The wrymouth, Cryptacanthodes maculatus, sometimes called ghostfish, is a slim, eel-like creature belongs to the wrymouth family Cryptacanthodidae. It outgrows the blennies, its relatives, and may reach 3 ft. A low spiny dorsal fin stands along the entire back. This includes about 70 spines and unites with the caudal and anal fins. Small eyes lie near the top of its big head. The mouth slants sharply above a ponderous lower jaw. Along its reddish brown upper sides extend several irregular rows of small dark spots. The dorsal and anal fins also show spots.

Distribution and habitat

Dwelling along the North Atlantic coast of North America, it ordinarily hugs the bottom from shallow water down to considerable depths. It likes to burrow in the mud. About 2 inches around and 1.5 to 3 in below the surface, the burrow branches into tunnels. Sometimes, however, the burrow stands as high as 4 feet above the low water mark. It begins in a centrally placed mound with smaller openings along the tunnel and at its end. Usually it eats small invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs. Once in a while it grabs a small fish. It spawns in the winter, probably in deep water.

In the aquarium

In aquaria the wrymouth has been known to utilize a rubber tube as a ready-made burrow.


  • E. C. Raney "Wrymouth." The Wise Fishermen's Encyclopedia (1951)

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