20 Fascinating Archer Fish Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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archer fish facts

Before we talk about archer fish facts, we will like to ask you a question. Do you believe in the words – ‘BORN KILLERS’? If you don’t, it is time you start believing because nature has no scarcity of born killers.

From large animals to miniscule creatures, the list of living creatures that are born with precision hunting skills is quite long and we will try to cover all of them over time.

Today we are here to talk about archer fish – a tiny fish that deploys one very unusual hunting technique that works every single time, making it one of the deadliest hunter nature has to offer. So, let us embark on a journey to 20 fascinating archer fish facts and learn what this tiny devil is capable of. Ready?

Fascinating archer fish facts: 1-5

1. Belonging to a fish family known as the Toxotidae, the archer fish aka archerfish or spinner fish is popular because of its unusual habit of making tasty snacks out of small animals (really small) and insects that live on land.

archer fish facts
Archer fish in aquarium | By Vassil – Own work, CC0, Link

2. Inhabiting brackish waters of mangroves and estuaries, there are a total of 7 species of archer fish that are put together in the genus Toxotes. They also dwell in upstream freshwater and also in open oceans.

3. Archer fish is mostly found in Australia, India, Polynesia and Philippines.

4. Archer fish usually grows to the length of 5-10 cm with the exception of the species T. chatareus which grows up to 16 inches or 40 cm.

5. Spinner fish have laterally compressed deep bodies. Dorsal fin to mouth has a straight line profile. They have protruded mouth with jutted out lower jaws.

Fascinating archer fish facts: 6-10

6. As mentioned in first point, they target land-based preys but the question is, how do they make it possible? They use water as their weapon. They shoot a jet of water from their mouth to hit insects and other prey above the water surface.

7. Archer fish create a gun barrel in their mouth by pressing their tongue in a special groove in the roof of their mouth and then close their gills to shoot the water pistol.

8. They shoot the water jet with the finesse of a marksman and are highly accurate up to the height of 2 meters and sometimes up to 3 meters.

archer fish facts
Drawing of an archer fish shooting water at an insect hanging on a branch | By Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia FoundationThis file has been extracted from another file: PSF A-50002.png, Public Domain, Link

9. Archer fish can be rightly called as ballistics experts because they even know how to adjust for the gravitational pull that acts on the jet of water and manage to hit their prey with high precision.

10. That’s not all! They also have highly developed eyesight that allow them to adjust for refraction of light that takes place at air and water boundary. The optical illusion caused by refraction will usually shift the position of the targeted prey.

Fascinating archer fish facts: 11-15

11. While hunting, archer fish simply rotates its eyes so that the prey’s image fall in retina’s ventral temporal periphery. This allows them to pinpoint the exact location of the prey despite the optical shift at air-water boundary.

12. In order to shoot the water efficiently, archer fish will allow its lips to just break the water surface barrier.

13. When the fish shoots the water, the rear end of the jet is at a higher speed compared to the front end. This creates a blob at the tip that then hits the target.

14. This speed differential is also well-controlled by the archer fish is capable of controlling the speed of the front and rear of the stream.

15. The force with which the archer fish will shoot the stream of water will also depend on the size of the prey and the force with which they hold on to the tree branches and shoots. The prey is never big and is almost always limited to small bugs and small lizards.

Fascinating archer fish facts: 16-20

16. Archer fish are very persistent. In case their first shot misses the target, they will repeatedly keep shooting until the succeed.

17. Young archer fish get into hunting business by the time they reach the length of 2.5 centimeters. However, they are not very skilled killers first and the water jet they shoot will not usually hit the unsuspecting prey.

18. To overcome the problem, young archer fish will usually hunt in small groups. This ensures that at least one of the jets will eventually hit the prey.

19. Archer fish are observational learners. They don’t practice much to learn but will rather spend time watching others perform and pick up the skill simply by observing.

20. Archer fish have the habit of shooting at anything that moves and glows and is small enough for their small mouths to devour! Sometimes they may even jump out of water to catch their prey provided the target is within range.

Sources: 1, 2

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