Largescale archer fish, Toxotes chatareus

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Matt Clarke looks at the brackish water Largescale archerfish, Toxotes chatareus.

Common name: Largescale archer fish

Scientific name: Toxotes chatareus (Hamilton, 1822)

Origin: Widespread through coastal parts of Asia and northern Australia. Has been recorded from Borneo, Australia, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Size: Up to 40cm/16".

Water: According to Talwar and Jhingran's Inland fishes of India and adjacent countries, this species lives mainly in brackish water in mangrove estuaries, but sometimes enters freshwater streams and large rivers. Allen and Midgley's Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia says that the species also occurs in lakes and the sea, so it's clearly an adaptable species.

Diet: A surface dwelling predator that takes insects, aquatic crustaceans and small fish. Like other archers, T. chatareus can shoot down aerial insects with a jet of water spat from its mouth. According to Talwar and Jhingran, the maximum range of this one is a massive 150cm/5'!

Aquarium: Despite its widespread distribution in various habitats, this species is most likely to be at home in brackish conditions, so a specialist brackish tank would be my recommendation. However, not all archers need brackish water, and most actually live in freshwater.

This one, and the very common T. jaculatrix, are mainly brackish water species, so people tend to think the entire group needs the same treatment, which isn't true.

Archers generally live in shoals, so a group would be best. I'd personally recommend placing a large group in a very big tank, as some archers tend to squabble when kept in smaller groups.

Breeding: Not known to have been bred in captivity. Wild fish spawn in the wet season and lay 20-150,000 positively buoyant eggs.

Identification: There are seven species in the genus, including T. jaculatrix, T. blythii, T. kimberleyensis, T. lorentzi, T. microlepis, T. oligolepis and T. chatareus. T. chatareus can be distinguished from the common T. jaculatrix by differences in the number of fin rays. T. chatareus has 5-6 dorsal spines and 12-13 branched rays, while T. jaculatrix has four spines and 11-13 branched rays. T. blythii has distinctive longitudinal stripes; T. oligolepis and T. kimberleyensis are Australian and therefore unlikely to appear in imports.

Availability: These were on sale at Wildwoods in Middlesex.

This species has been imported before, but isn't as common as the widely-sold T. jaculatrix. Most oddball fanciers are still awaiting the import of some of the very attractive freshwater archers, such as the stunning but elusive T. blythii.

Price: On sale at £14.95.

This article was first published in the February 2008 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.