Archerfish are an iconic group of fish, native to South East Asia and Northern Australia, well known for their ability to ‘shoot’ water from their mouths. There are at least 7 species of archerfish, although there could be as many as 12. The most commonly available are Toxotes chatereus and Toxotes jaculatrix.
In nature, archer fish can reach a maximum length of 40cm, however, in aquariums they usually reach 15-20cm in length.
Inhabiting tributary’s exposes archerfish to a wide range of water conditions that gives them the ability to traverse between brackish and fresh water. Since T. jaculatrix and T. chatareus are primarily brackish species. Most archerfish can be acclimated to either freshwater or saltwater over a period of time with slight, incremental and regular adjustments to salinity.
The minimum sized tank for these fish should be 210 litres (55 gallons). The more open space from the waterline to the top of tank the better as these fish like to jump. Archerfish are excellent jumpers, so it is advisable to keep their aquarium tightly covered. An aquarium that is 45 cm (18 inches) deep, filled two thirds with water is about the minimum for adults. This provides enough space above the water level for these fish to spit down morsels of foods stuck on the glass.
Archerfish live mainly in brackish mangrove swamps, so the water should also be brackish. Juveniles can handle freshwater, however, they should be acclimatised to brackish water as they mature. Moderate, rather than bright lighting is preferred by this fish. Plants that protrude above the water aid in replicating their natural environment.
Archerfish are best kept in hard, slightly alkaline water with a specific gravity of 1.010. A pH between 7.0 and 8.2 and a general hardness between 140 and 530ppm is suitable. They will also accept temperatures between 22C and 27C.
Banded Archerfish are primarily carnivores. In the wild they feed on insects that fall into the water or that they shoot down by spitting water at them. They also feed on small fish and crustaceans. In the aquarium archerfish prefer live foods taken from the surface, such as live invertebrates, small live insects, and small fish. However, archerfish can easily be trained to eat frozen, freeze-dried and even dry foods. Archerfish will only eat off the surface and will ignore anything that falls past it.
Archerfish are quite suitable for community tanks providing they are kept with similar sized fish. Smaller fish will be seen as food.
Little is known of their breeding biology and all fish offered for sale are collected from the wild. However, they are known to be egg scatterers that breed in wet season in either fresh or brackish water. Archer fish have only been spawned in captivity using hormone injection.
This article was sponsored by Nature at Work.