Nate's Awesomely Epic Guide to Fishes!

Welcome to Nate's...Guide to Fishes! Here you will find all sorts of interesting facts, information, and pictures about the denizens of the deep!

Whatever, just take me to the index!

Have questions? Here's the answers!


I had some issues with copyrighted images. I'm busy, but when I have some free time I'm going to find some new pictures in the public domain. Don't you worry!

What's a fish?

This may seem like a simple question, but it's pretty complicated. Think of a fish! Tuna, Salmon, Pufferfish, doesn't matter, they're all fish! But go look in a mirror...and there's a fish staring back at you! That's right, you're a fish! Now I'm not saying you have gills and scales, but evolutionarily you're considered a fish.

Let's imagine a phylogenetic (evolutionary) tree. (For an example of a simple tree, CLICK HERE). Phylogenetic trees describe relationships between groups of organisms, based on how similar the groups are to each other. Our tree has 3 species: the Great White Shark, a Moray Eel, and YOU! There are 3 branches on this tree, with you and Mr. Moray being closer than the Great White. When scientists make these trees, they place organisms in groups that are MONOPHYLETIC. A monophyletic group is a group of organisms that includes a common ancestor, plus all of its descendents. Excluding a descendent or lineage forms a PARAPHYLETIC group, which is to be avoided at all costs. If we use this principle of monophyly, then we can form two groups: one, including all tbree branches; the other, including only the moray and ourselves. The first group is known as Gnathostomes, and the second as Osteichthyans. However, if we were to group the shark and the moray together, and exclude ourselves, this would form the group that most people think of as fish...THIS IS INCORRECT! To talk about fishes in the scientific sense, we must include ourselves. Therefore, WE ARE FISH!

However, when I use the term fish on this site, I use it in the colloquial sense. My guide mentions only those organisms recognized as fishes by the average individual, and excludes other organisms, such as turtles, birds, and even me or you. So the final answer is thus: a fish is an organism with a backbone, which spends its life in water, and has fins, gills, and scales (of course there are exceptions to these "rules")

How many fish are there?

When I took my class on fishes at Cornell, it was estimated that there are about 30,000 species of fishes alive today. This can be compared to the number of vertebrates, which is approximately 60,000 species. This may seem like a lot (it is), but this does not even come close to the number of species of bacteria, fungi, or insects.

What's the difference between fish and fishes?

Fish is used when talking about one fish, such as the Barreleye. When we have a single Barreleye, we have a fish. When there are multiple Barreleyes (same species), we have multiple fish. When we have 1,000 Barreleye, and one Silverside, we have multiple fishes. See? Once multiple species are involved, we change from fish to fishes!

Why'd you make this website?

I've always had an interest in marine biology, and especially fish. My interest blossomed while at Cornell, and sprang to full growth while working with Professor Amy McCune. Although I will be pursuing a career in medicine instead of ichthyology, I want to find a way to show non-fish people how cool fish are in an understandable, non-academic fashion. Every group of fishes has something cool about it, and I want you to know all about it! As long as you leave this site thinking "wow, that's kind of cool," then I've done my job.

How will this index work? And why can't I go there now?

When you go to the index, you will find a list of fishes from class down to family. THe different levels of taxonomic classification are notated by differences in size and indentation. Clicking the links at the top will take you to the different classes. Clicking on any of the black underlined links listed in the taxonomy will take you to a separate page, with more information about those specific groups. Extinct groups of fishes are also mentioned, and notated in blue font.

Where is this information from? How do I know it's correct?

I am not going to cite specific sources, because that would make for even more work, and this isn't a research paper. Regarding the classification, I used Nelson's 2006 edition of Fishes of the World. This provides the most comprehensive classification of all fish famillies, although more recent papers have made changes to the phylogenies. I have chosen to ignore these changes (for now), so bear with me. For information, I used Nelson, along with Eschmeyer's Encyclopedia of Fishes and The Diversity of Fishes, my class's textbook (plus liberal referencing of Wikipedia..sorry). If a specific source is used, it will be mentioned as such.

Can I go to the index now? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease?

Ok, go have fun. Behave yourself!