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The different species

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Keeping Gars - a quick Review
William Berg

If you take a quick look at the gar species they don't seem like
aquarium fishes. They are large and highly predatory. But then
again, these are qualities that attract some, like me! If you've
been keeping aquariums for a while and have the room to keep
large predatory fishes I recommend you try these fish, but not
until you've done your homework and know the gars' requirements
and what you are getting yourself into.

Species of gar:

Florida spotted gar, Lepisosteus platyrhinchus
A highly varied species of gar. Has more spots on its body and a
shorter snout than many other gars. Easily mistaken for spotted

Spotted gar, Lepisosteus oculatus
Long snout and spots. Spots to a higher degree towards the
posterior of its body. Easily mistaken for Florida spotted gar.

Shortnosed gar, Lepisosteus platostomus
The shortnosed gar can be identified by its short snout, and by
the lack of teeth rows in the upper jaw like the alligator gar,
and the lack of spots on its body.

Long-nosed gar, Lepisosteus osseus
The long-nosed gar is, as the name suggests, identified by its
long slender snout, and also by its slender body.

Alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula
The alligator gar has a short broad snout and two big rows of
teeth in the upper jaw. This species is spotted on the posterior
part of the body and to a lesser extent on other parts of the

Tropical gar, Atractosteus tropicus
A very rare species.

Manfari or Cuban gar, Atractosteus tristoechus
Looks very similar to the alligator gar and since it is very rare
in the trade you can usually assume that your gar is an alligator
gar and not a Cuban gar unless otherwise stated. The Cuban gar
has a broader snout and lacks pattern on its body.

Beside these species there are a number of hybrids such as the
crocodile gar.

Spotted, Florida and short-nosed gars are smaller than the other
species and may be more suitable for aquariums. They usually
don't grow larger than 2 feet in aquariums. Long-nosed and
alligator gars grow to a very large size and larger ponds are
recommended if you'd like to keep fully grown specimens. So if
you don't have (or plan on getting) a large pond, stay with the
smaller species. Even with the smaller species you are still
going to need a rather large aquarium. The tropical gar also is
possible to keep in aquariums as it doesn't grow as large;
however this species is very hard to find. The Cuban gar is a
red-list endangered species and shouldn't be kept even if you
somehow find one.

In aquariums gars are quite demanding and require a lot of space
and clean water. I recommend you to use as big a tank as you can
for your gar, and I wouldn't recommend keeping gars in an
aquarium smaller than 200 Gallon/720 L. And that should be
considered a minimum; a 400 gallon/1400 L tank is preferable.

The tank should be decorated in accordance with gar behavior.
Gars are ambush predators, and as such they appreciate hiding
places from where they can stalk their prey. This is however not
essential. They are very friendly towards fish that are too big
to be eaten. In the wild gars often live in loose schools and if
you have the space you may successfully keep several gars
together, in fact I would recommend this.

Gars can be kept with most fishes that are too big to be
considered food and not too aggressive. However, gars should
never live with plecos. Plecos sometimes suck on gars and cause
infections, and since gars are very sensitive to most medicines
these infections may be very hard to treat.

Regarding water, the most important thing is keeping the water
clean and well circulated. Gars accept most pH or hardness
levels. Temperature can range from 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit
(16 - 30 degrees Celsius). Gars breathe air and should be left
with a few inches of space at the top of the tank to allow them
to breathe atmospheric air.

Gars usually accept most kinds of living prey that are large
enough. Feeders such as goldfish provide a good base for their
diet but should never be the only thing they are fed, since this
would not provide the gars with all necessary nutrition. Their
diet should be diverse, and this can be achieved by also feeding
minnows, shrimps etc. It is also possible to train gars to accept
frozen foods and pellets.

Gars cannot be genderized externally. They have occasionally been
breed in aquariums but are more frequently bred in ponds or are
wild caught.

William berg has more then 20 years of aquarium experience and
writes for aquatic community - a website with information on
everything from crayfish to cichlids.

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