Fun Sunfish Facts For Kids

Anusuya Mukherjee
Jan 10, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Sunfish facts about the deep sea marine animal species
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.3 Min

Have you heard of a fish that weighs more than a car? Yes, it's the sunfish (mola mola).

Sunfish are called so because they love to sunbathe at the surface of the water to regulate their body temperature. Sunfishes are known to be one of the heaviest bony fishes that belong to the molidae family and are known by their scientific name mola mola.

They are circular in shape, quite unusual, isn’t it?

Ocean sunfish species can be found in tropical and temperate oceans in the world. If there are any wounds or parasites around the body of the sunfish (Mola mola), they are cleaned by the butterflyfish while the tail is cleaned by the emperor angelfish, and the head is cleaned by the bannerfish.

There are many special and unusual characteristics that will pique your interest in the ocean sunfish species.

Here are some fun, engaging and interesting facts on sunfish that will make you more curious about them. Afterwards, do check our other articles on plaice and blue runner as well.

Sunfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a sunfish?

Sunfish is one of the heaviest bony fishes with a heavy body and belongs to the molidae family. The female sunfish is the only animal that lays 300 million eggs during a single time and these fishes originated suddenly after the disappearance of dinosaurs around 35-45 million years ago.

Ocean sunfish is a common species in oceans and this sea species are also known as common mola. The closest known relatives of sunfish are pufferfish.

What class of animal does a sunfish belong to?

Sunfish is a bony fish that belongs to the actinopterygii class. Sunfish comes under the order tetraodontiformes of the molidae family.

The scientific name of this species is mola mola. Sunfish loves to sunbathe to regulate its body temperature, that's how it got its name. Freshwater fish species like bluegill sunfish, redbreast sunfish, longear sunfish and green sunfish are not related to the giant sunfish species and belong to the perciformes order instead.

How many sunfish are there in the world?

There is no accurate and rough estimate of the total number of sunfish in the world. Their population is slightly decreasing due to commercial fishing but at present survival threats confront the overall population of these fishes across world's oceans.

Where does a sunfish live?

Sunfish live in oceans. Ocean sunfish mola is usually found in the tropical and temperate regions of the Indian oceans and the great Pacific oceans as well as the Mediterranean oceans and the Atlantic oceans. They are usually seen in the southern coasts of Africa, the British Isles, Indonesia, and Southern Isles of New Zealand.

What is a sunfish's habitat?

Freshwater sunfish mola is found in the tropical and temperate oceans across the world. This wild fish species is likely have its habitat in open oceans but sometimes go deep into the coral reefs in order to clean themselves with the help of parasites. Their feeding habits have led to them to be categorised as foragers.

Who do sunfish live with?

Sunfish or ocean sunfish prefer to live alone mostly. But sometimes when these wild fishes go to coral reefs to clean themselves, they can be seen in groups.

How long does a sunfish live?

The lifespan of ocean sunfish in their natural habitat is not known whereas it may live up to 10 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

Sunfish’s mating system is not known properly. These fishes are thought to have courtship displays.

Female sunfish produce 300 million eggs at a time and the eggs are released into the water where external fertilization takes place. Sunfish larvae are very tiny in size and grow into fry and later they become 60 million times their actual size. Young sunfishes have similarities with puff fish as they both are related.

What is their conservation status?

Sunfish is listed under the Vulnerable species list by IUCN. Their population is slowly decreasing due to commercial fishing. Hence, they face an extinction threat.

Sunfish Fun Facts

What do sunfish look like?

Ocean sunfish is known for its unusual shape. Sunfish have a large body that is kind of ovular and have thin and rubbery skin with no scales.

The dorsal and anal fins of sunfish are lengthened. But the pectoral fins are in the shape of a fan and are small sized. The skeleton of a sunfish is largely made up of cartilaginous tissues and has a pseudo tail called clavus that is formed by the intersection of dorsal and anal fins.

They are usually in grey- brown color and sometimes dark silvery grey and have a white belly. Sunfish have fused teeth that are in the form of a beak-like structure.


How cute are they?

Sunfish is one of the huge and heaviest bony fish and its body is really enormous in size. Their teeth are fused and have a beak-like structure. They are weird and unusual in appearance and cannot be called cute.

How do they communicate?

Communication methods of sunfish are not known entirely. They are known to be communicating by excreting chemicals from the body.

How big is a sunfish?

An ocean sunfish is a large sized fish and has a length of 10-11 ft (3-3.35 m). They are very huge and are called the heaviest known bony fish in the world.

How fast can a sunfish swim?

A sunfish can swim at a speed of 1.9 mph (3.05 kph) and are not fast but clumsy swimmers.

How much does a sunfish weigh?

On an average scale, an adult sunfish may weigh between 545-2205 lb (247.2-1000.17 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female sunfish do not have any particular name and are known as male sunfish and female sunfish respectively.

What would you call a baby sunfish?

A baby sunfish is called a fry.

What do they eat?

Sunfishes are carnivores. They are voracious predators that feed on main jellyfishes and other food includes tiny fishes, aquatic crustaceans, cnidarians, mollusks and zooplankton. An adult sunfish is not attacked by any predator due to its large size. But medium sized fishes are attacked by sea lions, killer whales and sharks.

Are they dangerous?

A sunfish is not dangerous to humans as it does not have an interest in attacking humans. But they are voracious predators who attack other fishes. They are not aggressive in behavior usually.

Would they make a good pet?

Sunfishes are not suitable for keeping as pets. They are difficult to be kept even in large aquariums because of their growth rate and huge body size. There is no exact information available regarding the price of an ocean sunfish. So, you need to check with the local pet store regarding the cost of a sunfish.

Did you know...

Sunfish are one of the world’s weirdest fish. They are considered useless for their heavy body, absence of swim bladders and that even the predators do not like to eat them and would rather chew their fins just for fun.

Sunfish are called swimming heads in German.

They have control over the jellyfish population as their main prey is jellyfishes.

A sunfish sailboat draws its name from this species.

Ocean sunfish is found in the UK but only during the summers.

As the sunfish is huge in size, they are considered extremely suitable for eating by humans.

The mola mola is one of the dumbest fish species, second only to the dumb gulper shark.

Where they were discovered?

Ocean sunfish mola was discovered in 1758. The first ocean sunfish is claimed to be in Mount Bay Aquarium, California that arrived in August 1986.

When do sunfish spawn?

Sunfish reproductive behaviors are a little unknown. They reproduce via broadcasting spawning and it occurs between August and October. Female sunfish release 300 million eggs into the water and sperm is released approximately during the same time.

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 devil fish facts and candiru facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our sunfish coloring pages.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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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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