Episode 47 – Archer Fish: The Pond Sniper

“…And today we’re talking about a fish that sick of the taste of fish! But more on that later.”


It’s a fish eat fish world, but some aquatic animals aren’t strict pescatarians. Some favor the fruit of the forest. But what can you do if you have terrestrial tastes? Well, you’ve got to bring the meal to you, and it’s not delivery. Sometimes, a little variety in your diet means that you’ve got to get creative with the way you hunt in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Measure Up

Length – 15 and 20 centimetres (5.9 and 7.9 in) – 7 inches – How many archer fish go into the length of a standard long-bow? Hint: The medieval longbow has a thickness that is between between 33% and 75% of the width. Answer: 10 archer fish


Weight – 700 grams (25 oz) – How many archer fish go into the weight of Brady Ellison, arguably the world’s best archer (190 lbs)? Hint: Brady killed a bear at age 11. Answer: 122 fish

Major Fact

Archer fish is one of the few marine animals that hunt prey that live outside of its element.

The fish shoots a jet of water at lizards and insects that crawl on branches above the water.

But imagine you’re a fish in a pond waiting for something to crawl across a low hanging branch. It’s doesn’t happen every minute. It may not happen every hour. If you are waiting for a bug to grace the branches in your domain, you better make it count when it happens.

How does an animal without lips, shoot water?

The archer fish opens and closes its mouth and gills quickly, forcing a jet of water to slam into its target. It’s tongue forces against a specially groove. It can adjust for distance by adjusting the force it exerts to shoot the jet. It closes its mouth slower to shoot farther targets and faster to shoot closer ones. A jet of water loses its power at a certain distance. The archer fish adjusts its shot to deliver maximum glob at the moment of impact.

But what of its accuracy? It’s actually deadly accurate. They can accurately hit a target up to 6.5 feet.

You might say… big deal! It spits water at things. So can I!

Ah but have you ever tried to shoot at something underwater. Bow fisherman know that a little thing called refraction means your target may not be where it appears to be. As light refracts through the surface of water, the waves of light change direction. To your dumb eyeballs, it appears that the target is where the light comes from after refraction. Archer fish prefer to position themselves directly beneath prey to limit refraction. Otherwise it can calculate the arch of gravity and the refracted light to hit its target.


Hey, Taxonomy Titans! It’s time for your weekly call to action! We’re nearing our a full year of podcasting and we’re glad you’ve found us along the way. But how should we celebrate a full year! Let us know what you’d like to see? An extra episode? A live episode? We’d love to hear from you! And as always, you can talk to us via email or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We are LDtaxonomy everywhere!