6 Fishes That Looks Like a Lizard – Aquarist Land

Have you ever heard of the phrase “fish that looks like a lizard?” It’s when someone can’t tell if they’re looking at a fish or a reptile. These two animals look so similar, and they both live underwater, and their diet has similarities, making it even more difficult to identify them. But, these lizard-like fish are fascinating in many ways.

So, what fishes have a similar appearance to a Lizard? Form our long research, we found Synodontidae or lizardfish, Axolotl, whiptail catfish (Rineloricaria, Bichir, Deepsea lizardfish, Sturddlefish, and Tiktaalik Roseae have the highest resemblance with the Lizard Species.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss those lizard-like fishes, their habitat, appearance, similarities, and dissimilarities with a Lizard.

Here are some similar articles we’ve covered on our site. If you feel interested, click the links below to read them.

14 Most Common Fishes That Looks Like a Snake.
13 Fishes with Eel-like Appearances.


Fishes with Lizard-like Appearances

1. Lizardfish (Synodontidae):

The lizardfish or Synodontidae is a bottom-dwelling marine fish. It has about 57 species in the family. And most species live in tropical regions. Among all the species, the inshore lizardfish is the most frequent one. Lizardfishes prefer shallow coastal areas of tropical and subtropical regions around the world for living.

Blackblotch Lizardfish (fish that looks like a lizard)


  • Lizardfishes are a diverse group of marine ray-finned fish.
  • They’re generally small, with the largest species about 60 cm.
  • This species have slender, somewhat cylindrical bodies.
  • Their heads superficially look like Lizards.
  • The dorsal fin is located in the middle of the back, with a small adipose fin near the tail.
  • Lizardfishes have sharp teeth.
  • They’re voracious predators and will bury themselves in sand or mud to catch prey or hide from predators.
  • They eat primarily fish and small invertebrates.

Lizardfish Aquarium Guide (Red Lizard Fish):

  • Care Level is Easy.
  • Maximum Size in Captivity- 11 inches.
  • They’re semi-aggressive predatory fish.
  • They’re a carnivore species.
  • Minimum Tank Size: 90 gallons.

Similarities with Lizard:

The topmost similarity between a Lizard and Lizardfish is their resembling head structure and look. Also, the skin color and body shape have some similarities too. Lizardfish have sharp teeth like most of the lizard species. Besides those, the lizardfish are primarily carnivorous like lizards.

Differences with Lizard:

Lizardfish species aren’t quadrupedal like most Lizards. Moreover, the lizardfish has a dorsal fin in the middle back. Some species of lizard have special abilities like venom, regrow their tail, camouflage, and reflex bleeding.

2. Axolotl (the Mexican Walking Fish):

One of the most common and popular fish species that look like a lizard. The Axolotl is from the genus Paedomorphic salamander and is related to the tiger salamander. These species are native to several freshwater lakes in Mexico City. This amphibian can reach adulthood without metamorphosis. Also, they remain in the water and grow gill.

Axolotl, the Mexican walking fish (fish that looks like a lizard)


  • A sexually mature adult axolotl, at age 18–24 months.
  • The Highest length can be around 45 cm.
  • They have external gills and a caudal fin extending from behind the head to the vent.
  • Their heads are wide, and their eyes are lidless.
  • Their limbs are underdeveloped and possess long, thin digits.
  • Women Axolotl has eggs full wider bodies than males.
  • They’ve three pairs of external gill stalks that originate behind their heads and are used to move oxygenated water.
  • Axolotls have barely visible vestigial teeth.
  • They’ve soft, moist skin.
  • The normal wild-type Axolotl is brown/tan with gold speckles and an olive undertone.

Axolotl Aquarium Guide:

  • Min tank size: 10 gallons (20 better)
  • Tank type: Planted with decorations
  • Temperature: 60-70°F (15-23°C) (stable)
  • pH: 6.5-8.0 (stable)
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Tank Mates: None
  • Size: 6-18 inches long
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years

Similarities to Lizard:

Axolotls’ have limbs that are highly similar to lizard species. And they can regrow some body parts like some lizards. Moreover, most lizards and Axolotl reproduce through eggs.

Differences with Lizards:

The Axolotl use gills for breathing instead of lungs. They have caudal fins, which are absent on a reptile’s body. Moreover, major lizard species have hard skin, while the Axolotl have soft, moist skin.

3. Bichir (Polypterids):

Bichirs and the reedfish comprise a family called Polypteridae. They are ancient-looking, ray-finned fish that live mainly in freshwater habitats with tropical Africa locations such as swamps or shallow floodplains near rivers like the Nile River system.

Polypterus Delhez (fish that looks like a lizard)

Body Descriptions:

  • Bichirs are elongated fish with a unique series of dorsal finlets, which vary from 7- 18.
  • The dorsal finlets of the fish are bifid, and each one has a spine.
  • The body is covered in thick, bonelike, and rhombic scales.
  • Their jaw structure more closely resembles that of the tetrapods/four-limbed animals.
  • They’ve fleshy pectoral fins.
  • They also have a pair of slit-like spiracles on the top of their heads for breathing air and four pairs of gills.
  • Polypterids have a maximum body length ranging from 25-100 cm.
  • They’re nocturnal and feed on small vertebrates, crustaceans, and insects.
  • Bichirs have an extraordinary olfactory ability.

Bichir/Polypterids Aquarium Guide:

  • Care Level: Intermediate.
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive.
  • Color: Species dependent.
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years.
  • Size: 10-30 inches (dependent on species).
  • Diet: Carnivore (Aquarium Diet: Shrimp, baitfish, mussels, earthworms, and bloodworms).
  • Minimum Tank Size Recommendation: 90 gallons.
  • Tank Set-Up: Freshwater.
  • Compatibility: Large cichlids and Catfish.

Similarities with Lizards:

Bichir’s thick, bonelike, rhombic scale skin is similar to lizard species. Also, their jaw structure looks similar to many lizard species.

Differences with Lizard:

Unlike lizard species, Polypterids have dorsal and pectoral finlets. They’ve gills for air-breathing. Also, Bichir lives only in freshwater tropical regions.

4. Rineloricaria (whiptail catfish):

The Rineloricaria is a genus of tropical freshwater Catfish belonging to the family Loricariidae. They are commonly called Whiptail Catfish because of the long filament that grows out of the tip on its caudal fin, which is characteristic for all members in this singular tribe! With one exception (from Panama). These fish are native throughout South America’s rivers. Moreover, some species are frequent in the aquarium trade.

Whiptail Catfish (fish that looks like a lizard)


  • This fish is unique with its very thin, twig-like appearance.
  • The Whiptail Catfish is primarily nocturnal.
  • This species is peaceful and is compatible with most other non-aggressive fish.
  • Their body is elongated and covered with armor-like skin and have no visible barbels,
  • They have extended rostrum (nose) to the trailing extensions on the tips of their tails.
  • The colors varied according to different species. However, the most usual colors are brown and red.
  • Rineloricari grows long filament out of the tip of the caudal fin.
  • The average length of a Rineloricaria catfish is about 13 cm.
  • They have an erect dorsal fin, a very thin caudal peduncle, and a narrow face.
  • Also, they have a sucker disk mouth.

Rineloricaria (whiptail catfish) Aquarium Guide:

  • Level of care: Easy
  • Temperaments: Territorial, but harmless and peaceful
  • Life expectancy: 5-8 years
  • Size: About 4-inches
  • Diet: Omnivorous
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10-20 gallon
  • Tank environment: Hard and acidic water with sand substrate
  • Water Condition: Temperature: 77-82°F (25-28°C), pH: 6.0-8.0, Hardness: 5-20°H.

Similarities with Lizard:

The skin color and armor-like skin is the biggest similarity between these two species. Also, some lizard species have a long mouth that looks like the nose of whiptail catfish.

Differences with Lizards:

There are a few similarities between a whiptail catfish and the lizard species, except for the skin and face structure. Therefore, other than those. They both are highly different from each other.

5. Deepsea lizardfish:

The Deepsea Lizardfish is also known as Bathysaurus ferox. They’re part of the diverse ray-finned fish species (aulopiform) that consists of about 230 species. This species lives in tropical and subtropical sea areas but is different from typical lizardfish (Synodontidae). Deepsea Lizardfish live at the depths of 600-3,500 meters of the ocean.

Deepsea Catfish (fish that looks like a lizard)


  • Deepsea Lizardfish has a slender, cylindrical body.
  • They are whitish, grey, or brown and are covered in tough scales.
  • The large, well-developed eyes, with large pupils, help them to detect prey.
  • They have a large bony flattened (lizard-like) head and an enormous mouth filled with rows of needle-like depressible teeth.
  • The adults reach about 70 cm in length
  • They’re voracious deep-sea predators, including for their own kind.

Deepsea Lizardfish Aquarium Guide:

There are no valid references to Deepsea Lizardfish species in captivity.

Similarities with Lizard Species:

The deepsea lizardfish has a large mouth full of sharp teeth, similar to many lizard species. Also, this fish has a lizard-like head. Moreover, their tough scales have similarities with lizards too. And they’re voracious and predatory.

Differences with Lizards:

This fish species have fins on its body (not for all Bathysauridae) like lizardfishes. The deepsea lizardfish are only found in tropical or subtropical sea areas.

6. Tiktaalik Roseae:

The Tiktaalik is an extinct lobe-finned fish species found 375 million years ago. They’re found in Canadian arctic territory. Tiktaalik is technically fish that has highly similar features to tetrapods.

Tiktaalik Roseae (fish that looks like a lizard)
Source: commons.wikimedia.org


  • Tiktaalik had a triangular, flattened head and unusual fins.
  • They had scales and gills.
  • Their thin ray-boned fins had been used for fish-like padding.
  • Also, their interior bone structure helps them to prop themselves in shallow water like four-legged animals.
  • They had notable spiracles on the top its head, which indicates having lungs and gills.
  • Also, they’re assumed to have short necks.

Similarities with Lizard:

It’s believed that the lizard species were evolved from this fish species. Therefore, their many features are similar to lizards. The Tiktaalik had a neck and bone structure similar to a lizard. Their head and tail parts looked similar too.

Differences with Lizards:

They used to live in the water and had gills for breathing like fish. Also, Tiktaalik had fins like most fishes that are absent in lizard species.

Last Words:

The world is full of amazing things and species we don’t know yet. Learning about those interesting facts or stuff is always intriguing. Therefore, we’re trying to cover some of the amazing fish species according to our niche. And, fish that looks like a lizard is one of them

These fishes have similar appearances or body structures that can match a lizard. Even sometimes, you may wonder what it is actually you saw, was it fish or a lizard. Moreover, some of them you can keep in an aquarium too.

However, our researchers found fishes with highly lizard-like appearances, including Synodontidae or lizardfish, Axolotl, whiptail catfish (Rineloricaria, Bichir, Deepsea lizardfish, Sturddlefish, and Tiktaalik Roseae. There’re other fishes too that have some similarities with lizard species.

One comment

  1. Your style is unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this blog.

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