Archerfish: The True Aquatic Archer

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Archerfish does live to its name when it comes to its method of hunting for a feed. I mean, they don’t do the archery stuff but these predators do have a great aim. We are going to talk about their general information, and we will focus a lot on their hunting methods. There are 9 archerfish species in total, and 3 of them have this unique hunting technique. If you have never heard about archerfish before, this is going to be something interesting for you.

1Appearance

Archerfish is a small surface-dwelling fish with a maximum length of 25 centimeters and a distinctive appearance. The fish is silvery or white in color with black dorsal banding, usually 5 to 7 bands. It has a flattened head with large forward-facing eyes. On its body are small scales that extend onto its fins, and it has a single dorsal fin near the rear. The most important part of the archerfish is the large protractile mouth with a grooved palate and large projectile jaws. Why is that important? We will discuss this in the feeding part below.

2Behavior

Adult archerfish roam along the shoreline by themselves, and sometimes they hunt in a group of 4 or 5. The team will shoot at a single target, and whoever is the closest and quickest gets to feed. Also, they can jump up to 30 centimeters out of the water to catch their prey. Juveniles congregate in calm water usually in a small school of a dozen, swimming below the surface. This fish species is diurnal so they are more active during the day when there is enough light for hunting. They usually prey through the murky swamp water where victims cannot see them which is why light is important. When the night comes, it rests motionless among the mangrove debris and roots for protection against large predators.

3Feeding & Habitats

The diet of this unique fish species consists primarily of insects, insect larvae, small aquatic crustaceans, spiders, and zooplankton. Sometimes they also feed on floating vegetable materials like flower buds, plants pollen, and pulpy fruits.

Archerfish has an incredible shooting skill, and the adults almost always hit the target on the first shot. An archerfish can bring down insects and other prey that are 1.5 meters above the water’s surface using its squirt-gun-like mouth. Thanks to their excellent eyesight and aim, the shot is usually very accurate. When selecting prey, the fish rotates its eye so that it can pinpoint the location. Then it squirts a jet of water from its lips at its victim, causing it to fall and become lunch. It usually leaps out of the water and grabs the fallen insect in its mouth. In case it misses, this persistent fish will make multiple shots to capture its food.

Generally, archerfish live in freshwater streams, ponds, and wetlands in Australia, India, New Guinea, Oceania, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. However, there are a few species that are euryhaline, meaning they can live in both fresh water and brackish water. So it is also common to find them in estuaries and mangroves. Due to their hunting habits, they are most often found in shallow, preferably murky, water.

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