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What is an Archerfish? 5 Facts You Should Know

The oceans are full of marine life that we still don’t know much about, and there’s no doubt a number of species that you’ve never heard of! One such creature is the archerfish, which is a very unique species indeed. Archerfish (Labrus jaculator) belong to a tropical fish family, consisting of just 10 species. Also known as the Spinnerfish, you can find archerfish, specifically the banded archerfish (Toxotes jaculatrix) in our Rivers and Estuaries exhibit.

So, without further ado, let’s learn more about this lesser known species and what makes it so interesting.

What does an archerfish look like?

Archerfish have an elongated, laterally compressed body, which means they are very thin. They have forward-facing eyes, and a face that ends with a point at the mouth. Archerfish typically have a rounder tail than other fish species, and its dorsal fin sits further back on its body.

Growing to around 25-30cm, archerfish are characterised by bands or spots along its body. The most common species is the banded archerfish, which is silver in colour with darker bands across its body. All species are similar in colour, but some have spots rather than bands, while some sport fewer bands than others.

Where do archerfish live?

Archerfish are typically found in rivers and estuaries, particularly around mangroves. This is because the areas are heavy with vegetation, offering an abundance of food. This species of fish thrive more in brackish waters, which is a combination of saltwater and freshwater. They are native to the Indo-Pacific area, and can be found across Asia, East Africa and Australia.

These interesting fish live in schooling groups, but these groups are often smaller than you’d expect. They prefer to live in groups of around 4 – this makes it easier for them to hunt their predators.

At Hastings Aquarium, you’ll be able to see archerfish for yourself at our Rivers and Estuaries exhibit, which shows off our freshwater species from South East Asia.

What do archerfish eat?

Archerfish are omnivores by nature but are essentially carnivorous, preferring to feast on insects, spiders and smaller fish. They have more developed eyes than most other fish, which helps them in their hunting technique – which we’ll go into more detail about later! 90% of an archerfish’s diet consists of live insects, along with small crustaceans and zooplankton.

Fun facts about archerfish

Want to learn more about this fascinating fish? Here are some must-know facts about archerfish!

  • Archerfish catch their prey by shooting or spitting water as far as 2-3 metres, in order to knock them into the water to eat! This is a unique feature to the archerfish, and is how it got its name, as it shoots its prey much like an archer. Its narrow profile and eyesight helps to shoot with accuracy.
  • Archerfish can also leap out of the water to catch their prey. They’ll do it if they miss with their water jet skills, or if they prey is a particularly easy catch.
  • A United States Navy submarine was named after the archerfish. The USS Archerfish is best known for sinking a Japanese aircraft carrier in 1944, which was the largest warship ever sunk by a submarine.
  • Archerfish can spawn up to 150,000 eggs at once, which hatch in just 12 hours.
  • It’s impossible to distinguish between male or female archerfish because they don’t present gender dimorphism. This is where the genders have different characteristics in order to tell them apart. 

A truly intriguing creature, the archerfish is an inimitable species with some really special features. If you want to see this fish in action with your very own eyes, you can at Hastings Aquarium! Discover archerfish and all of our animals by paying us a visit.

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