Ichthyosaurus was smaller than most of its relatives, measuring 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length. Hundreds of well-preserved, fossilised skeletons have been found in Jurassic rock at Holzmaden, Germany. Some of the bones were still articulated. Some fossils still had baby specimens inside them, indicating that Ichthyosaurus was viviparous (females gave birth to live young).
The German fossils also featured the outline of Ichthyosaurus's skin, revealing that it had a fleshy dorsal fin on its back and a large caudal fin. Other ichthyosaur fossils showed this feature was not limited to Ichthyosaurus.
Ichthyosaurus ear bones were solid, probably transferring water vibrations to the inner ear. Still, hunting by sight was the creature's main feeding activity; it had huge, sensitive eyes, protected by bony shields. Coprolites of Ichthyosaurus reveal that its diet consisted of fish and squid.