Wolf fish or Catfish (Anarhichas lupus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The wolf fish is a dark bluish-grey in colour. There are vertical dark bars crossing the body and the dorsal fin. Growing up to 120cm, it feeds mainly on echinoderms, crabs and molluscs. The fish has a large head and powerful jaw muscles enabling it to break through the hard casings of these organisms. The canine-like front teeth are pronounced and the palate teeth are commonly well worn with the central row longer than the neighbouring rows.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found on the north coasts of England and Scotland. This species is probably under recorded.

Global distribution

Occurs from Scandinavian coasts to the south of France, and northeast from Britain and Ireland to Iceland. Also found in the Arctic Atlantic, the east coast of Greenland and from Labrador to Cape Cod. One record from the Mediterranean.


The adults are usually found in deep waters, from 100-300 m, but can range to depths of 500 m. Young may be found at 10-30 m and possibly in the Laminaria zone. They are normally found on rocky seabeds where they often occupy fissures and holes with only the head protruding, and they may also be found on sand or mud.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Bluish-grey colouring, possibly with tinges of yellow or green.
  • 9-13 dark bars extend across the body to the base of the dorsal fin.
  • The head is large, nearly one quarter of the body length.
  • Large canine-like teeth protrude from the front of the jaw.
  • Teeth on the vomer (a bone forming the front part of the roof of the mouth) reach back further than the lines of palatine teeth either side.
  • The caudal fin is rounded with between 22 and 26 rays.
  • The pectoral fins are approximately a third of the length from head to anus.
  • The dorsal and anal fins stop just short of the tail fin.

Additional information


Listed by

- none -


  1. Costello, M.J., Bouchet, P., Boxshall, G., Emblow, C. & Vanden Berghe, E., 2004. European Register of Marine Species [On-line]. http://www.marbef.org/data/erms.php,

  2. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line] http://www.fishbase.org, 2001-05-03

  3. Foster-Smith, J. (ed.), 2000. The marine fauna and flora of the Cullercoats District. Marine species records for the North East Coast of England. Sunderland: Penshaw Press, for the Dove Marine Laboratory, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

  4. MarLIN (Marine Life Information Network), 2005. SEArchable BEnthic Data (SEABED) Map [on-line]. Data Access Sub-programme, Marine Life Information Network for Britian and Ireland http://www.marlin.ac.uk,

  5. Muus, B.J. & Dahlstrom, P., 1974. Collins guide to the sea fishes of Britain and North-Western Europe. Wm Collins Sons & Co. Ltd: London.

  6. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  7. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  2. Nature Locator, 2017. Sealife Tracker. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/qgk3pg accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  3. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  4. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-06-25


This review can be cited as:

Hughes, J.R. 2007. Anarhichas lupus Wolf fish or Catfish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25-06-2024]. Available from: https://marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1747

Last Updated: 15/03/2007