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  • Smallest Animals in the Ocean

    Last Updated: January 5, 2021

    The ocean is filled with all manner of weird and wonderful creatures.

    Often it is the enormous monsters that capture the minds and imaginations of filmmakers and writers. And for good reason! Whales, sharks, and giant squid are awe inspiring creatures. 

    However, the ocean is also home to tiny animals. Some are so small we struggle to see them with the naked eye. Even divers who get in amongst these animals miss them.

    The Smallest Animals in the Ocean

    Dwarf Lantern Shark

    You might be shocked to see a shark on a list of small ocean creatures. However, the dwarf lantern shark is no great white! At only 7.9 inches when fully grown, this little shark can fit in the palm of your hand. 

    The dwarf lantern shark is only found off the coast of Columbia and Venezuela in the Caribbean sea. It likes to live on the continental shelves found there. 

    Red Lip Blenny

    Red Lip Blenny

    Despite only reaching 4 inches in size, the red lip blenny is an aggressively territorial fish. They have been known to dart out of coral crests and shallow reefs to attack passing divers who stray too close. 

    In some countries, these fish are known as devil fish because of their two large canine teeth which they use to ward off intruders. 

    Found in shallow waters of the central Atlantic ocean, these fish have been found as far apart as Angola and California. The adults live at 10-20m below the surface while eggs are laid on the ocean floor.


    These are a tiny species of pygmy pipehorse. They tend to be about 2-3 inches in length when fully grown.

    The pipehorse is a relative of the seahorse except it’s straighter. It looks more like a worm than a seahorse. They are absolutely adorable! 

    The acentrounura is generally found in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They like to hang about near the seafloor and are pretty secretive little creatures. 

    You could stare straight at them and still miss them. This is because they have superb camouflaging skills. 

    Like their cousins the seahorse, the pipehorse males carry the live offspring in a special pouch along their body.  The males tend to look a bit more like seahorses because of the size of the pouch.  

    Cherub Fish 

    Cherub Fish

    The cherub fish or pygmy angelfish is a 2.5-inch little beauty. It is metallic blue with smaller patches of yellow or orange around the head. 

    Native to the Gulf of Mexico and up as far as North Carolina, the Cherub fish has become a popular aquarium fish. This is due to their beautifully bright colorings and the fact that they do well in small reefs. 

    Cherub fish use the reefs they live in to hide from predators. Their small size makes them a tasty snack and they try to avoid becoming dinner by hiding. 


    Probably best known for being whale snacks, krill are tiny crustaceans that grow to about 2 inches in length. 

    The word krill comes from a Norwegian word meaning small fry. It couldn’t be any more fitting. They really are little things. 

    Despite their small size, krill are super important to the food chain. They feed on plankton but are a massive source of food for bigger animals. In the Southern Ocean, Antarctic Krill makes up around 379 000 000 tonnes of the total biomass of the ocean. Over half of these krill are eaten by penguins, whales, and seals. 

    Pygmy Seahorse 

    Pygmy Seahorse

    At only 1.06 inches in length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, these little guys are adorably minuscule.

    Like their cousins the pipehorse, pygmy seahorses are superb at camouflage. You can barely see them when they are attached to coral or seaweeds. 

    The major difference between pygmy seahorses and their larger relatives is that pygmy seahorses have only one gill on the back of their heads. Larger seahorses have two gills. 

    Another difference is that the pouch in which the males store their young is in their trunk. The females have a small protrusion in their trunk which they use to lay the eggs. 

    Bumblebee Shrimp

    Named for their stripy black and yellow color, these shrimp are usually found in the Indo-Pacific. However, they have now become popular as aquarium pets. 

    When kept in an aquarium, you should keep them in pairs as they need a friend.

    These little shrimps only grow to about 1 inch in size so can be easily overlooked in the big old ocean. 

    Pink Eye Goby

    Pink Eye Goby

    The goby family is huge but these little guys stand out thanks to their brilliantly bright pink eyes. They look like little kids who have snuck into the eyeshadow palettes! 

    Gobies are bottom dwellers, eating little bits of debris and plants from the ground. Though they are not eaten by humans, gobies are an important part of the ocean food chain.

    Sexy Shrimp

    These interestingly named crustaceans are also called squat shrimp. Their sexy moniker comes from the fact that they are known to shake their booties above their head. 

    These little shrimp grow to only 0.6 inches in length! Despite their small size they have spread across the world and are considered a pantropical animal! 

    Octopus Wolfi

    At only half an inch, these are quite possibly the smallest animals in the ocean. They are certainly the smallest octopus species.

    Found in the Western Pacific ocean, these tiny eight-armed creatures have a life span as small as their size. They generally only live for a year or so. This is such a shame as they are so cute! 

    Final Thoughts

    Though they might be hard to see, these creatures are integral to the health and stability of the ocean.

    You might need some glasses to catch sight of these cute and adorable creatures but they’ll be worth the hassle. 


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