USA TODAY - Think the fantastic fish of Finding Nemo were just fiction? The oceans are filled with creatures that defy imagination, and you can see many of them up close at aquariums across the USA.
Native to the tropical Western Pacific, mandarinfish are some of the flashiest fish species around. Their bright stripes and spots serve as a warning for bigger fish to keep away, as these fish secrete a toxic mucus. If you want to spot these colorful fish without diving in Asia, look for them in the Tropical Gallery at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
Scorpionfish, besides being some of the most venomous fish species on earth, are also masters of camouflage. They may be pretty to look at, but don't touch them -- their spines secrete a venomous mucus that causes a stinging sensation. Spot them safely at the Dallas World Aquarium.
Seadragons are one of the most bizarre types of fish, and in this already strange group, the leafy seadragon stands out as one of the strangest. Leaf-shaped appendages covering their bodies help these fish blend in with the surrounding seaweed. While they're naturally found along the southern coast of Australia, you can see them up close at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
The longhorn cowfish gets its name from the horn-like appendages protruding from its head. When they get hungry, they blow into the sand on the bottom of the ocean to uncover small prey. The longhorn cowfish on display at the National Aquarium in Baltimore is said to be quite photogenic.
Pipefish, related to seahorses and just as weird, have long tube-like snouts with a tiny mouth on the end. You'll find more than 200 species in tropical coastal waters around the world as well as at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.
The cube-shaped boxfish is just as cute as it is strange. Most species of these small saltwater fish rarely grow larger than a few inches, making them favorites for private aquarium collections. You can gawk at these little guys at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.
Stonefish, a type of scorpionfish and the most venomous fish known, hides on the bottom of the ocean, waiting to ambush its prey. If you want to see one without the risk of stepping on it (ouch!), you can do so at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in family-friendly Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Frogfish, another diver favorite, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors -- 45 species in total. They all have some weird attributes in common, including their ability to blend in with the surrounding environment, change their shape and hunt prey using a worm-like wriggling lure attached to their heads. You can spot them in aquariums all over the world, including the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
The wolf eel isn't really an eel at all; it's a species of wolffish. These typically docile fish have a nasty bite when provoked, and they can grow up to 8 feet long. This shy species prefers to hang out in caves and crevices, and that's where you should try to spot them in the tanks at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
Sunfish, or Mola Mola, are the world's heaviest bony fish -- and one of the strangest looking. These odd tail-less fish are often the highlight of scuba diving trips in the world's tropical temperate waters, but if you want to see one closer to home, head to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
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