toadfish, common name for the sluggish, bottom-feeding fishes of the family Batrachoididae, found mainly in marine and brackish waters worldwide. Toadfishes feed largely on crustaceans and small fishes. The head of a toadfish is broad and flat, with barbels and fleshy fringes, sharp gill covers, and spiny protrusions on the cheeks; the mouth is enormous and has many sharp teeth. The scaleless, slimy body tapers to a slender tail. Some toadfishes grow up to 22 in. (57 cm) in length, but most are smaller. The eggs, sometimes laid in empty shells or tin cans, are guarded viciously by the male. The midshipmen (Porichthys species) of the same family are deepwater fishes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with many small luminescent organs on the underside of the body. Midshipman fish are also noted for the sustained noctural hums that nest-building males produce during courtship to attract females; those and other sounds are generated by muscular contractions on the swim bladder. Other members of the family, found in tropical waters, have venomous spines. Toadfishes and their relatives are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Batrachoidiformes, family Batrachoididae.
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