Last updated on September 6th, 2023 at 09:03 pm
The gar fish is a member of the carp family and one of the most unusual-looking freshwater fish in North America. These gar-like fishes are often called “alligator gar” because their snout resembles an alligator’s head. They have long, needle-sharp teeth which they use to catch smaller prey such as small catfish and minnows. Gar fishes will also eat frogs, snakes, turtles, water birds, and even other gar fishes!
Gar fish is a species of freshwater gar that can be found in North America. They are most commonly found in the southeastern United States, but they also inhabit northern Mexico and parts of Central America. Garfish have many unique features that make them interesting creatures to study!
Origin and description
The gar fish, or Lepisosteus osseus, is a prehistoric-looking freshwater predator that lives in rivers and lakes across North America. It gets its name from the four rows of sharp teeth lining its jaws.
They are native to Florida but can be found all over the United States. They average about three feet in length and weigh about fifteen pounds. They have a long, gray body with an alligator-like snout. Their scales are diamond-shaped
The most unique thing about these fish is their ability to breathe air using primitive lungs called “book lungs”. These book lungs allow the fish to stay submerged in water for hours without coming up for air!
The garfish is freshwater native to the United States. It can survive in brackish water and saltwater but prefers freshwater. The gar has been around since before the dinosaurs and has evolved very little over time. They are closely related to bowfin in North America, but they do not interbreed with them where their ranges overlap.
They are mainly piscivores, but they will eat some invertebrates as well. They have a large mouth with many needle-sharp teeth that point backward to prevent prey from escaping once caught. Their “gar” name comes from the fact that they look like an ancient European spear called an “angon”. Angon’s had a very long, sharp end that would be stuck into the fish, and then they could use it to pull them out of water.
They are known for their ability to breathe air at the surface through chambers in their swim bladder (located between gills). This is mostly used as an adaptation during low tide when they can still get air, but not as much oxygen. They can also live in very low dissolved-oxygen content water for extended periods of time.
In addition to those adaptations, they have a few other interesting ones too. The scales on their sides are bony and jagged with many ridges that make them look like armor plating from some angles.
The scientific name of the gar fish is Belone belone.
Color and appearance
The gar has a long slender body with large scales and those jagged ridges on their sides. They are dark greenish-brown to gray in color, sometimes with yellow or silver highlights along the back and dorsal fins.
Gar fish can grow up to about three feet (one meter) long and weigh around six pounds (seven kilograms).
Range and habitat
The range of the gar fish is across North America. They can be found from New York in the east to Colorado and Arizona in the west, south into Mexico as well. The preferred habitat tends to be large rivers or lakes with slow-moving water that has many plants growing along the bottom where they like to hide during daytime hours.
They can also be found in large numbers near the mouths of rivers where they are trying to access brackish water. Garfish will travel quite a bit and sometimes even go into saltwater, but their primary range is freshwater.
In addition to those places, there have been some sightings in isolated areas along coastlines far from any river mouths. Many of those sightings have been into the mouths of rivers and then traveling upstream to spawn, but they can sometimes be found in brackish water as well or even saltwater.
The gar fish prefers slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation along the bottom where it is easy for them to hide during the daytime hours when they sleep on the bottom of the water.
Size and weight
Gar fish can grow up to three feet (one meter) long and weigh around six pounds (seven kilograms).
Because of their large size, they should be kept in aquariums that are at least 100 gallons. They do best with plenty of plants growing along the bottom where they like to hide.
Female gar fish can reproduce at around one year old and then they will produce several batches of eggs every few days throughout the spring. The male will fertilize all of those eggs, but only a few may actually hatch depending on water conditions after spawning occurs. Those that do not hatch are eaten by other fish in the area or simply die.
The gar fish can reach sexual maturity at one year old, but most are mature by the time they are two years old. They will then produce several batches of eggs every few days throughout the spring season depending upon water conditions. The male will fertilize all of those eggs, but only a few may actually hatch due to harsh environmental factors after spawning occurs.
The gar fish can live up to about twenty years old and continue to grow over time as they age.
Are they aggressive or peaceful?
The gar fish is a rather peaceful species. They will not bother any other fish in the tank, but they can be aggressive with their own kind so it might be wise to keep multiple specimens only if you have a very large aquarium and plenty of hiding spaces for more than one specimen at once.
Gar fish care
The gar fish care requirements are minimal. They are bottom-dwelling species that do not require any special care other than providing them with plenty of vegetation along with enough space and hiding places so they won’t feel threatened by anything else.
They will not require any special food or dietary supplements, but they do need plenty of vegetation along the bottom where it is easy for them to hide during daytime hours when they sleep on the bottom of the water which can be provided by sinking catfish pellets into that area or using aquatic plants like elodea along with Java moss in a substrate of sand or fine gravel.
They will not bother any other fish in the tank, but they can be aggressive with their own kind so it might be wise to keep multiple specimens only if you have a very large aquarium and plenty of hiding spaces for more than one specimen at once.
Gar fish diet
Gar fish are omnivores and will eat whatever they can get in their mouths, whether it is alive or dead. They will eat live feeder goldfish if you have them available to your pet store for purchase along with bloodworms, beefheart flakes, tubifex worms, small crickets, or shrimp pellets.
If the gar fish is not getting enough to eat by these methods, then you can feed it frozen brine shrimp or krill, but avoid any food with copper in the ingredients because this could kill your fish.
It is important that anything offered as a food source gets cut into small pieces so it will fit within their mouths and throats to be able to swallow it.
They are not good tank mates with most other species. They can be kept with any of the bottom-dwelling fish that do not bother them, but they will eat anything else in their path including cichlids and tetras, so it’s best to avoid keeping these types of fish together.
They prefer cooler water conditions, but they are also able to tolerate a range of temperatures. They do best in soft acidic water, so adding some driftwood or peat moss will help mimic their natural habitat by creating more acidity along with tannins that can be released into the water from these items.
As long as you keep the water temperature at a range of about 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the water is soft with a pH from around six up to seven, then your gar fish should do well in most aquariums.
It’s very rare that gar fish will breed in an aquarium, but if you’re lucky enough to have them do so, then it is best to remove the parents immediately after they deposit their eggs.
The larval fishes are not good tank mates with most other species of fish and they can be difficult for inexperienced aquarists to raise properly because they need to be fed live foods like brine shrimp and tubifex worms or they will not survive.
They can live for over 20 years in the wild, but they only have a lifespan of about eight to ten years if kept as aquarium pets.
Parasites and diseases
Gar fish have a tendency to get parasites and diseases if their water conditions are not kept within the proper ranges.
They can contract ick or fin rot from being in too warm of an environment, as well as internal infections that result from eating food with copper sulfate used on it. They also need to be treated for worms regularly because these parasites are more common in aquarium specimens than wild ones.
Gar fish can also contract bacterial infections, which leads to fin rot if their water conditions are not kept within the proper ranges or they have been injured by another fish that has attacked them.
They will need to be treated for any type of infection with a broad-spectrum antibiotic like tetracycline or kanamycin, but it is best to avoid using salt with them because they are freshwater fish.
Gar fish have a number of predators in the wild, including other gar and larger predatory fish like bass and pike, as well as birds that will pick them out of the water for food.
They can also be eaten by alligators or crocodiles if they are living in these types of habitats where both species cohabitate.
Does it make good pets?
Gar fish are not good pets and they will never be a favorite with the average aquarist because of their aggressive behavior.
They can also become very large, so you’ll need to have an aquarium that is at least 150 gallons once it reaches around four or five years old if you want them to do well in captivity.
This means they are not good for beginning fish keepers and many experienced ones because they are only suitable in a very large aquarium that ideally needs to be set up with species-specific tanks or ponds instead of community ones.
They do make great specimens if you want something unusual to add to your collection, but their aggressive behavior makes them difficult options as pets.
Gar fish are bottom dwellers that will eat anything else in their path. They prefer cooler water conditions, but can also tolerate a range of temperatures and should be kept in soft acidic waters with the addition of driftwood or peat moss for more acidity along with tannins released into the water from them.
As long as you keep the water temperature at a range of about 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the water is soft with a pH from around six up to seven, then your fish should do well in most aquariums.