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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

15 Fin-tastic Facts About Houndfish For Kids

There are lots of interesting Houndfish facts, a fascinating species of family Belonidae (Needlefish or long toms).

The Houndfish is one of the largest fish species of the family Belonidae (needlefish).  This needlefish is known for its slender body and a long needle-like jaw and sharp teeth. Houndfish can grow up to five ft in length. As one of the most dispersed species of needlefish, the Houndfish is a game fish that can be found worldwide. With a short and stout beak, the Houndfish (known scientifically as Tylosurus Crocodilus) is distinctly recognizable in the needlefish species. With a very shallow depth range of 0-52 ft, it can be found just below the ocean surface.

Houndfish are considered game fish and are a popular choice for anglers because they are difficult to catch. Like moths and other needlefish, they are drawn to artificial light. Anglers will use artificial light at night as well as anchovies for bait. Although very popular in game-fishing, they are considered dangerous for their ability to leap from the water at high speeds. When frightened or being attacked, this fish will jump from the water, in a dagger-like fashion, with their long and sharp snouts able to cause deep and severe puncture wounds to anything in its path. Houndfish are called a variety of names across different regions. Other names for this species include crocodile needlefish, stick fish, hound needlefish, alligator gar, giant longtom, crocodile longtom, seagar, and ocean piper.

If you like this article, check out our articles on the kelp rockfish and the sockeye salmon.

Houndfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Houndfish?

The Houndfish (Tylosurus Crocodilus ) is a type of fish belonging to the Belonidae family (Needlefishes or long toms). They are a family of slender piscivorous fishes that are commonly found in very shallow marine habitats or known to swim just below the surface of the ocean. The Belonidae family has 45 species worldwide including the fascinating Houndfish. With a long cylindrical body and no spines, this fish (also called the Crocodile Needlefish) has 21-25 soft rays on its dorsal fin and 19-22 on its anal fin. In comparison to other needlefish, its stout body and short head that makes the Houndfish unique.

What class of animal does a Houndfish belong to?

The Houndfish is a mammal (family Belonidae).

How many Houndfishes are there in the world?

As one of the most dispersed species of needlefish, the exact population of Houndfish in the world is unknown.

Where does a Houndfish live?

The Tylosurus Crocodilus subspecies is widely dispersed in oceans throughout the world. Their distribution commences from the Red Sea, along eastern Africa down to Polynesia, above Japan, and down to New South Wales, Australia making the Houndfish discoverable in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.

What is a Houndfish's habitat?

Houndfish are a pelagic species that are often found in lagoons and seaward reefs, both solitarily and in small schools. As they prefer warmer water temperatures of 68-86 degrees Fahrenheit, these needlefish are often found just below the surface of the ocean. They often appear near jetties, reefs, and piers.

Who do Houndfish live with?

Houndfish live and travel both solitarily and in small schools.

How long does a Houndfish live?

Houndfish (also known as Crocodile long toms) have an average lifespan of up to eight years.

How do they reproduce?

Houndfish (Tylosurus Crocodilus) are oviparous and reproduce through external fertilization. They are known to be a fast-breeding species, with the female able to produce up to 30,000 eggs.  The mating season for this species is usually between April and May. While spawning, large needlefish will often be found in shallow waters. A female can lay as many as 100 eggs which will take between 10-15 days to hatch. Once released into shallow waters, tendrils on the surface of the eggs will attach themselves to seaweed and other objects. This attachment allows the egg to survive through to the time of hatching.

What is their conservation status?

The Houndfish (Tylosurus Crocodilus) is listed as a Least Concern species. They are not under threat of extinction based on the Arabian Gulf regional assessment of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Houndfish Fun Facts

What do Houndfish look like?

With a cylindrical stout form, the Houndfish (Tylosurus Crocodilus) is a highly reflective serpentine fish. These fish are able to camouflage in the water, as they have a dark-colored top (usually dark blue or green) and a white silver underside, making them well disguised from predators both above and below the water. They are recognized for their very long needle-like snout and sharp teeth. The hound fish is known to grow up to five ft in length and 10 lb in weight.

As part of the Belonidae family (also known as needlefish or long toms), the most distinct Houndfish feature is its stout body and short head as well as its' deeply forked tail fin and unique placement of the dorsal fin.

A close-up of the Tylosurus Crocodilus head, with its long jaw, needle-like beak, and razor-sharp teeth.

How cute are they?

Houndfish are highly reflective and fascinating creatures, although maybe not cute.

How do they communicate?

Houndfish primarily communicate with each other through motion.

How big is a Houndfish?

Male houndfish can grow up from 2-5 ft in length.

How fast can a Houndfish swim?

With a streamlined body, Needlefish have the perfect form for achieving high swimming velocities and can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h. It is their ability to make short and high-speed dagger-like jumps out of the water (at up to 37 mph) that makes needlefish most unique to other fishes.

How much does a Houndfish weigh?

As the largest member of the Belonidae family, the Houndfish grows up to an average of 10 lb (4.5 kg) in weight. The largest recorded weight for a Houndfish is 14 lb (6.35 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

The names for male and female Houndfish are simply female and male Houndfish.

What would you call a baby Houndfish?

Baby Houndfish are called baby needlefish, which are usually half an inch in length once they hatch. Juvenile species are known to shelter in Mangroves, consuming plankton until they mature and are ready to enter deeper waters and hunt their prey.

What do they eat?

The crocodile needlefish are carnivorous creatures. They are aggressive hunters that feed on smaller fish that can fit in their mouth like young anchovies and sardines. Hound fish also enjoy small flying fishes that they are able to catch with their long beaks by leaping out of the water. Their preferred choice of fish is Anchovies.

The Houndfish is preyed upon by large fish including large tuna. As surface-dwelling fish, they are also hunted by dolphins.

Are they aggressive?

Unlike other fish, Houndfish have extremely long and sharp snouts. Using their sharp snouts, they will puncture their predators, which include tuna and other large fish.

Houndfish (Tylosurus crocodilus) can easily puncture organs with their sharp needle-like beak. Although they only leap out of the water when frightened or lured with artificial lights (used for game fishing),  this high speed and abrupt movement can be extremely dangerous. As they swim just below the ocean surface, the houndfish is are often colliding with fishermen and swimmers. There have recorded beak injuries and fatalities in recent years including a snorkeler in the Florida Keys that was stabbed in the neck (in 2000) and an ocean kayaker that was struck in the back and treated for a collapsed lung (in 2010).

For the fisherman in the Pacific Islands, who primarily fish from low boats on reefs, there is a higher risk of injury from needlefish than sharks. This isn't as much of an issue in the West Atlantic and East Atlantic. Aside from the danger of their beaks to humans in fishing, they are not considered a threat.

Would they make a good pet?

Needlefish (or long toms) have long narrow jaws filled with sharp teeth in their mouth, so none of its members, including the Houndfish, would make a good pet. Given their large weight (an average of 10 lb), long body, and desire for warm shallow ocean lagoons and reefs it would be unsustainable to maintain a Houndfish in a small man-made environment. With its diet of small fish (and small flying fishes) as well as its innate ability to leap out of the water when started or frightened, it would be best to keep these magnificent marine creatures in the ocean, or in large commercial aquariums.

Did you know...

The world record for the largest houndfish caught is by Daniel John Leonard, that used a pilchard as bait to catch the 10 lb (4.88kg) fish in the Bahamas in 2013.  

Although their flesh is tasty, the Houndfish is rarely consumed for eating because their many small bones are green.

With teeth pointing anteriorly (pointing inwards) and a raised black lobe behind their dorsal fins, juvenile crocodile needlefish are recognizable from other needlefish.

What survival mechanisms do Houndfish have?

Houndfish (crocodile needlefish) have several surviving mechanisms including their reflective bodies. They are well-camouflaged both above and below the water, as well disguised from predators and unsuspecting to their prey (small flying fishes). Light refraction in the image of a leaping needlefish, also allows Houndfish to easily catch its prey.

Why is the Houndfish also called Crocodile Needlefish?

Due to the similarity of beak to the jaw of a crocodile, the Houndfish is popularly referred to as crocodile needlefish (or crocodile longtoms).

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including monkfish, or Koi.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our koi fish coloring pages.

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