FAQs on Gars, Family
Related Articles: Gars, Bowfins,
Related FAQs: Bowfins,
Hello WWM crew,
I have recently built my first monster (reasonable) fish tank. It is a
4' by 4' cube tank that is 1' tall. There is currently a
5 year old Shortnose gar and I would like to take down
two other tanks. My question to you is, can my convicts (6) be
housed with my pike cichlid with my gar?
<I have kept adult Convicts and a smaller Gar species together. Should
stress: my Gar was relatively small (45 cm/18 inches or so) and never
fed live food. He/she "waxed fat" as they say on strips of squid,
salmon, tilapia fillet, and oddly enough Hikari Cichlid Gold. So he/she
was probably a bit lazy and didn't really associate live fish with
dinner, and instead got excited when it saw me, knowing an easy meal was
not far behind. You're probably familiar with that begging behaviour Gar
do when they're paddling about at the front of the tank looking at you.
Anyway, this was also in a deep tank, 6' by 3' by 3', and the Convicts
pretty much stayed among the rocks, out of harm's way, while the Gar had
virtually all the top of the tank to itself. I didn't keep track of the
Convicts, and since we bred them at the university anyway, they were
just thrown into
that system as glorified decoration, but to the best of my memory, they
seemed to thrive. However, your system is different in terms of depth,
and the Gar and Convicts may interact a lot more (I'm not sure a 12"
water depth is acceptable for Gar in the long run). The problem is that
Gar are skittish and easy alarmed, and some cichlids throw their weight
around a bit, alarming the Gar and causing it to inure itself. I'd be
very leery of combining them without making sure the Gar had lots of
space. Plus, if you have used feeder fish at all, then your Gar might
not be so accommodating of tankmates. One of many, MANY reasons not to
use feeder fish.>
Convicts are 5", pike cichlid 7", and a 19" gar.
<Which Pike Cichlid? Some Crenicichla species get huge, and become very
aggressive. Others are smaller, and some have quite specific water
chemistry (soft, acidic) needs. Not obvious companions for Convicts, let
Filtration is a custom sump that does 1800 gallons of filtration per
<On balance, I wouldn't do this with the tank you have. The shape of the
tank strikes me as wrong. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Gar compatibility 4/16/15
Thank you for your input. I live on the third floor of my building so I
cant set up my large aquarium with out breaking through the floor.
<Probably best not to do that!>
Since the glass is still being made, should I decrease the length and
width and increase the height?
<I'd not keep any tank buster in less than 45 cm/18 inches depth of
water, and the more the better. 4 x 4 x 1 feet = 16 cubic feet = 120 US
That's a bit low for Gar, 200 US gallons would be a minimum, in my
Do bear in mind that Shortnose Gar will get to at least 60 cm/2 ft in
length, and potentially quite a bit over that. Now, a 2 ft Gar could
probably be kept in 150 US gallons, so assuming the sump on your tank
adds 30, 40 or more US gallons, you may well be okay in terms of volume.
But depth remains a concern for me.>
The pike cichlid is a Inirida pike cichlid. He is unusually tame and has
been hand fed every since I got him 2 years ago. He was an impulse buy
that I have grown to love.
<Indeed. I kept a pair of Pike Cichlids back in the late 80s/early90s,
what back then were simply called Crenicichla saxatilis, so very similar
to yours, and they were lovely. But there is a lot of variation within
the genus. So it's as well to be sure what we're talking about before
making sweeping generalisations.>
What are the exact problems that could go wrong with this tank? Would it
be uncomfortable for the gar?
<Lack of depth. Even Angelfish are uncomfortable in tanks 12 inches
deep, which by the time you add the gravel and leave space for the
lights above, may have only 8-10 inches of actual water. Let's assume
your tank has minimum substrate, just enough to cover the glass and
block reflections, but not enough for plants, that'd still be, what,
half an inch of gravel?
So maybe 11 inches of water. Not a lot for a fish the size of a Gar.
Now, if the Gar was kept alone, this mightn't be too much of a big deal.
But throw in some bottom dwelling fish -- and territorial ones at that
-- and you've immediately got the problem that the Gar has to keep out
of their "living space". It only takes one strongly territorial cichlid
to spook a Gar, and the result will be shredded fins, cloudy eyes,
broken snout, or worse.>
I have a similar tank which was for my reticulated stingray but when he
passed I acquired the gar.
<Ah, but Stingrays are strongly associated with the substrate, and in
fact live in quite shallow water throughout much of their range. So long
as their backs are wet, they're not that fussed! Gar, by contrast, are
surface dwellers that in the wild. For sure they dive down at times to
feed on benthic fish and crabs (these latter a favourite food) but they
need to stay close to the surface the rest of the time to gulp air.>
He has been in a 3' by 3' by 1' tall tank for about 5 years from when he
was caught with some bait minnows on a fishing trip.
<Cool! I'm very jealous. Among my favourite fish, and while I got to
watch some in the Florida mangroves, I've never had the chance to fish
He doesn't like the bottom of the tank and stays in front of the tank.
<Quite so. They do become very tame, and in their way, excellent pets.>
He was raised on quarantined goldfish that were gut loaded because he
hasn't accepted anything else when he was little.
<I would get him off Goldfish as soon as practical. The nutritional
profile of these is terrible. Thiaminase for a start, but also a lot of
Goldfish do seem to cause real problems for predatory fish. If you must
rear feeders, then livebearers (such as Mollies or Mosquitofish) would
be a million times better, but mine loved oily fish like salmon, which
you can hand-feed using long (really long!) forceps or bamboo skewers.
Alongside seafood and white fish fillet, there's no need to feed live
food to a Gar once outside of the "settling in" phase.>
He has been weaned onto pellet (Hikari Massivore and gold).
<Good chap! Mine even took those cheap catfish pellets. They're not
fussy animals once they learn you're serving the meals.>
Would my pike cichlid kill him, be fine or be eaten?
<Gar generally ignore anything they can't swallow whole, so anything
deep bodied or big should be safe. Mine cohabited with a Channel Cat, a
Jaguar Cichlid, a Midas Cichlid, and an assortment of Convicts in a
rocky Central American biotope tank. Pike Cichlids vary in temperament
from the retiring to the psychotic, so a lot depends on the species and
the specimen. If
yours behaves, and is clearly too large to be viewed as prey, you may be
fine keeping them together. But I can't guarantee that.>
<Most welcome. Neale.>
re: Gar compatibility 4/16/15
If needed the convicts can be taken out of the equation. It has been
quite a while since my gar has last eaten a live fish. Probably around
2-3 years, maybe even 4. Thank you again
<Sounds promising. But the depth issue still worries me. More about the
one mean male Convict alarming the Gar than the other way around.
re: Gar compatibility 4/16/15
Ok thank you
The convicts will be sexed out, males sold and females kept in a
separate system. My pike cichlid was kept with a few convicts a while
back and didn't care about them at all. They seemed to bully him!
Females too. Is this a good indication of his temperament?
<Sort of. Have you come across "mobbing" behaviour in birds? There's
some evidence cichlids will "mob" perceived predators as well.
Crenicichla spp. are retiring stealth predators, and their shape
absolutely screams "predator" to anything kept with them. There's the
potential for prey species to react by mobbing your Pike Cichlids,
essentially making the point to the Pike that they've seen him/her, and
that sneaking up on them won't work because they're on the defensive. In
the wild mobbed predators will usually move somewhere else, since
stealth predators aren't going to get their dinner once their cover is
blown! Cichlids are plenty smart enough for this sort of behaviour,
though scientific studies are limited.
In any case, my point is that cichlid behaviour is complex, and while it
may well be that your Pike is shy and retiring, he/she may be more
territorial when not kept with pushy, defensive cichlids. I'd imagine
Crenicichla of suitable size would get on fine witness small Gar, to be
honest, since they're both stealthy and easily spooked, and the Pikes
(at least, my Pikes) tend to hide away a lot if given the chance.>
Should I forget about tankmates all together and be fine with a single
specimen tank? The sump is a 49 gallon with piranhas.
<Piranhas live in the sump? While that's pretty cool in its way: it does
defeat the object of a sump, which is creating "un-used" water that
dilutes dissolved nitrogenous wastes in the water. If the sump contains
fish, it's not diluting waste, it's adding to it.>
I currently acquired 30 crayfish for a saltwater fish. Can my gar eat
these or would he enjoy them?
<Probably worth a shot, though gut-load them first, because crustaceans
What time frame am i looking at for my gar to reach his full size.
<Some years, and depends massively on diet AND temperature. Sexually
mature within a couple years, and probably as big as they'll get within
But like all fish, they grow continuously, albeit at a much reduced rate
after the first year or so, and often barely perceptibly after a few
I have had him for 5 years and caught him when he was about 4".
<Wow! Never seen one that tiny. Any pics?>
His favorite past time is a bright red ball. He pushes all around his
tank and enjoys his form of catch. (Shoving the ball onto the floor and
demanding its return)
Thank your for your time and information
<Always happy to chat about Gars; alongside Snakeheads and Ctenolucius,
my favourite of the predatory tropical fishes. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Gar compatibility... Just FW stkg.
I really appreciate the advice you have given me. I have moved apts to the first
floor and now can have my bigger tanks. I have a question. I recently acquired a
"stunted florida Shortnose gar". Found it on my door step in a bag that said
cant keep it anymore, take care of it.
He looks to be a mid age gar probably 7+ years. He also came with a tank. 4' by
2' by 18". Is this going to be an appropriate tank for him?
<It's a bit small really. It's really hard to recommend Gar for tanks less than,
say, 5 feet in length. If you say a tank should be at least twice as long as the
length of its fish, then even the smaller Gar species need something around 5 or
6 feet in length once fully grown.>
I am unfamiliar with this species and am not sure what it actually is.
<Indeed. Nor am I.>
Looks like a Shortnose spotted cross.
<Could easily be. There are numerous hybrids out there.>
Pics are unavailable as I dropped it in my bichir tank to sell my platinum
Senegal. Is this an actually species, trade name, a potential hybrid?
<Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus) and Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus
platostomus) are different things, so a hybrid sounds likely from the name.>
Are there any snakehead species that stay small enough to be a potential
<Because Snakeheads are illegal in many states in the US, they're not widely
traded. To be clear: the good species are the "dwarfs" that get to about 8-12
inches. These are much fun to keep. But they'd be Gar dinners.
The bigger Snakeheads are generally far too aggressive and messy to make
worthwhile pets, certainly in mixed species situations.>
Can you recommend a good tankmate that is bright in color and predatory?
<Depends a lot on what's on sale. The better tankmates for Gar are things like
L-number cats, Bichirs and Stingrays that keep out of their way.>
I am assuming Arowanas are out of the picture but have really gotten into
predator fish over the last few years.
<Gar and Arowana are not good combinations. They want the same top part of the
tank, and Arowanas tend to be either aggressive about it or easily damaged if
pressed, so best kept on their own or with benthic fish.>
The gar is currently 20 3/4" and is already on Massivore pellets with the
occasional smelt and tilapia fillet. In this size tank , can my Shortnose gar
(18") be a tankmate?
<Gar tend to cohabit well if raised together, but mixing dissimilar species in a
small aquarium might be risky.>
re: Gar compatibility 4/18/15
Would a tabapo red pike cichlids or Datnoides work?
<How big is this aquarium of yours again? It's barely big enough for a Gar.
Why are you wanted to add other stuff? Unless this tank is, say, 150-200 gallons
in capacity, I wouldn't be keeping multiple Gar-sized fish in there. As stated
in our multiple messages, in giant tanks (200+ gallons) Gar can cohabit with all
sorts of predators and big fishes that stay close to the bottom. Stingrays,
L-numbers, Pimelodids, (freshwater) Datnoides
spp., Bichirs... I kept mine with various Central American cichlids including a
Jaguar Cichlid as well as a youngish Channel Catfish.>
I have several connections in and out of the country so I can get almost
anything in. It is a part time business as last week I got 4 crocodiles (with
permits and all legal papers of course) for a local zoo.
Can you recommended a few predator fish that would stay out of the way?
I have already kept numerous rays and looking for something new. Bichirs I have
in my African set up and Plecos are and addiction I already am consumed by. My
23" sailfin loves to be scratched on his back.
re: Gar compatibility 4/18/15
Ok cool thanks.
Can my gulper catfish be a tankmate?
<Not wise. Recall me saying you don't want anything spooking your Gar? How well
do you think a nocturnal predator that can consume prey twice their size is
going to get long with your Gar? Correct answer, "not well at all".
Gulpers best kept alone.>
He is pretty lazy and doesn't move much
<None of them do.>
Thank you for all your help
Holy grail of fish stores/ Is it legal to sell these
freshwater monsters.. State laws re larger fishes
I went to a fish store Tropaquatics. and man they had everything, tetras
of various types/ cichlids of various types, monster catfish juveniles
red tails/ another weird monster catfish species I don't know the name
of, and what caught my eye- something I don't believe should be kept in
tanks a true Gator gar. It was a cute little fish about a foot and a
half long maybe a little bigger but I know it gets HUGE.
My question is it legal to sell a native tank buster fish like
<In Minnesota? As far as I know from a quick look at
the Department of Natural Resources website, then it seems so. But I'm
no expert at this. The safest thing is to contact the DNR. Among other
things, they're the ones who handle licensing for pet and aquarium
stores, so if you're concerned that your local aquarium store shouldn't
be handling a certain species of
fish, and the owner/manager isn't able to satisfy your concerns, then
the DNR would be a next logical step, here:
and i was wondering if i get the proper permits from the DNR.
<In most countries, as a rule of thumb if the fish is on sale, it's
Or at the least, if there's an issue, the worst that will happen is the
fish will be confiscated since you acted in good faith assuming the
retailer was selling fish legally. Any legal proceedings will weigh upon
the retailer since they're the ones that didn't do their job properly!>
could I buy and then release it back into the Mississippi where it
<Definitely not. Releasing a fish into the wild would allow it to carry
pests and parasites into the natural environment. There's also a good
chance the fish wouldn't belong there, and would either die very quickly
(wrong food, wrong temperature, wrong water chemistry, etc.) or else
would cause harm to existing native fish (eating them or their eggs, for
example, or altering the habitat in some other way). There are countless
examples of where this has been catastrophic, with European Carp being
perhaps the most notorious.>
( Historically did alligator gar even live in MN/twin cities or is that
further south? I don't want to put something into the river that doesn't
<The Alligator Gar is a subtropical to warm temperate species, so is
basically a fish of the southern United States. Odd specimens have been
reported north, but they don't seem to be well established further north
than the Carolinas.>
If I did get the permits to do this. Or do you think I could call a
public aquarium to rescue it. I also feel bad about paying them cash for
it because that'll just encourage them to buy another gar fish.
<Quite so. To be fair, not all "Alligator Gars" in the hobby are
Atractosteus spatula; many are some other species or hybrid. But
assuming this is what they say it is, yes, definitely leave it in the
pet store. Not a practical fish for the hobbyist. If you want to call a
local zoo or animal rescue, then that'd be worthwhile too.>
On the plus side they had warm water Cory cats 3 for 24.99 which I
thought was a really sweet deal.
<Corydoras sterbai? Yes, a good deal for a nice catfish. Cheers, Neale.>
Feeding Florida Gars -- To Neale
12/31/08 Hi Neale-- We corresponded a couple of months ago
about a 55 gone wrong. That tank is doing much better now (and I'll
never rush cycling again), but during correspondence I mentioned that I
QT'd minnows for my two florida gars. You advised that I switch
them to frozen or prepared foods due to the icky nature of feeders. I
took your advice to heart, and have gotten one of my gars to eat thawed
silversides. However, the other one isn't taking to it. It's
been about two weeks since he's eaten at all. I have tried the
silversides, red worms, Massivore Delite, and thin strips of thawed
whiting. I'm not sure if it makes a difference, but he only has one
eye (that's how he was when I got him). He never had any trouble
competing with the other one for live food, and always ate well. Now,
though, it seems we have a problem. Do you have any other ideas as to
foods I could try, or maybe the food needs to be soaked in something
really stinky to make it irresistible, or something? Thanks so much for
your help... and Lucky (the one-eyed gar) thanks you too! --Melinda
<Hello Melinda. It's pretty uncommon for Lepisosteus spp. gar to
reject non-feeder fish foods for so long. Usually they learn to take
alternative foods pretty quickly, as your other specimen has done.
Putting aside ethical questions, the main issue with feeder fish is
their healthiness as a staple food item; if you *must* use them, then
herbivorous livebearers such as Mollies gut-loaded with algae is the
only safe approach. Otherwise, alternative live foods you could use
include crickets, mealworms and especially earthworms (what I believe
Americans sometimes call nightcrawlers). It's worth mentioning wild
Gar feed extensively on crustaceans, particularly crabs, one of their
major prey items when inhabiting brackish/saltwater habitats. So you
might try things like large freshwater shrimp or crayfish. My specimens
had a particular fondness for oily fish, particularly mackerel, but
I'd not recommend using oily fish at any time except just before a
large water change: oily fish will leave an oily scum on the water that
takes a while to otherwise disperse. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Florida Gar and Pleco, comp., nutr. of Loricariids
7/24/08 Hi all-- I love your site, and have spent many hours
reading in the last few months since I discovered it. However,
I've had an issue come up that I have not been able to find
an answer to. I have a seven-inch Florida Gar in a 125 gallon
tank, with six larger-sized silver dollars and a Pleco. I am not
sure of what type he is, but he is definitely not the
"common type". He is brown, with a short, wide, compact
body, about seven or eight inches long. <Do bear in mind some
of these fish will get extremely large; Gar will exceed 60 cm and
potentially 90 cm in captivity if they are among the common
species traded, such as Lepisosteus platyrhincus, the species
usually sold as the "Florida Gar".> Lately, we have
noticed him interacting with the gar in a way we had not
previously observed. He appears to be sucking on the gar. I know
from reading your site and others that this is a bad, bad thing.
<Has been reported between these species, and yes, is damaging
to the Gar. When the skin is abraded, the mucous is lost and it
becomes much easier for secondary infections to get started.>
We chase him away and offer algae disks, which he goes for
(lately, he's seemed overly ravenous, often eating four times
the amount of disks that he used to). <People tend to
underfeed Loricariidae. Understand this: they are constant
grazers and mud sifters in the wild, and don't understand the
"two meals per day" notion many aquarists prefer. You
need to give them vegetable foods such as courgette, sweet potato
or carrot that they can nibble on through the day, plus bogwood
for fibre.> My question is this: is the Pleco suffering from
some type of nutritional imbalance that we can remedy? <Likely
not an imbalance, but quite probably not enough fibre, so that
the fish feels hungry because it isn't full. These catfish
are adapted to feeding on a bulky rather than concentrated
diet.> If he's just being rude, and that's definitely
possible, we can take him to the LFS. However, due to their lack
of adequate space for larger fishes, and the fact that hideously
overprice any fish that aren't tetras or mollies, therefore
forcing the fish to be there in less than ideal conditions for a
long period of time, I fear for his life. This would be a last
resort. Please help! Thanks. --Melinda <Seemingly no simple
answers here, but very likely these fish will need to be
separated. Perhaps try offering a better (more vegetable-rich)
diet, but if that doesn't help, you will need to rehome one
or other fish. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: My Florida Gar and his Pleco Friend, comp., fdg. -- to
Neale 8/9/08 Hi Neale-- Melinda here again. <Hello!>
You responded to my email a few weeks ago regarding our Pleco
(have since found out he is a rhino Pleco) and our Florida gar.
<Hmm... Pterygoplichthys scrophus, rather a nice catfish! Not
common in the trade, and I think quite a handsome beast.> The
Pleco was getting a little too friendly with Fluffy (the gar),
and seemed to be trying to snack on him. <Can happen; not
commonly, but does happen.> You suggested feeding a variety of
fiber-rich veggies, but predicted we'd eventually need to
separate the two. Well, Dino (the Pleco) had no intentions of
eating any of my tasty veggie offerings. In any case, we have
separated them. <Let's see if this helps. If not, then
back to the drawing board. I suppose you could try offering her
some meaty food. My Panaque is ostensibly a vegetarian, but she
enjoys raw mussels in the half shell, partially shelled shrimp
and other such delicacies. You may be able to tempt your cat to
eat these things instead of her tankmates...> Thank you for
your advice. --Melinda <Good luck! Neale.>
Gar With Sores On His Head - 09/07/06 I have a spotted
gar that has developed some type of disease. It has white film and
ulcers, deterioration, on it's head. I have been treating it with
Maracyn-two. Following the directions for the 6 day treatment. Not much
improvement. Since their skin is not the typical fish type, would this
be the correct treatment? Also, by putting aquarium salt for freshwater
fish in the tank harmful to him? Could this cause a problem. Thanks.
< Gars are actually pretty tough critters. There could have been
some damage to his head as he tried to jump out and now they got
infected. I would try Nitrofuranace. It treats a wider range of
parasites and it also has some antifungal properties. Salt wouldn't
harm him unless it was an unusual amount. Do a 50% water change, vacuum
the gravel and clean the filter. This medication may harm the good
nitrifying bacteria so watch for ammonia spikes.-Chuck>
FW/BW Mis-mixes - 03/26/2006 First off, I just wanted
to say that I love your site and you all do a great job. I
was just wondering what you thought about the mixture of fish I have in
my 90 gal tank. I currently have 2 red devils, 1 Florida
gar, <Neat fish... illegal in many States... get way big> 1 green
terror, 1 tiger Oscar, a small Pleco, 1 figure eight puffer, and 1
dragon goby. <These last two... are increasingly brackish with age,
size... should they live...> The biggest so far is the
red devil at about 7 in. <I'll bet! Some of these are really
devils!> So far I have had the tank for about 4 months with no
casualties. Everyone seems to be getting along swimmingly. I
am worried though that with this size tank there will not be enough
room for all species when they reach their full potential. <To put
this mildly> I have gotten so attached to them all I can't bare
to let one go. (Unless it's for their own good.)
<You need at least two more tanks... and a lake if you're going
to try raising the lepisosteid> I do weekly water changes, vary
their diet, etc.... and treat them all with the care they
deserve. What do ya think? Thanks - Steve, MI <A brackish
tank, an easier going cichlid tank.... See WWM re these species
systems, compatibility... Bob Fenner>
Gar fish I thought about what you said from the last e-mail
and I just want to go with one gar fish. I just need some basic
knowledge about them first. <Unfortunately I wasn't the person
who had answered your previous email. So, I'm not sure
which Gar you are referring to. There are many different
species. Just to be on the safe side I'll give you a run
down on the typical ones found in the aquarium hobby. Gars appreciate
the following water conditions: a pH between 7.0 to 8.0, slightly hard
water, and temperatures between 70 to 80 ÂºF (23
ÂºC).> What size tank would I need? What should I feed it?
What diseases should I look out for? <Short Nose Gar (Xenocara
dolichopterus) grows to about 2 feet long in the aquarium, I've
read that they are found as long as 4.5 feet in the wild. so
they need a tank that can accommodate a long fish. They like
the temperature of the tank to be 75-80 degrees. They do
fine in small schools and are not to difficult to care for. These are
surface dwellers, and will only eat tankmates it can fit in it's
mouth. Other fish are said to be okay with
it. These are hard to get to eat anything but live foods.
Alligator Gar (Lepisosteus sp.) These get to be very large
(Â±8 feet). I have seen these be as long as 15
inches in the home aquarium, and were still growing. If you
should go to any fishing website you will be amazed to see some of the
monsters that people catch while fishing. These need massive
tanks when they are adults. These will snack on fish in the
tank unless they are as large as it is. I have seen them
with Large Oscars and Snake heads. They seem to leave Plecos
alone. Alligator Gar are much more likely to eat frozen and
prepared foods than others. These are much easier to care
for, the only problem is you need a large tank with nice filtration.
Needle Nose Gar (Xenocara dolichopterus) These fish are the smaller
Gars, and are readily found in the aquarium hobby. These get
12 inches long when full grown so they need a smaller tank than their
cousins. These are surface dwellers and will feed on live
foods such as guppies, They are harder to get to eat the dry foods but
with persistence they are said to take krill. They do well
in groups and can be kept with fish of similar size. They
also like the warmer water conditions.> Anything else that you can
throw in will be helpful too. Thanks <They are interesting fish, but
not very active. They often times are just floating near the
surface waiting for food. Good luck. -Magnus>