Fun Smooth Handfish Facts For Kids

Devangana Rathore
Oct 20, 2022 By Devangana Rathore
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
How many fun smooth handfish facts do you know? Brush up your knowledge about this strange and wonderful fish!

We all love fish and fishing, but what about those who have been driven to extinction? One such fish is the smooth handfish.

It belongs to the larger family of handfish, all equally endangered or on the verge of extinction. This particular species, on the other hand, was declared extinct as recently as 2018.

It had been on the Critically Endangered species list for quite some time, until the changing temperatures, lost habitat, and human intervention, along with fishing, make this fish disappear off the coasts of Tasmania.

And since this fish only had a habitat in this one location, we had lost this wonderfully unique, harmless, and adorable species to human fishing and other natural causes. While it lived, this fish was frequently spotted on the seabeds, using its hands to make its way across its sandy ocean floor.

If you want to know more about this fish, then do not hesitate to read on! You can also check out other unique species like the requiem shark and severum, and many more.

Smooth Handfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a smooth handfish?

The smooth handfish, Sympterichthys unipennis, is a type of fish.

What class of animal does a smooth handfish belong to?

Sympterichthys unipennis belong to the class of fish.

How many smooth handfishes are there in the world?

The smooth handfish (Sympterichthys unipennis) was declared Extinct by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in May 2018, then again in March 2020, making it the first fully marine fish species to be designated as such. According to estimates, only about 70 red handfish and 3000 spotted handfish live in the wild.

Where does a smooth handfish live?

These marine fish species of handfish were only found in the waters off the coastline of Tasmania. Due to them being susceptible fish, they could not spread their population to other waters. This is one of the reasons why they got locked in geographically and suffered a poor fate for it.

What is a smooth handfish's habitat?

These handfish expend a maximum of their time sitting on the seabed.

In addition, these bottom marine fish are unique in that they walk mostly on the sandy seafloor instead of swimming to move.

As a result, these handfish spend most of their time sitting on the bottom, with just a few meters of flapping if disturbed addition due In addition, due to the lack of a larval stage in these marine fish species, they are unable to spread to new sites, making handfish populations highly confined and sensitive to threats.

Who do smooth handfish live with?

These extinct smooth handfish (Sympterichthys unipennis), the first fish species (marine fish) declared Extinct by IUCN, were mostly solitary.

How long does a smooth handfish live?

Although the lifespan of these handfish is unclear, they probably live a long time. The Nassau grouper, an endangered bottom dweller and marine predator, can survive up to 29 years.

How do they reproduce?

The handfish breeding season usually occurs in September-October. Males engage in courtship rituals to attract females. Females only generate 80-250 eggs every season, and fertilized eggs are laid on the edge of sea squirts (invertebrates marine organisms), sponges, or seaweed.

During the seven to eight-week incubation stage, the female protects her eggs. Handfish are completely formed when they are born (they lack a larval stage). After hatching, newborn fish instantly settle on the seabed.

What is their conservation status?

This first fish species of handfish (marine) belonging to Tasmania was formally declared Extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List), a global coalition of scientists that determines the conservation status of species. In modern archives, this is the first time an extinct marine fish has been discovered.

Red handfish, as well as spotted handfish, are both declared Critically Endangered species by IUCN.

Smooth Handfish Fun Facts

What does smooth handfish look like?

These handfish species have a pear-shaped structure with a skin spike on the back, extending between second and third dorsal spines. Denticles are tiny, tooth-like scaling that covers the handfish's body. They were around in a variety of colors, though coral red was their most prominent color.

Driven to extinction, the smooth handfish used to have hand-shaped pectoral fins which allow them to travel on the seabed, therefore the name handfish.

*Please note this is the red handfish, a close, endangered relative of smooth handfish. If you have an image of the smooth handfish please let us know at

How cute are they?

Handfish are little, attractive fish with large fins that resemble hands that move around the seafloor. They crawl around in water from all four fins a little like an imbalanced dog, rather than swimming gracefully. Their ungainly gait, squishy, round features, and permanent frowns make them impossible to resist.

How do they communicate?

The communication skills of these handfish, declared extinct first time in modern history, are unexplored.

How big is a smooth handfish?

The average length of these fishes is 5.9 in (15 cm). Deep-sea species anglerfish length measures between 1-39 in (2-100 cm). These handfish are much smaller than anglerfish.

How fast can a smooth handfish swim?

These extinct species tend to 'walk' on the pelvic and pectoral fins on the seafloor instead of the swim (they don't have swim bladders that enable fish to swim), although when scared, they can dart/swim short distances in spurts. A common aquarium frogfish variety is the giant frogfish, which is a terrible swimmer.

How much does a smooth handfish weigh?

The approximate weight of these fishes of Tasmania is undetermined. This is because there were too few of them to create an appropriate weight range.

What are the male and female names of the species?

These extinct handfish have no specific names for males and females. However, it has been assumed that the males were slightly bigger than the females, which could be a potential way of differentiating them.

What would you call a baby smooth handfish?

There is no unique term for the offspring of this extinct marine species. However, since they were also categorized as frogfish, their offspring could be called tadpoles. However, this is only a scientific assumption, and no official classification was made on this.

What do they eat?

Shrimps, small crustaceans, amphipods, polychaete worms, small fish, and mollusks make up these carnivore handfish's diet. This diet is similar to other handfish species, such as the spotted handfish, the red handfish, and other species. It has been assumed that they would use their hands to shake the sand and eat the animals hiding under the sand.

Are they dangerous?

It's difficult to say whether this handfish is dangerous or not because it's extinct. However, even while it lived, scientists found no evidence that this species was dangerous to humans in any manner.

Would they make a good pet?

These handfish species have gone extinct for the first time in modern records. This aspect of their incarceration is rarely discussed. However, if you are looking for other species to fill your aquarium, several other fishes are on the seabed! The poor swimmer giant frogfish is a popular variety of aquarium frogfish species.

Did you know...

Pollution from numerous companies has ruined the water quality within the area, which has led to the extinction of the smooth handfish. Scallop fishing, or dredging, can devastate the seabed where the handfish scavenge.

Ocean reefs are also vanishing faster, affecting the lives of handfish, seagrass, crabs, or other marine creatures within the ecosystem. In addition, invasive species such as sea urchins have ravaged the areas where the fish deposit their eggs.

Another explanation for the extinction of the smooth handfish is warmer seas are likely to be a major factor in the handfish's demise. Handfish like cooler waters, which Tasmania has in plenty. However, warmer currents have recently passed through, altering and limiting their habitats.

The bottom dweller monkfish is often referred to as the 'Allmouth,' because its huge head makes up 90% of its body, with the mouth taking up most of it.

When was the smooth handfish last seen?

Marine fish species were being declared Extinct for the very first time throughout modern history. The smooth handfish, a superficial bottom-dweller with prickly fins and a monk projection on its forehead, hasn't been observed since 1802.

French naturalist François Péron helped capture one along Tasmania's shore to bring back to the Natural History Museum of Paris. No smooth handfish was ever spotted again, despite exhaustive searches over several years. This species of handfish was declared Extinct by the IUCN Red List during May 2018 and repeatedly in March 2020.

Why do handfish have hands?

Affectionately known as handfish, they possess hand-shaped pectoral fins that allow them to practically walk along the seafloor in pursuit of enticing crustaceans and worms. These 'hands' allow them to not only move across the sand quickly but to hunt.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these yellow bullhead facts and salmon facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable smooth handfish coloring pages.

*Please note the main image is of a red handfish, a close endangered relative of smooth handfish. If you have an image of the smooth handfish please let us know at

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Written by Devangana Rathore

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

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Devangana RathoreBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana is a highly accomplished content writer and a deep thinker with a Master's degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. With a wealth of experience in copywriting, she has worked with The Career Coach in Dublin and is constantly looking to enhance her skills through online courses from some of the world's leading universities. Devangana has a strong background in computer science and is also an accomplished editor and social media manager. Her leadership skills were honed during her time as the literacy society president and student president at the University of Delhi.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

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Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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