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Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix)

Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix)

The Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Common Archer Fish or Archer Fish, is found in river mouths and estuaries in the waters of the Indo Pacific, northern Australia, from India east to the Philippine Islands, the waters of the Solomon Islands and the Indonesian Archipelago.

The Banded Archer Fish has four dorsal spines, 11 to 13 soft dorsal rays, and three anal spines.   The fish is silvery in color tinged green, with an olive green to brown back and four to six distinct broad black bars or semi-triangular markings along it sides.   It has an oblong, triangular shaped body with large eyes positioned for binocular vision, a head that is slightly shorter than the body, and a distinctly pointed snout.

Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix)

Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix)

Juvenile Banded Archer Fish are sometimes colored a yellow green or brown on the dorsal side and more silvery on the ventral side.   The flanks are usually a gray green color.   Some juveniles have irregular yellow patches between their bands.

The Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix) and its relative the Largescale Archerfish (Toxotes chatareus) are sometimes grouped and sold together under the generic label “archerfish“.

The Banded Archer Fish has four dorsal spines whereas the Largescale Archerfish has five.   Also, the Banded Archer Fish usually has four to five semi-triangular bands, compared to the Largescale Archerfish which has six or seven spots and shorter bands in a regular, alternating pattern and is a more sooty color.

Banded Archer Fish are also often confused with the Smallscale Archerfish (Toxotes microlepis).   Both species have four or five wedge shaped bands, but those of the Banded Archerfish extend to the dorsal fin and in the Smallscale Archerfish they do not.   There are also two spots on the dorsal fin separate from the main bar in the Smallscale Archerfish.

All Archer Fish are best known for their unique ability to shoot down their prey (primarily insects) with a jet of water. Their mouths are adapted to spit jets of water over a considerable distance to knock insects, bugs, etc. into the water. Large specimens are capable of accurately shooting a jet of water up to 10 feet away but what is more remarkable is their ability to compensate for water refraction.

Banded Archerfish frequently move between fresh, brackish, and salt water during their lifetimes; but not necessarily for breeding purposes.

All Archer Fish are difficult to maintain in an aquarium environment and should only be kept by advanced tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Banded Archer Fish require a large tightly covered tank of at least 125 gallon capacity which should be densely planted with low to medium height plants. A sandy or fine gravel substrate, some rocks and driftwood and plenty of surface room for practicing their “shooting” skills should complete the decor.

Keep the water level of the tank a few inches below normal levels (video above) to allow the fish to practice their shooting skills and minimize any chance of the fish jumping from the tank.

All species of Archer Fish do well in either fresh or brackish water conditions but should be kept in small groups of 3 to 5 fish.   In a brackish water tank they can be housed with Scats, Monos, Puffer fish and other archer species.

Little is known about the breeding habits of the Banded Archerfish but they are capable of breeding when they reach about 4″ in length.   They reproduce by spawning and they normally lay between 20,000 to 150,000 eggs at one time.   Although there are reports of them breeding in captivity, very little success has been reported.

In the wild, Archer Fish come to the surface in the daytime to “shoot down” and feed on insects, floating matter, small fish, and crustaceans.   They also jump out of the water to grab small prey from low hanging branches.

In an aquarium environment they can be induced to eat a variety of live or dried insects, flies, mealworms, freeze dried plankton, and vegetable matter such as dried seaweed fed at the surface on a lettuce clip.

They can also be taught to eat floating omnivore flakes but they prefer to shoot and capture live food rather than being fed flake foods which makes it somewhat problematic to feed them.

Banded Archer Fish are relatively common in the aquarium trade and when available for purchase are anywhere from 2-1/2″ to 4″ in length.

Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix)

Banded Archer Fish (Toxotes jaculatrix)







Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 77-86 °F°, KH 9-19, pH 7.0-8.0
Max. Size: 12″
Color Form: Black, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Freshwater or multiple species brackish water tank
Origin: Indo Pacific
Family: Toxotidae
Life Span: 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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