What Do Sunfish Eat?


What Do Sunfish Eat?

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One of the strangest-looking fish species in the world are sunfish. They have highly peculiar tail fins and flattened bodies. One of the biggest bony fishes in the world, this species is also known as the common mola or the mola. A sunfish adult can weigh between 247 and 1000 kilograms. The 1600kg record-holder for the largest sunfish ever caught was caught in 1910.

The likelihood that you encountered one of these fish species is very low because they are rarely kept in a lot of aquariums and need a lot of specialized care. If they eat the correct meals, they can grow quickly and live up to 10 years in captivity.

What Do Sunfish Eat?

What Do Sunfish Eat?


In the past, people thought that jellyfish were their main source of food. However, recent research revealed that only 15% of jellyfish are consumed by sunfish. They do eat jellyfish, but it’s not really their main source of nutrition. Sunfish cannot survive on this food source and jellyfish together. Because jellyfish can parasitically infect these rare fish species, sunfish are not fed jellyfish very frequently in aquariums.

Small fish

Sunfish mostly eat types of tiny fish. Almost every species of little fish that they come across in their native habitat will be caught and eaten by them. They concentrate on fish species that are tiny enough to consume whole because they don’t have very large mouths.

Fish larvae

Fish larvae are a favorite food of sunfish, especially juvenile sunfish. Because the Mola can quickly suck these small creatures into their jaws and because fish larvae are small enough to feed even the smallest sunfish, these small creatures are simple to eat. Any kind of fish larva they may locate will be eaten by them.


Mola fish adore eating squid. Squid is the main food source for them in aquariums since it is rich in nutrients that keep fish healthy. As a species of fish without bones, squid are simple to suck up and consume whole.


A variety of tiny crustaceans are also tasty to mola fish or sunfish. They steer clear of larger crustaceans but will consume smaller ones, particularly immature ones whose shells are still fragile. These magnificent fish species benefit from eating a variety of crustaceans as a source of protein, including crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, prawns, and krill.


Sunfish catch and consume salps as well. Salps are a type of planktonic tunicate with a body that resembles gelatin. Despite their lack of nutritional value, these meals nonetheless benefit the Mola by providing some nutrients and oils.


Mola may occasionally eat fragments of eelgrass while they stay on the ocean floor. Typically, muddy or sandy bottomed places are where this sort of plant flourishes. The sunfish will only eat this type of plant-based food, and they only do so when there aren’t enough other food sources available.

Diet Variations

Sunfish are hard to get by, and they haven’t been thoroughly researched in their natural habitat for very long. We probably still don’t know a lot about the food of this peculiar fish species. Even while we now understand a lot more about them than we did only a few years ago, further study is still required to properly comprehend the care needs for this cold-water species.

How to Feed Sunfish

How to Feed Sunfish

What Do Sunfish Eat In The Wild?

Sunfish will pursue a variety of prey in the wild, including plants, animals, and other fish. Although they also seek out other things including squid, crabs, jellyfish, salps, and many more, they mostly consume small fish and fish larvae.

What Do Sunfish Eat In Captivity?

Sunfish are not commonly kept in aquariums. They typically eat squid in aquariums since it is a very nutrient-dense food. They might also consume other foods, like little fish. However, marine researchers avoid feeding them jellyfish since they frequently carry germs.

What Do Baby Sunfish Eat?

Adult sunfish don’t resemble their baby counterparts at all. They virtually resemble some kind of starfish because to their abundance of processing spines. Eventually, these spines do disappear. Sunfish fry develop quickly. In just 15 months, they can increase in size from 26 to 400 kg or up to 1.8 m tall.

They will consume smaller prey including fish larvae, crabs, and zooplankton when they are young fry. They will begin to eat larger foods as they get bigger.

Do Sunfish Bite?

Sunfish are completely harmless to people and won’t even try to bite them. They don’t bite, and because of how small their mouths are, even if they did, the damage they would do would be minimal. One of these fish species climbed onto a boat and injured a 4-year-old boy when it landed on him in the only known instance of a sunfish hurting a person.

Do Humans Eat Sunfish?

In some parts of the world, including Taiwan and Japan, this rare type of fish is prized as a delicacy. The fish are used in the production of traditional medicines in some areas and as food in others. However, it is prohibited to catch this kind of fish in some regions of the world, including the European Union, because it does contain toxins that can be dangerous if consumed.

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Are sunfish harmful?

Yes. Dangerous? No. Despite their size, sunfish are not dangerous to people, yet you shouldn’t bring your fingers too close to their mouths since their jaw muscles and teeth have fused into something resembling an industrial bolt cutter.

Are sunfish rare?

Ocean sunfish populations are declining globally, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has designated the species as vulnerable.

Why are they called sunfish?

The name “ocean sunfish” refers to a very huge, oddly shaped fish that likes to float on its side at the water’s surface to warm itself in the sun. This species swims with its enormous dorsal and anal fins because it lacks a tail.

Why are sunfish endangered?

The IUCN Red List states the ocean sunfish are in danger of going extinct. They have declined as a result of overfishing, but they frequently get unintentionally entangled in gillnets, which cut through their skin. Sunfish will also eat plastic bags because they think they might be a food.

Are ocean sunfish aggressive?

Do Ocean Sunfish Pose a Threat? Mola molas consume zooplankton, algae, and jellyfish. They are not aggressive, however they are curious and may approach divers.


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Sarah Green

Wildlife and Nature Fan & Author