Big Forehead Fish: Top 10 Fish With Big Foreheads


When it comes to the incredible diversity of aquatic life, the world of fish never ceases to amaze us. From vibrant colors & intricate patterns to unique body shapes, the underwater realm is home to some of nature’s most extraordinary creatures. One distinctive characteristic that stands out among certain fish species is their prominent foreheads.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the world of aquatic wonders and explore ten fascinating fish with big foreheads that captivate both scientists and enthusiasts alike.

Understanding Fish Anatomy:

Fish anatomy is a fascinating subject, and one of the most intriguing features is the forehead hump or nuchal hump. This hump is a prominent bulge on the forehead of some fish species, and it serves a variety of purposes, including attracting mates & providing a competitive advantage in the wild.

Features of Fish with Big Forehead:

  • Prominent Forehead: Fish with a big forehead exhibit a distinctive feature with an enlarged and noticeable forehead, setting them apart from other fish species.
  • Enhanced Sensory Perception: The enlarged forehead often houses specialized sensory organs, such as an expanded olfactory system or electroreceptors, allowing these fish to excel in detecting prey, predators, or mates.
  • Unique Adaptations: The large forehead may be an evolutionary adaptation, providing advantages in specific environments. It could aid in maneuvering through complex habitats or enhance the fish’s ability to locate food sources.
  • Species Diversity: Various fish species display this characteristic, each with its unique forehead size and shape, reflecting the diversity of evolutionary pathways and ecological niches they inhabit.
  • Communication Signaling: The prominent forehead might play a role in intraspecific communication, serving as a visual signal for species recognition, social hierarchy, or mating displays.
  • Environmental Indicator: Changes in the size or shape of the forehead could be indicative of ecological factors, serving as a potential indicator of ecosystem health or changes in the fish’s habitat.
  • Research Importance: Scientists study fish with big foreheads to unravel the mysteries of their evolutionary development, ecological roles, and potential applications in biomimicry or environmental monitoring.

Top 10 Big Forehead Fish Species:

Several fish species are known for their unique physical characteristics, particularly their large foreheads. Here are the most notable top 10 big forehead fish species discussed:

1. Flowerhorn Cichlid:

  • Family: Cichlidae family
  • Scientific name: Hybrid
  • Size: 8-16 inches
  • Water type: Freshwater

The flower horn cichlid is a hybrid cichlid species bred for its incredible colors and body modifications. One of these modifications is the large bump on these fish’s heads, which gives way to the flower horn fish name. This ornamental bump is called a nuchal hump. Male flower horn fish have much more pronounced humps than females, though their exact size varies depending on stress levels, nutrition, and genes. This hump is mainly used for attracting mates and asserting dominance over other males but has also been theorized to store nutrients.

2. Green Humphead Parrotfish:

  • Family: Scaridae family
  • Scientific name: Bolbometopon muricatum
  • Size: 3-5 feet
  • Water type: Saltwater

Also known as the bumphead parrotfish, the green humphead parrotfish is a giant saltwater fish with a prominent forehead. Interestingly, green humphead parrotfish do not display significant differences in sexual dimorphism, meaning that both the males & females have a very similar appearance, including their humpheads. This would imply that the primary uses of their hump are less for attracting mates and more so for defending resources and foraging. It’s believed that green humphead parrotfish may use their nuchal hump to break up coral reefs, which are their primary source of food. These fish have a few other unique features about them, including large scales and a powerful crushing beak.

3. Oranda Goldfish:

  • Family: Cyprinidae family
  • Scientific name: Carassius auratus
  • Size: 7-9 inches
  • Water type: Freshwater

Goldfish are some of the most recognizable fish in the aquarium hobby. These are not naturally occurring fish in freshwater habitats but instead have been bred for centuries to achieve the most desired colors and body modifications. One of these modifications is the wen or an often-colorful head cap commonly seen on ornate breeds of goldfish. This growth was initially a mutation that was later selectively bred for its unique appearance. Oranda goldfish can have significant, bubbly wens that cover the entire topside of their head. One of the most popular types of oranda goldfish is the red cap oranda, which has a bright orange or red cap against a pure white body. Unfortunately, these head growths are delicate and can quickly become damaged or infected with improper care.

4. Napoleon Wrasse:

  • Family: Labridae family
  • Scientific name: Cheilinus undulatus
  • Size: 3-6 feet
  • Water type: Freshwater

Similar to the Asian sheepshead wrasse, the Napoleon wrasse also has a strong forehead. These marine fish live in and around coral reefs and are very opportunistic feeders of small crustaceans and other invertebrates. In addition to its thick lips, the Napoleon fish may also use its big head to attract mates. The hump is likely used to defend territory. Sadly, the Napoleon wrasse is endangered throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

5. Asian Sheepshead Wrasse:

  • Family: Labridae family
  • Scientific name: Semicossyphus reticulatus
  • Size: 3-4 feet
  • Water type: Saltwater

Far from being the prettiest fish species on this list, the Asian sheepshead wrasse definitely makes an impression in more ways than one. In addition to a large jaw and big teeth, the Asian sheepshead wrasse has a perfectly round pink egg on its head. This hump has yet to be closely studied, but it’s safe to assume that it helps the fish attract mates and defend recourses. Like most wrasse fish species, the Asian sheepshead wrasse can change between having male and female organs throughout its life depending on environmental factors.

6. Frontosa:

  • Family: Cichlidae family
  • Scientific name: Cyphotilapia frontosa
  • Size: <1 foot
  • Water type: Freshwater

The frontosa cichlid, also known as the front cichlid, is a large fish with a big head to match. Even more so, the alternating black and blue stripes of these fish help accentuate an already large forehead. Like the other cichlids on this list, frontosa may use their head for sexual dimorphism, mating, and defense. This defense is in regards to maintaining territory and resources, but may also aid in protecting these fish from other predators throughout Lake Tanganyika in East Africa.

7. Green Terror:

  • Family: Cichlidae family
  • Scientific name: Andinoacara rivulatus
  • Size: 4-12 inches
  • Water type: Freshwater

The green terror is one of the most popular fish species available in the aquarium hobby. These fish are big and colorful. Their aggression varies on an individual basis, which allows them to be kept with a variety of fish. Like other large cichlids, the green terror has a nuchal hump, most obviously seen on dominant male fish. This hump may also be used to attract females, which are much smaller in size, as well as to aid in feeding and defending territory.

8. Rio Grand Cichlid (Texas Cichlid):

  • Family: Cichlidae family
  • Scientific name: Herichthys cyanoguttatus
  • Size: 10-12 inches
  • Water type: Freshwater

Also known as the Texas cichlid, the Rio Grand cichlid is the only native cichlid fish species in the United States. They are used as sporting fish and aquarium fish. They are also a popular local dish. The Rio Grand cichlid does not have an overly pronounced forehead, but males may develop one if they gain dominance over a particular territory or group.

9. Chocolate Cichlid:

  • Family: Cichlidae family
  • Scientific name: Hypselecara temporalis
  • Size: 10-12 inches
  • Water type: Freshwater

Not much is known about the chocolate cichlid. They belong to a small group of cichlids that originate from the Amazon basin in South America. While their colors aren’t the desired bright blue or red, these fish bring unique natural tones to the aquarium, which has increased their popularity over the years. Chocolate cichlids are unusual in that they don’t have enormous foreheads. Instead, they have a comprehensive and round head, which likely aids in their ability to find and hunt for food while also attracting mates.

10. Redhead Cichlid:

  • Family: Cichlidae family
  • Scientific name: Vieja melanurus
  • Size: 12-14 inches
  • Water type: Freshwater

Not only does the redhead cichlid have a large forehead, but these fish also have a bright, purplish-red face that can’t be missed in the home aquarium. The redhead cichlid originates from Central America, specifically throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. As one of the most colorful cichlids available, these large fish were used to create some of the most popular aquarium hybrids, like blood parrot cichlids and flowerhorn cichlids. That means that they use their nuchal hump to attract mates, defend their territory, and possibly store nutrients.


These fantastic fish with prominent foreheads are truly remarkable creatures. Their unique appearance and extraordinary features make them stand out among other fish species. Whether it’s the Unicornfish with its colorful horn-like forehead or the Hammerhead Shark with its broad, flattened head, these fish never captivate us.

While a prominent forehead doesn’t make a fish smarter, these body structures can help fish survive in their natural habitats. Big foreheads can impress mates while allowing individuals to guard themselves and their resources. There is also a lot of speculation about how these modifications could further help fish store nutrients, maintain buoyancy, and even aid in better echolocation of each other and prey.

Read also: Big Forehead Fish: Top 10 Fish With Big Foreheads.