Flathead fish are a marine, sometimes brackish, fish belonging to the order Scorpaeniformes and the families Platycephalidae, Bembridae and Hoplichthyidae. Ones in the Platycephalidae family are commonly referred to as true flatheads, ones in the Bembridae family are deepwater flatheads, and ones in the Hoplichthydidae family are ghost flatheads. There are at least 18 genera and 81 species of flatheads in total. They are also closely related to scorpionfish. Flatheads can be found in the Indo-Pacific and in the tropical regions of the eastern Atlantic. They live on sandy or rubble ocean bottoms near mangroves, seagrass or corals and will bury themselves beneath the surface. They can be found more often at depths between 10-300 meters.
Their huge heads are moderately to strongly depressed. Their mouths are large, their scales are rough, and their flattened bodies have two dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin contains 6-9 spines while the second dorsal fin consists of 11-15 soft rays. They can reach up to 1.3 meters in length and weigh up to 33 lbs. True flatheads, sometimes known as crocodilefish, have tassels covering their eyes that help to camouflage them from predators. These tassels expand and contract with intensity of light. There’s also a distinct pit immediately behind the upper eye and their patterns are intricate. Ghost flatheads are mostly scaleless and have a row of spiny scutes along the lateral line covering much of the back and upper half of the sides. Most are yellow, pinkish or brown above and on the sides. Spots and mottling may fade to pink, white or silver. Deepwater flatheads are small and red and inhabit much deeper waters than other species of flatheads. They’ve been spotted at depths as far down as 150-650 meters.
Flatheads do not guard their young after fertilization. These are carnivorous fish with the majority of their diet consisting of crustaceans and small fishes. Some flatheads are a commercially valuable food fish, but show no signs of being overfished for now. Currently most flathead species are designated as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as of March 2015.