considered to be one of those, but the majority of the catfish diet is live prey. And the same goes for most of other bottom feeding species caught by anglers.

Every fish mentioned in this bottom feeders fish list is safe to eat, and quite tasty too.

Some people think that bottom feeders consume food that is harmful for human health, and by eating those bottom feeders we are going to digest those harmful compounds.

Some say it about shellfish, while others say the same thing about bottom feeding fish species.

However, there is no scientific evidence that would support that theory. Eating too much of anything is not healthy, so you shouldn’t eat the same fish every day, but enjoying an occasional lunch will have absolutely no effect on your health.


There are a lot of misconceptions about bottom feeders fish species around the world and I hope, after reading this article, you know more about them.

You can find them in almost any lake, river or ocean, and hundreds of species exist, but I decided to explain those frequently caught by anglers.

Bottom feeders are exciting to catch, tasty to eat and they have an important role in the ecosystem.

Next time when you go fishing, especially in freshwater, try bottom-fishing for some of the species mentioned and you could get pleasantly surprised!

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