Needle Nose Gar (Xenentodon Cancila): Ultimate Care Guide

Common NameNeedle Nose Gar, Stickfish, Freshwater Gar, Silver Needlefish
Scientific NameXenentodon Cancila
Temperature71°F – 82°F
Water pH6.8 – 7.4
Adult Size18 inches

Needle Nose Gar Facts

  1. Needle Nose Gar can grow up to 18 inches long in the wild. In captivity, Needle Nose Gar will grow to around 12 inches in length at full maturity.
  2. Needle Nose Gar are carnivorous fish with hardy appetites. They can get very aggressive during feeding. If you are not careful, you can be bitten if you get in between them and their food.
  3. Needle Nose Gar have been given many common names. They are sometimes called Stickfish, Freshwater Gar, or Silver Needlefish.
Needle Nose Gar
Needle Nose Gar (Xenentodon Cancila)

Needle Nose Gar Appearance

Needle Nose Gar are long, thin fish that have long pointed noses and jaws which are called beaks. Inside their jaws they have teeth. Needle Nose Gar spend most of their time along the surface of the water hunting for food. They use their long jaws and teeth to help them capture prey along the surface of the water and above it. Needle Nose Gar are so thin, it is sometimes referred to as a Stickfish or Silver Needlefish. They could be mistaken for a stick floating in the water if it weren’t for their silvery green sheen. The male Needle Nose Gar will have a black edge to their dorsal and anal fins.

Needle Nose Gar Care

Needle Nose Gar can be easy and hardy fish to keep as long as they are provided with adequate space and live food. They typically grow up to around 12 inches in captivity, and being a fish that spends most of its time towards the surface of the tank, you will want to make sure that they have a longer tank opposed to a taller one. You will want to provide them with a tank of at least 4 feet of swimming space. This could mean a tank as large as 90 gallons to house your Needle Nose Gar.

Needle Nose Gar Food & Diet

Needle Nose Gar are carnivorous fish. In the wild, they eat other fish and frogs. They also spend their time hunting for insects and crustaceans.

In captivity, Needle Nose Gar will need to eat a variety of high quality live foods such as smaller fish and crustaceans. You will want to be careful when feeding Needle Nose Gar, as they tend to have voracious appetites, and could potentially bite you.

Needle Nose Gar have long noses. These noses are called beaks, and if you get close enough to see them, you will see that they are full of sharp teeth. These teeth are important for the Needle Nose Gar to grasp their prey and maneuver them so that they can swallow them whole. They will adapt to a high quality frozen diet over time, but it should be introduced to them slowly.

If you are purchasing fish for your Needle Nose Gar to eat, it would be a good idea to quarantine new fish for at least a week to ensure that you are not introducing any parasites or illness to your aquarium.

Needle Nose Gar Size & Lifespan

Needle Nose Gar can grow considerably larger in the wild than they do in captivity. This is probably due to their varied diet, and larger space. In the wild, Needle Nose Gar can grow up to 18 inches in length. In captivity, Needle Nose Gar will grow up to 12 inches long. If housed in an appropriate aquarium setup, you can expect your Needle Nose Gar to live up to 8 years.

Needle Nose Gar Tank Size

Needle Nose Gar do require a larger tank at a minimum of 75 gallons. If you provide them with a larger tank to give them more roaming space, your tank could end up much larger.

Needle Nose Gar are a hardy fish that can be found in the brackish waterways of Asia. It can adapt to a wider range of water parameters, but does best when kept at a temperature of 71F to 82F, and a 6.8 to 7.4 pH.

Needle Nose Gar Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for Needle Nose Gar, you will first want to make sure that you have a tank that is large enough to house these fish. They require a minimum of 75 gallons, but will thrive in a tank that provides them with more space as they prefer to spend their time hunting along the surface. It is for this reason that Needle Nose Gar do best in a tank that is longer and shorter, opposed to tall. This will give them more area to roam.

Needle Nose Gar will do the best with a sandy substrate and rock decor in their aquarium. Since you feed Needle Nose Gar live foods, you will want to make sure that your tank has a strong filter, and you have the current set to minimum.

It is important to secure your Needle Nose Gar tank with a lid as they will jump when startled. You will notice that sudden light changes could trigger them to jump as well.

When choosing plants, hanging plants, and plants that cling to the sides of the aquarium are a good idea as they could help protect the Needle Nose Gar from injuring its beak.

Needle Nose Gar Tank Mates

Needle Nose Gar are carnivorous fish. In the wild they hunt smaller fish for food, and it is important to know that they can not be housed with fish that they could potentially see as food. If you are planning on keeping your Needle Nose Gar in a community tank setup, you will want to choose other fish that are larger.

Good tank mates for Needle Nose Gar would be most cichlids, some types of catfish species, and some ray-finned fishes. It is key to finding a good tank mate that you choose fish that have a similar aggression too.

You will want to make sure that you are monitoring your fish for any potential problems that they may have.

Are Needle Nose Gar Aggressive?

Needle Nose Gar are carnivorous fish that spend their time in the wild hunting other fish. If you are planning on housing them in a community setup, you will want to place them with fish that are roughly the same size, have the same diet, and have close to the same temperament.

Needle Nose Gar and Oscars

It is suggested that you avoid keeping Needle Nose Gar and Oscars together. These fish have different growth rates, and the two getting along well in the same aquarium would be largely dependent on the size of both of the fish. If either fish is larger than the other, the larger fish will view the smaller fish as food.

Oscars are not as aggressive as Needle Nose Gar, and eventually you will find yourself in a situation with the two where they will need to be separated.

Needle Nose Gar Breeding

Needle Nose Gar are not easy fish to breed, but under the right conditions they have been successfully bred in captivity. Breeders of Needle Nose Gar say that they spawn in the morning. The female Needle Nose Gar will lay her eggs on plants in the aquarium, and attach them with a sticky web-like substance. The female will then attach 5 to 15 eggs each day for about 10 days. Once the fry have hatched, they can be fed baby brine shrimp and other live foods as long as they are small enough for the Needle Nose Gar fry to eat.

Needle Nose Gar Disease

The biggest threat to Needle Nose Gar in captivity is damage to their beak. They are a flighty fast fish that will smash into the sides of their tank if they are startled, and they are startled easily. Sudden changes in light could startle them, and they have even been known to jump out of their tank if there is not a secure lid.

Aside from damage to itself, Needle Nose Gar are susceptible to many of the same diseases that other freshwater fish are. Parasites are a common ailment for them to get, and if you are feeding your Needle Nose Gar live foods, you will want to get into the practice of quarantining the feeder fish before you introduce them into your aquarium.

The better the water quality in your aquarium, the healthier and hardier your fish will be. You will want to establish a good cleaning routine for your tank. Needle Nose Gar are fairly resilient fish, and an outbreak could be limited to just a few fish that are easily treated if you catch it early.

Where Can I Purchase Needle Nose Gar?

If you are looking to purchase Needle Nose Gar, you can find them online from breeders. You can expect to find them at around $30 per fish.

Needle Nose Gar vs Alligator Gar

Alligator Gar are much larger than Needle Nose Gar and can get up to 8 feet long. Alligator Gar have more rounded dorsal and anal fins, and they have diamond shaped scales. Alligator Gar also live much longer in the wild than Needle Nose Gar.