The flying gurnards are distributed in tropical and temperate waters in the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They usually are found in nearshore environments, whereas larval and juvenile dactylopterids are found in open ocean (pelagic) environments, where they can be collected at night using attracting lights and handheld dipnets.

The flatheads and relatives are distributed in the tropical and temperate waters of the Indo-Pacific, Mediterranean, and eastern Atlantic. Platycephalids are found on the continental shelf at depths to 984 ft (300 m), but most are found at less than 330 ft (100 m). Bembrids also live on the continental shelf, but they typically are taken at deeper depths (hence their common name, deepwater flatheads), down to 1,900 ft (581

m). Although there are significantly fewer ghost flatheads, they have a much wider depth distribution, ranging from 200 to 4,900 ft (60-1,500 m).

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