Needlefish: Characteristics, types, habitat and more…

Today we are going to talk about a unique family of fish whose different species can live in both marine and freshwater environments. It’s the needlefish: belonidae family.

All fish in this family are characterized by having an elongated body and extended jaws with a long beak full of completely sharp teeth.

Taxonomyneedlefish: taxonomic hierarchies

Domain Eukarya Kingdom Animals Phylum Chordata Class Actinopterygii Order Beloniform

Family Belonidae


NeedleFish: Main Features 🐟

These fish have a fairly elongated body as well as nostrils located in the inner well of their eyes. They also have quite short pectoral fins compared to other fish and their dorsal and anal fins are located in the back in abdominal position.

Fishes in this family also have a straight line that runs throughout their body in the ventral position. This line starts from the pectoral fin and has some small scales which can be detached at the slightest impact or speed in the water.

The Long Toms, (as they are also known), are animals that live near the surface of the water. Because of this, they have chlorination similar to the habitat where they live.

That is, the fish have a greener and blue color on the top and whiter on the bottom. The straight line we have commented has a certain blue hue.

The tip of the lower jaw is, in most cases, a fleshy part of orange and/or red coloration..Thanks to their beak, they are able to capture other prey quickly.

In almost all the world, the fishing of needlefish has great commercial interest. They are captured by dragging technique, in which the specimens are trapped in the nets.

Needle fish are considered a delicious delicacy that additionally has an excellent nutritional content. However, there are also people who avoid them because of their high bone content.

Let’s enjoy them

Needlefish: Distribution Area and Habitat 🐟

These fish have their characteristic range that expands across the western Atlantic and part of the Mediterranean Sea.  In general, they move away from the coast to distances that are not too long and approach again when temperatures increase during the summer and spring seasons.

Throughout the winter needle fish tend to migrate to deeper waters away from the coast where they make the ships run aground if they don’t take measures to avoid them.

However, during the summer, their capture is much easier as they move towards the coast. It worth mentioning that their natural habitat is found in deep waters.

Needlefish: estuary

When needle fish go swimming tend to make-up shoals which produce a ripple of water very easy to recognize by fishermen.

And it’s that the curious morphology of this fish does not go unnoticed at the time to generate currents through the passage of fish banks.

If the fish jump out of the water’s surface it’s even easier to distinguish such a shoal. It’s relatively easy to find them both in maritime areas and in estuaries.

What do Needlefish feed On? 🐟

These fish are characterized by being carnivorous creatures which feed on young anchovies and sardines. It’s worth mentioning that they have optimized hunting techniques with which they are able to prey them as if they were felines.

Apart from the anchovies, needlefish also usually eat other animals such as crustaceans, mollusks and other small fish. However, the former are their favorite dish and are also very useful when fishing.

How Needlefish Reproduce?🐟

As for its reproduction, the needlefish ejects the eggs in shallow water where there is a large existence of algae in which they can adhere. The eggs are only 3 millimeters in diameter and are placed in the algae thanks to a substance that allows it to adhere and not get lost. This is how they survive attached until the time of hatching.

It’s important to point out that Needlefish pups don’t have a bone beak like those of adults. They develop such part of their anatomy as they develop. Moreover, they reach maturity when they are able to hunt on their own making use of their bony beak full of sharp teeth.

Needlefish Fishing  🐟

There are many people who love to eat the needlefish due to their delicious taste. Therefore, there are fishermen who are fully dedicated to the fishing of these specimens.

Obviously, individual fishermen cannot use the same fishing technique as a boat. They use vertical trawls that throw into the sea to surround the shoals of needlefish.

Such shoals get scared when they feel surrounded. When they flee they get trapped in the nets and this is how they are captured.The networks that are most used are those of encirclement. This type of networks is used to travel in dense boats and have fishing with excellent outcomes.

To cook this fish you have to know some things first. Its preparation is quite simple since it has few spines. The price ranges between 10 and 15 euros per kilogram, so it’s something that can only be allowed on some occasions or more wealthy people.

To clean and fillet we must adapt to the anatomy of the fish. It’s the only thing that can be more complicated. You can prepare exquisite grilled or fried needle dishes. Keep in mind that they are fish slightly larger than sardines, but their meat is quite similar.

Danger to humans 🐟

The needlefish is able to make short jumps out of the water at a speed of up to 60 km / h (37 mph). Since needles swim near the surface, they often jump over shallow ship decks instead of turning.

The sharp spikes of this species are capable of inflicting deep puncture wounds and for many traditional communities of the Pacific Islands the needles represent a greater risk than that of sharks.

Two historical deaths have been attributed to this long and thin fish, the first was in 1977 when a 10-year-old Hawaiian boy, who fished at night with his father in Hanamaulu Bay, Kauai, was killed when a 1.2 meters long needlefish jumped out of the water and pierced his eye along with the brain.

The second was a 16-year-old Vietnamese boy, stabbed in the heart by the 15 cm beak of a needlefish in 2007 while diving at night catching sea cucumbers near Halong Bay.

The injuries and / or death caused by needlefish have also been documented in more recent years. In 2012, the German Wolfram Reiners, was seriously injured in the foot by a needlefish near the Seychelles.

In October 2013, a Saudi Arabian news website also reported the death of a young Saudi who died of a hemorrhage resulting from being hit by a needlefish on the left side of his neck.

In 2014, a Russian tourist was almost killed by a needlefish in the waters outside Nha Trang, in Vietnam when the fish bit his neck and left pieces of his teeth inside his spinal cord, paralyzing him.

In early January 2016, a 39-year-old local Indonesian from Palu, Central Sulawesi suffered deep wounds when a half-meter long needle jumped and pierced it just above the right eye. I was swimming in 80 cm deep waters at Tanjung Karang, a popular recreation place in the Donggala administration, Central Sulawesi. She was later pronounced dead a few hours later despite efforts to save her at a local hospital.

Soon after, images of his horrible injury spread through instant messaging applications, while several local news websites also reported the incident, some mistakenly attributed the attack to a marlin instead.

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Are Needlefish edible?🐟

For those who are wondering if the needlefish is edible, we can tell them that although it’s considered good to eat, most of the time it’s sold fresh and the market is small, due to the color of its meat that is green and unattractive to the consumer

Varieties Needlefish 🐟

There is a great variety of species belonging to this family, let’s study some of them. Through the following descriptions we will know their characteristics, habitats, customs and more.

Crocodile Needle Fish 🐟

The Tylosurus crocodilus is also known as Houndfish. Tylosurus Crocodilus, is distributed around the world in tropical waters.

This needlefish is distributed throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans; fish of this species are found in the Red Sea and on the coast of South Africa, east of French Polynesia and north to Japan, New South Wales and Australia .


The crocodile needlefish lacks spines and its dorsal fin has between 21 and 25 soft rays. It should be noted that the anal fin has 19 to 22 rays, and in general the fish has between 80 and 86 vertebrae.

An effective way to distinguish the crocodile needle from other members of the Tylosurus genus is that during their juvenile stage their teeth point inwards, while in the other species the teeth are straight throughout their life.

Tylosurus Crocodilus, has a robust, tubular body and a short head as well as a dark blue spine and silver-white sides which are white in the ventral area. It also has a keel in the caudal peduncle and the caudal fin is deeply divided.

In this species of needlefish the juveniles have a raised black lobe at the back of their dorsal fins.

It’s the largest member of its family, capable of growing up to 1.5 meters and reaching 4.5 kg in weight, the largest recorded Crocodile Needle Fish was over 150 centimeters long and the highest recorded weight was 6.35 kilograms .


It’s a pelagic fish and therefore can be found on the lagoons and reefs that go to the sea, either alone or in small groups, where it feeds mainly on smaller fish.

Relationship with humans

Crocodile needlefish is popular in sport fishing and can be attracted by the use of artificial lights.

This needlefish is considered dangerous because of its size and tendency to jump out of the water, causing puncture wounds with its beaks when they are scared or attracted by the lights used to catch them.

In April 2000, a woman suffered a serious injury after being injured in the neck by a crocodile needlefish which jumped over the water while she dived in the Florida Keys.

There is also another case in October 2010, where a person In kayak was injured when she was hit in the back by the beak of one of these fish that jumped out of the water near her boat. the person was diagnosed with a collapsed lung.

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Flat needlefish (Ablennes hians)🐟

This specimen of seafish is the only known member of the genus Ablennes.

They are found all over the world in tropical and temperate seas, in the eastern Atlantic, from Cape Verde and Dakar to Moçamedes in Angola.

In the western Atlantic they are known from Chesapeake Bay in southern Brazil and are also found across the Indian Ocean and in the western Pacific from the southern islands of Japan to Australia and Tuvalu.

It’s worth mentioning that this species is very popular in sport fishing which is carried out using the help of artificial lights.


The flat needlefish lacks backbone, has several soft rays, as well as 26 rays in the dorsal fin and 24 to 28 in the anal one. Additionally it has 86 to 93 vertebrae; they are bluish and white ventrally, with dark spots.

Ablennes hians also has 12 to 14 vertical bars in the center of the body, and an elongated body, with a pectoral shaped siphon and anal fins.

They also have a dark lobe on the back of their dorsal fins and the longest recorded specimen measured 1.40 meters long.

Measures for the length of this fish’s body don’t include the caudal fin or the head because the long jaws of the fish often break; The highest weight recorded for a flat needlefish was 4.8 kg.


They usually live in neritic ocean waters near nearby islands, estuaries and rivers, where they feed on smaller fish and occasionally gather in large groups.

The female lays eggs that adhere to floating debris through filaments on the surface of each egg, only the left gonad in both sexes develops, and in males, the right gonad is sometimes completely absent.

Let’s watch it


Keeltail needlefish (Platybelone argalus argalus)🐟

This fish has an elongated body «like a needle.» Long and thin beak, upper jaw slightly shorter than lower; the 16bits of the tail are almost the same size.

Distinctive features

Platybelone argalus argalus has the side keel on each side of the base of the tail, wide and flattened.

Habitat and Behavior

It’s considered oceanic, but occasionally they can approach the shore in clear waters, especially near the islands. It usually moves and feeds just below the surface.

Abundance and distribution

Occasional in Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean; also north to [[New Jersey]] and south to Brazil; circumtropical and subtropical.

Reaction to divers

They are shy fish that usually move away when there is an approach as soon as they approach it.

Atlantic needlefish, (Tylosurus accuses rafale)🐟

This species has a very elongated body, relatively slender and rounded. It should be noted that both jaws are very long at a peak that is relatively long, slender and curved up, with many pointed teeth (vertical in both juveniles and adults).

The Atlantic needlefish usually has a large bone keel under the chin; dorsal fin with very long base, 24-26 rays, the frontal lobe relatively low (height 7.5-9.5% of body height).

In juvenile specimens the posterior section of this fin also arises there and they have 21-24 rays in the anal fin. The pectoral and pelvic fins are relatively short (8.1-12.5% ​​and 7.1-10.0% of body length respectively).

Body color

It’s dark blue at the top and silver white at the bottom; additionally it has a blue stripe along the side; the posterior lobe of the dorsal fin in juveniles is black.


140 cm


In outskirts and in coastal waters.  0-10 m. It’s  a subspecies of the Indo-Pacific that is the oceanic islands (Clipperton, Revillagigedo, Galapagos, Coco and Malpelo), as well as in the Tres Marías Islands (Mexico), Isla Gorgona (Colombia), and the continental parts of Costa Rica and Panama.

Freshwater garfish, (Xenentodon cancila,)🐟

It’s a species of fish with a long beak found in brackish and freshwater habitats in South and Southeast Asia. its scientific name is Xenentodon cancila.

This species of freshwater needlefish is widely distributed throughout South and Southeast Asia from India and Sri Lanka to the Malaysian peninsula and is very popular in aquarium hobby.


In common with other specimens of river needlefish, this species has an elongated body with long jaws like a beak full of teeth. It should be noted that the dorsal and anal fins are located far back along the body near the tail.

The body is silvery green, darker above and lighter below with a dark band that runs horizontally along the flank. There is a slight sexual dimorphism in this species since the male fish often has anal and dorsal fins with a black border and reaches up to a length of 40 cm.


This species is oviparous, (reproduce by laying eggs) just like the Zebra fishand spawning takes place in the morning, with a small number of eggs that are deposited between the plants.

The latter have an approximate diameter of 3.5 mm and are attached to the leaves of the plants with sticky threads of about 20 mm.

These eggs take ten days to hatch and when this happens the fry is almost 12 mm long. At this point they will eat small live foods including those that come from other live fish.

On the other hand, aquarium books tend to describe the Freshwater garfish as a predator that eats animals like fish and frogs. Its natural diet seems to consist almost entirely of crustaceans.

Records have been found that demonstrate the existence of this species in captivity, where it has been arranged for both public or domestic aquariums. It’s known that it has been maintained by European aquarists since 1910.

However, there are certain misunderstandings about the natural diet of these fish and there has also been confusion about the optimal water conditions required by this species when they are kept in domestic aquariums. There are also problems with adding salt to the water since these fish they live perfectly well in freshwater aquariums.

Garfish (Belone belone ) Other names: Garpike 🐟


Long, eel-like body laterally compressed with Jaws greatly elongated, lined with numerous sharp teeth. Anal and dorsal fins similar in appearance and set well back just anterior to tail. Lateral line runs close to belly. The garfish’s highly distinctive appearance means it is unlikely to be confused with any other fish species in Finnish waters.


Back bluish green, sides silvery..


A surface-dwelling fish of the open sea, garfish move inshore into shallow water in May-June to spawn among floating vegetation.

Not known to spawn in Finnish waters, the nearest known spawning sites being off the west coast of Estonia and the sea around Gotland.

Juveniles measuring just over 20 cm have been taken off the Finnish coast at Hanko, while some ripe adults have been caught west of the Åland islands.


This is a ferocious predator, which hunts in the open sea seeking shoals of small fish such as Baltic herring, sprats, sandeels and even three-spined sticklebacks. Larger individuals also take free-swimming crustaceans.

Distribution and habitat:

This is a sea fish that moves into Finland’s waters along with surges of salt water through the Straits of Denmark into the Baltic.  The Garpike Migrates west and south of the British Isles in winter and returns to its spawning grounds in early summer. Garfish appear in Finnish waters in late summer, only to disappear again as autumn sets in.

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