Different Displays - Archerfish

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on July 28, 2021

Different Displays - Archerfish thumbnail image

Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix) are famous for their starring roles of many nature documentaries, not because of their striking colors, though they are cool looking with the chrome body and bold black stripes, but for the unique behavior which gives them their namesake. They can shoot “arrows” of water (or less artistically, spit) at insects clinging to vegetation above them water. When it lands in the water, the Archer Fish, quickly makes a meal of it. This is a truly unique adaptation to ones environment, but what makes it even more special is that the surface of water acts like a lens, and thus distorts everything seen below or above it; the Archerfish has learned to compensate for this! They can shoot this over five times their body length and the maximum reported distance is almost 6 feet! (Maybe cover the tank?)

Another remarkable factoid is that Toxotes jaculatrix is amphidromous, meaning that it can move back and forth between salt and freshwater, without the impetus of breeding, making them ideal inhabitants for the brackish mangrove forests they are frequently found living in. These environments go through tidal shifts in salinity constantly. But Archers are also found in rivers, far from the sea, and even ponds, not attached to saltwater in anyway.

Archerfish can get up to about 7 or 8 inches long, though they have been reported up to about a foot, which is big enough so they are frequently harvested as food fish in their native range. They can be found from India to China, down to Northern Australia, and a myriad of places in between. Almost of the Archerfish in the hobby are wild caught as there isn't any commercial level captive breeding of this species as of the writing of this article. There are (rare) reports of breeding in captivity.

As was referenced previously, these fish can survive in a multitude of environments, but in captivity, we suggest keeping them in brackish aquariums or ideally, paludariums. A paludarium is a glass box display that includes both terrestrial and aquatic components (a terrarium / aquarium hybrid) A minimum size to keep the fish till adulthood should be 75 gallons, larger for the displays that incorporate large terrestrial sections, (95 and 120 talls are ideal). Mangroves make excellent plants for these displays, though artificial plants can be used as well. One benefit to the paludarium is that the amazing natural feeding behavior of the Archer Fish can be seen in captivity by adding crickets or other insects to the terrestrial portion of the aquarium. Lighting should be based on the needs of the plants as the fish are not all that picky, preferring to stay in the shade of the near shore cover.

Archer Fish do not require live insect food, generally taking floating food very well; they also greedily consume thawed foods like bloodworms and mysis. Tank mates should include other larger brackish fish like Tire Track Eels, Monos, Columbian Cat Sharks, Scats, Moonfish etc. While they do fine singly in aquariums, if you are going to keep multiples, they should be kept in groups of at least 5 to spread aggression out. For those of you looking for an aquarium display that is different than everybody else, planning it around Archer fish would be a great start.