Lookdown Fish (Selene Vomer)


Lookdown fish (Selene vomer) are silvery fish with a flattened head. They prefer sandy areas near bridge pilings and often form schools near their respective bottom.

Their skin reflects light in such a way as to make them appear invisible underwater due to the presence of guanine pigments within their bodies.

Table of Contents


The lookdown fish (Selene vomer) is an elusive marine fish species. Characterized by a wafer-thin body and steeply sloping forehead, these silver fish often seem to be looking downward. To camouflage themselves successfully in their surroundings, lookdown fish use polaro-cryptsis to adjust pigmentation levels to match local polarization conditions, helping them blend seamlessly.

A typical lookdown fish weighs between one and two pounds and measures twelve inches long, making it one of the more brutal fighters you will encounter in light gear. They tend to reside in shallow coastal waters from 3 feet deep up to 170 feet deep, with sandy or compact seafloor environments preferred as preferred locations for breeding purposes. Broadcast spawners release their eggs and sperm into the water for possible fertilization through chance fertilization processes.

Lookdowns feed on crustaceans, zooplankton, and other aquatic organisms, such as planktonic plankton; they also scavenge for dead animal remains and other debris. Highly adaptable creatures, Lookdowns can be found living in fresh and brackish coastal waters as well as rivers, lakes, and streams; additionally, they tend to cluster near structures like dock pilings, bridges, underwater riprap sea walls, etc.

Lookdowns can be caught in the wild using various natural baits such as anchovies, sardines, and glass minnows, as well as artificial lures like soft plastic worms, small crappie jigs, or tiny streamer flies – since their mouths have small openings, it’s best to use baits no more significant than three inches in size.

Anglers often find lookdowns congregating around underwater dock lights during evening hours, allowing them to focus their fishing efforts without interference from outside lighting sources. To catch these fish successfully, anglers must use stealthy tactics and present a light lure presentation – not forgetting an excellent fluorocarbon leader and shrinking down their line as much as possible!

The lookdown fish makes an eye-catching addition to any home aquarium. Their distinctive body shape and vivid coloring make them popular in public aquariums and larger home tanks. Care for lookdown fish should be pretty straightforward. However, the aquarium water must always remain clean and fully oxygenated.


Lookdown fish get their name from their striking appearance, resembling an upside-down bird. These flat and reflective silverfish feature shallow bodies with long trailing filaments on both their second dorsal fin and anal fin and small mouths angled downward. Carl Linnaeus first identified these species in 1758 in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae.

Like many carangids, lookdowns do not grow large and mature at a young age; their bodies remain extremely compressed throughout life. Furthermore, lookdowns stand out due to having a distinctive profile with their forehead sporting an indented hump that gives it its unique shape; their eyes set high up on their heads with downward-gazing pupils that give it its name; they can adapt their pigmentation accordingly for different light conditions in their natural habitat and camouflage themselves by changing its pigmentation hence.

Lookdowns can be found throughout the tropical Atlantic waters from Maine south to Bermuda and the Gulf of Mexico, favoring sandy or complex bottom environments but can sometimes also be seen in soft reef environments. Their preferred environment includes sandy or hard bottom areas as they feed on shrimps, crabs, polychaete worms, and even smaller fishes such as herring.

Recently, high-quality captive-raised juvenile lookdown fish have gained increased interest as an aquarium species for both public and private aquariums. Reports of ciguatera poisoning among fishermen have unfortunately hindered commercial expansion; nonetheless, lookdowns are becoming increasingly popular aquarium specimens and being mass-produced for retail pet markets.

At The Aquarium, a small population of lookdowns is currently housed in the Assateague Beach habitat in Maryland: Mountains to Sea exhibition. While Assateague Beach may not be suitable for adult lookdowns that can reach over one foot long in length, Curator Jay Bradley and his team have welcomed an initial batch of baby lookdowns that have already adjusted well to their new home in Assateague Beach habitat.


Lookdown fish (Selene vomer) make an unforgettable addition to a home aquarium with their graceful silver-blue body design and elegant movement. Their long dorsal fins add grace as they swim gracefully through the Giant Ocean Tank. Lookdowns typically form medium-sized schools when exploring their surroundings – the Aquarium features many such specimens.

Lookdown fish are highly evolved predator-eating hunters that use mirror-like scales as effective open-water camouflage. Lookdowns use “polar-crypsis,” an evolutionary mechanism for manipulating their coloration to adapt to current polarization conditions at any moment in time. Furthermore, their eyes are set high on their heads for added recognition when hunting prey from above.

Wild lookdowns typically prefer tropical and subtropical marine environments in shallow waters up to 170 feet deep, such as oil platforms, wrecks, piers, and other manmade objects such as oil platforms; they often congregate near these structures but avoid reef habitats for sandy or muddy bottoms instead. Pelagic in nature and constantly feeding on small crustaceans such as zooplankton, they can also eat benthic organisms.

Young lookdowns often live in open waters, floating near floating debris and sargassum weeds to hide from larger predators while hunting pelagic crustaceans. Once mature into late juveniles, however, they move closer to shore and form shoals to feed on benthic creatures to protect them from larger predators. They’re also effective broadcast spawners, depositing their eggs and sperm directly into the water, hoping that fertilization occurs by chance.

Adult lookdowns can often be seen offshore in sand, gravel, and mud areas with ideal temperatures between 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit – making them a common sight near oil and gas platforms.

Lookdown fish are easy to keep as captive pets, requiring minimal attention in terms of care and upkeep. They adapt quickly to various tank conditions without being particularly sensitive to poor water quality – although regular changing and avoidance of direct sunlight would benefit their welfare greatly. They thrive best when kept together and are generally compatible with the most prominent fish species.

Lookdown fishes such as lookdowns are best kept in environments that provide plenty of space to swim freely, preferably without tight-packed species like coral cats, scorpionfish, or sleeping gobies. Rays flounders, waspfish, crocodilefish, sea robins, coral cats, scorpionfish, and sleeping gobies are ideal tankmates.


As their name implies, lookdown fish have laterally flat bodies with steep foreheads and protruding lower jaws that give the appearance of them looking down. Their silvery colors and sleek, streamlined bodies make them stunning aquarium specimens. Although this species can be long-lived when housed in an appropriately maintained aquarium, their large swimming space requirement may make keeping one difficult for aquarists who don’t wish to construct barren or empty tanks; generally speaking, lookdowns should be housed with fish of similar size and temperament as shoaling animals that best kept in groups of five or more than five.

Fish that feed on meat-rich food sources include carnivorous fish. When wild, this includes shrimps, crustaceans, small fish, invertebrates such as corals or snails, and smaller pieces like clams and snails; in captivity, they have been observed eating various live and frozen seafood such as brine shrimp bloodworms, krill mysis shrimp larger guppies chopped squid and smelt; once settled into their tank environment they will readily accept carnivorous food such as flakes and pellets tailored specifically for predatory fish species.

The National Aquarium sources its lookdowns from an AZA-accredited facility in Florida and will shortly be transferred to another AZA aquarium that can care for juvenile fish while they transition into adults. This arrangement allows each aquarium to focus on meeting its respective species’ specific husbandry needs.

Our lookdowns can be found in the Atlantic Coral Reef habitat and can be seen moving among rockwork and corals in our main exhibit. They can be distinguished by their bright silvery color and ability to float effortlessly through the water; you’ll recognize them for their long snouts with short mouths that enable them to prey upon fish and invertebrates, leading many people to consider them to be ultimate scavengers!