Sevenspot Archerfish occur from India to Australia including Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and New Guinea. Within Australia it occurs from Proserpine (Queensland), across the north and west until the Kimberleys WA (QLD, NT, WA).
Sevenspot Archerfish regularly reach about 250 mm in length, but can grow to 400 mm. Their colouration is extremely variable, but is usually black, grey or tan on the upper back and silvery-white on the sides and belly. They have six or seven variable size black bars or spots along the upper sides; three of these are usually larger than the others. The outer margins of the clear dorsal and anal fins are black. The caudal fin is clear but sometimes has darker markings. The pelvic fins are white to yellowish and the pectoral fins are usually clear. The area of the body that is darkly coloured may vary from none to almost total depending on time, habitat and condition and age of the fish. The long, almost straight back from the mouth to the dorsal fin and the triangular shape mean that archerfish are unlike any other fish. Only two other archerfish species occur in Australia, each has a relatively limited range. They are not easily distinguished from Sevenspot Archerfish.
Ecology/Way of Life:
Sevenspot Archerfish inhabit brackish waters such as rivers and estuaries, but are also found well upstream into freshwater. They are normally found near stream banks and fallen timber, or amongst mangroves or other overhanging vegetation. Breeding can occur in either fresh or brackish waters and some populations have been established in freshwater impoundments. Sevenspot Archerfish spawn during the wet season. The eggs are tiny (0.35 to 0.43 mm diameter) and float in the currents. Up to 150,000 eggs are released by the female. Details of spawning behaviour and early development are unknown. Archerfish mature at about 200 mm and at an age of one to two years. They eat primarily terrestrial and aquatic insects, but shrimps and fishes also taken. They are frequently observed patrolling the water surface below overhanging vegetation. When a suitable prey item is located, the archerfish spits drops of water at it in an attempt to knock it into the water, where it is eaten. It may also leap from the water to capture prey above the surface.
Interaction with Humans/Threats:
Sevenspot Archerfish are widespread and are not threatened. They can even be seen in marinas and wharf developments near coastal cities. They are a popular angling species but not particularly favoured as table fish. Young specimens are collected from the wild in Northern Territory for the aquarium trade.
Toxotes chatareus was named by Hamilton in 1822. The genus Toxotes means archer or bowman.
Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.
Bishop, K.A., Allen, S.A., Pollard D.A. & Cook, M.G. (1980) Ecological studies on the fishes of the Alligator River Region – autecological studies. Draft Report for the Office of the Supervising Scientist, Alligator Rivers Region. Sydney. (unpublished).
Leggett, R. & Merrick, J. R. (1987). Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. J. R. Merrick Publications. Sydney. 245pp.
Merrick, J. R. & Schmida, G. E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffith Press Ltd. 409pp.
Text: Rob Wager & Peter J. Unmack. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Gunther Schmida.
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