Tide pool sculpin

Sometimes tide pool sculpins will explore a nearby tide pool, but they always know their way back to their own tide pool.

Small fish, big family
There are about 300 species in the sculpin (Cottidae) family living at the bottoms of rivers, lakes and deep ocean canyons, growing up to two feet long, but tide pool sculpins live in sheltered intertidal waters of the northern Pacific Ocean, and don’t grow over 3.5 inches.
Scents of safety—and danger!
Research suggests a strong sense of smell helps tide pool sculpins find their way home. It may also protect them. Some studies found that when they detected the scent of their predators, or of other sculpins that had been injured, they sought shelter and used their camouflage stripes to stay hidden.
Shallow breathing
During low tide, shallow tide pools are sometimes isolated from the churning waves and become hypoxic, meaning they lack sufficient oxygen. This is not a problem for tide pool sculpins, because they can emerge partially or completely from the water and breathe air for several hours.
Protecting the tide pool sculpin
Tide pool sculpins are not endangered, but they are regularly eaten by great blue herons, crabs and larger fish, so they play an important role in our marine ecosystem. You can help preserve their habitat by choosing environmentally friendly household cleaners and lawn/garden products, and treading lightly when you visit the beach.


Tide pool sculpin range

Quick Facts

Diet: Small crustaceans and worms
Average lifespan in the wild:
About five years
Size: Up to 3.5”
Protection Status: Safe