O-fish-al Art Recap

The #SundayFishSketch is a Twitter hashtag that encourages like-minded individuals to incorporate art and fish into their weekly lives. It is a great community to join for beginning sketchers and is also a way for seasoned artists to continue to practice. Many of the #SundayFishSketch themes can be fun getaways from your current life while others touch on relevant and current world topics. Continue reading for a recap of some of the #SundayFishSketch themes, facts, and art that occurred over the last few months.


Some may say that fish are the ‘boniest’ animals on earth. They may not be as big and robust as an elephant or as long and tall as a giraffe. But, fishes have bones everywhere. Embedded in their muscles, and more specifically, fish heads are chock-full of bones. Unlike many tetrapods where many of their skull bones have been lost or fused throughout evolutionary time, the bones of the head in fish are only loosely connected and separate.

Our artists drew various fish skeletons and parts. See if YOU can guess the fish!

Ben sketched a specific set of bones from a fish…

These are of a Manta ray (Mobula) cephalic fin. Manta rays (Mobulidae) are cartilaginous filter feeders, and their unique cephalic fins help funnel zooplankton into their mouths. Mobulids are the only rays that have evolved to be filter feeders.

Mitch went with the entire skeleton of a fish…

which is a Eurasian/European/Common carp (Cyprinus carpio). This invasive species was actually intentionally introduced throughout the world as a food fish. They are omnivorous and successful in a variety of habitats, they are able to spawn multiple times in one season and outcompete other native fishes.

E also went with an entire fish…

which happens to be a Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae). These fish are part of a long lineage at least 410 million years old. They are more closely related to tetrapods than they are to other fishes (sans the lungfishes). Coelacanths have lobed fins and were only known from fossil records until a living specimen was discovered by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and Hendrik Goosen in 1938.

Finishing off our fish skeleton highlights, Caroline illustrated this entire skeleton…

a butterflyfish skeleton (Chaetodontidae). This group of coral-reef fishes are usually brightly colored with compressed bodies. Many butterflyfish feed on corals, are relatively small, and are a fan favorite for coral-reef aquariums.


You may have noticed that, similar to large herds of mammals, fishes can sometimes be found in immensely large ‘schools.’ Schooling behavior is hypothesized to have multiple benefits to fishes. Some fish school as a type of antipredation/safety in numbers method where each individual is either less likely to get targeted or more individuals means more eyes looking out for predators. Other fish, like tuna, swim more efficiently while schooling. This occurs when proper synchronization of the tuna’s caudal fin motions and with special schooling arrangements enhance their swimming performance significantly. Some fish that school can alert others when a food source is found. Lastly, many fish species are broadcast spawners and school during reproduction. This better enables male sperm to reach spawned female eggs.

Alex illustrated Striped eel catfishes (Plotosus Lineatus). The juveniles of this species school together unlike the mostly solitary adults. Aptly named, they have elongated bodies like eels and confluent dorsal, caudal, and anal fins. 

Jennifer rendered Lookdowns (Selene vomer). These laterally compressed fishes are found in shoals near the coast. Their unique rhomboid appearance has made them a favorite for large aquariums.

Heather sketched anchovies (Engraulidae). Mostly marine, these little french fries of the sea have a gel-filled rostral organ and are a key ingredient in caesar dressing and can be a topping for some pizza lovers. The schools of anchovies can easily reach over a million individuals. 

Titus painted Emerald shiners (Notropis atherinoides). These North America natives are sometimes used as bait, especially in colder temperatures. Found in moderately-sized schools, Emerald shiners are thought to be one of the most abundant fish in the Mississippi.


“Fish” have been around for over 500 million years. During that immense amount of time, until now, they have evolved into many forms adapting many strategies to be successful, survive, and reproduce. Despite this large amount of time, some of these fish lineages and the fish species in them that are still alive today, have remained relatively unchanged in morphology for hundreds of millions of years.

Hidetoshi illustrated a Frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus). This species is a part of the Hexanichformes, a group of sharks known for primitive-looking sharks. 

Bryce rendered a netful of gars (Lepisosteidae). This lineage of fishes evolved over 150 million years ago (mya), with similar relatives appearing as early as 240 mya. Gars are covered in a unique ganoid scale type and used to be much more widespread than current extant taxa which are only found North and Central America. 

Peanut sketched an American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula). The first fossil record we have of paddlefish occur approximately 125 million years ago. The American paddlefish is the only living species, although the only other known extant paddlefish (the Chinese paddlefish) was only recently declared extinct after its last sighting in 2003. These fish are mostly cartilaginous and possess a long rostrum covered with electroreceptors used in foraging.

Adam painted an Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri). The lineage of fishes that resulted in the Australian lungfish evolved approximately 380 mya. Most lungfishes can in one way or another survive outside of the water for multiple days. Some species, like the African lungfish, can even create a mucous cocoon around themselves while buried in the mud during the dry season, a behavior called estivation.

Are you interested in joining the #SundayFishSketch? It is free to participate and hosts an open and welcoming community. Don’t know how to start drawing? Check out my previous blogpost  on how to draw a fish. This post gives you step-by-step instructions on what to look for when illustrating fishes, how to start, and provides other online resources.


What is it like to participate in the #SundayFishSketch? Just ask our artist of the month, Titus Seilheimer (@DrFishSG), a fisheries and outreach specialist that frequents our community with watercolors and huge amounts of support.

How long have you been participating in the #SundayFishSketch?

I’ve been participating for several years but I have spent a lot more time on fish sketches in the last year.

Why did you decide to participate and has it been difficult to sketch on a semi-regular basis?

I came for the love of fishes, and stayed for the opportunity to improve my sketching. I didn’t have a lot of art experience and hadn’t done much fish sketching before the hashtag, so this was a great opportunity to combine my career and improve my sketching. It was hard to make the time but in the last year I have been sketching everyday, so that makes it much easier to sketch a fish for the hashtag.

Do you believe your art has improved since joining the hashtag? 

Very much so. In my early participation in the hashtag I was a little frustrated with my sketches (“what am I even trying to do here?”). So as a way to improve, I took a virtual class in 2021 on nature journaling and sketching as a way to actually learn some skills. Nature sketching is a great fit for an ecologist and with this hashtag! Part of the class was to sketch every day, which I’ve been able to do for a year now. A lot of those daily quick sketches have been fish and they are looking better.

What has been your favorite theme thus far and why? 

My favorite theme was sketching the #25DaysofFishmas in 2021. As a way to combine my daily sketching exercises with the #25DaysofFishmas and #SundayFishSketch, I did my own #SketchFishmas. My goal was to sketch each of the 25 species and I sketched the fish of the day. I also started playing more with watercolors for that and have done mostly watercolor sketches since then. I’m interested in speed in my sketching and you can really fill in the colors with paint compared to pencil! The hashtag has really been a great inspiration for me. Thanks Rene!

Please leave a thought provoking reply. We reserve the right to remove comments deemed inappropriate.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.