Fun Arctic Char Facts For Kids

Christian Mba
Jan 04, 2023 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Arctic Char facts to take us on a polar adventure.

The Arctic Char fish is primarily a freshwater fish widely seen in the Northern polar belt. Distributed in the extensive geographical range of northern America, Canada, Greenland, and Scandinavian countries, they can inhabit freshwater lakes, rivers, and coastal parts of the ocean.

They are very similar to the Salmon and Trout fishes in their features and taste. The Char populations can be anadromous or landlocked in large lakes or rivers. They migrate from rivers to freshwater for spawning season.

These fishes spawn in the fall season ranging from September to December. The young ones are precocial and spend five to seven months in the rivers before entering their habitats. They eat zooplankton, insects, salmon eggs, snails, smaller crustaceans, and smaller fishes.

Chars are predated by birds, otters, bears, and humans. The extensive fishing in Canada, Iceland, and United States does not impact the char's populations. The time of year, habitat, and weather conditions affect the chars' coloration and spots.

If the fun facts here have taken your enthusiasm for learning about the wild to a new level, we also have fascinating content here on giant trevally and Amberjack

Arctic Char Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Arctic char?

The Arctic Chars are cold-water fishes closely related to the Lake Trout and Salmon varieties. It has many characteristics similar to the Salmon and Trouts.

The Arctic Char's English name has been derived from the Old Irish term 'cera,' which means 'blood-red,' referring to the red color on its body. There are three subspecies of the Arctic Char found in North America: the Davatchan, Blueback trout, and Dwarf Arctic char.

What class of animal does an Arctic char belong to?

The Char belongs to the class Actinopterygii under phylum Chordata. The class Actinopterygii's distinct feature is that it has a rigid skeleton. The fish's fins are series of skin supported by bony spines that look like rays. Hence, the name Ray-finned fishes. Most of the fish species under the Actinopterygii have leptoid scales that are very thin and transparent.

How many Arctic chars are there in the world?

There are 50,000 Arctic chars documented worldwide as per a study. A vast majority of this count coming from Norway. This fish population is widely distributed in the Northern Polar belt across the Arctic and Subarctic regions.

Where does an Arctic char live?

The Arctic Chars are native to the Northern Polar regions extending from Canada to Russia. It is extensively found in the Arctic regions of North America, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Siberia, and the Scandinavian countries. Northern Alaska Chars are predominantly lake dwellers throughout their lives.

What is an Arctic char's habitat?

The Arctic char is found to be anadromous, landlocked, or semi-anadromous. Anadromous species drift to the freshwater for the spawning season and return to the saltwater after the spawn. Some fish species are known to remain in the lakes for spawning. Up to nine years of age, these fish species remain in the freshwater mostly.

It is the only freshwater fish that lives farthest north in the geographical range. They migrate via the estuaries and brackish waters to the sea. Post-summer, they prefer frozen lakes as their habitat. They can inhabit the lakes or sea 52.4 ft (16 m) deep under the water surface.

Who do Arctic chars live with?

The Arctic Char is primarily a migratory fish species that remain in groups for migration. They choose the summer months between June and July for migration. During the spawning time, the male prefers to remain solitary and becomes highly territorial. They depict both diurnal and nocturnal activities.

How long does an Arctic char live?

The Arctic char can live for 20 years in their natural wild habitat. There is historical precedence where an Arctic char had recorded a lifespan of 40 years.

How do they reproduce?

The spawning in the Arctic char species occurs during the fall months of September and December. The male Arctic char develops a brilliant hue of bright red or deep red when ready for mating. The females remain silvery.

The males choose multiple mates during the spawning season, whereas the females remain with one mate. The male fish creates a territory for spawning and defends it. The males go around the females and brush their bodies against them.

The females build their spawning nest in the male territory. The male fish deposits the milt, and the female fish deposits her eggs into the spawning nest. External fertilization takes place.

In each spawn, the female anadromous char can lay eggs between the count of 3,000-5,000 in the freshwaters. The average hatching time is two months in each spawn. Parental care after birth is absent in these fish species. The new hatchlings are independent and precocial at birth. Sexual maturity in these species is attained between 4-10 years.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN Red List places the Arctic char in the Least Concern category. The large distribution of their habitat and conservation programs by many fisheries across their habitat range helps to protect these species from any potential threat of extinction. The extensive fishing in Canada and the United States' lake waters has negligible impact on their population count.

Arctic Char Fun Facts

What do Arctic chars look like?

The Arctic char color varies according to the season and weather conditions in the lakes inhabited by them. They have giant mouths with teeth lined and deep jaws. They have small scales on the lateral line that number up to 123–152.

The dorsal side is dark green, brown, or pale, and the ventral side can be in shades of red, yellow, white, or pink. They have spots on their sides that can be red, pink, or yellowish. They have forked tails and long rounded bodies like Salmon.

Arctic Char Salvelinus alpinus tastes like both trout and Salmon.

How cute are they?

Arctic Char enjoys the stature of being called the world's most variable vertebrate. These fish species have a large number of morphs all over their habitat range. With the color variations, ubiquitous morphs, and the differential size proportion it can reach, they sure are here to turn the heads.

How do they communicate?

The communication between these fishes is established by employing olfactory senses during spawning. The females sense the pheromones released by the male Arctic char. They majorly rely on their sense of taste and touch (tactile stimulus) to hunt their prey. They are also known to perceive their brethren's odor in water inhabited by them.

How big is an Arctic char?

The maximum length an Arctic char can get is 16 in (40.6 cm) which is almost half the size of Atlantic salmon, which achieves 30 in (76.2 cm) in length.

How fast can an Arctic char swim?

The Arctic char has been recorded to have a maximum speed of 1.4 ft per second (0.4 m per second), and in the burst mode, it is noted to have a speed of 1.7 ft per second (0.5 m per second). The Arctic Char are slow swimmers compared to the Atlantic salmon.

It's notorious for being called a lazy fish as it takes advantage of the water currents' speed to complement its swimming.

How much does an Arctic char weigh?

The Arctic chars, on average, weigh around 9 lb (4 kg) which is lean compared to the Trout fish that can weigh a maximum of 26 lb (11.7 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific term given to the species' male and female. They are called male or female Arctic char. The male and female Arctic char are similar in size. The differentiation is the color of the male during spawn season; they develop a deep red coloration.

What would you call a baby Arctic char?

Larvae is the term used to refer to the young one hatching from the eggs. They cannot feed themselves at this stage.

Once they become capable of feeding themselves, they are termed a fry. After developing scales and fins, they become a fingerling, as they are the size of a finger at this stage. From this stage, they grow on to become adult fish.

The weight of the baby Arctic char measures between 0.0014-0.0024 oz (0.039-0.068 g) upon hatching. They remain at the bottom of lakes or water bodies.

What do they eat?

The Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) fish species feed on zooplankton populations floating on surfaces of lakes, insects, and other small fishes found at the bottom of lakes. They are piscivorous and prey on young salmons and their own young ones. They are opportunistic feeders.

Are they dangerous?

Although aggressive and having few cannibalistic feeding habits in particular habitats, these fishes are non-dangerous to humans. Their sporty movements on the water surface are an angler's thrill spot. In some of the habitat regions, they are considered game fish.

Would they make a good pet?

These cold-water dwelling fishes are best suited to thrive in frigid weather. Their body adaptations will limit their healthy living in the household. Hence, they may not make a good pet. However, the char fish are farmed with responsible environmental management.

Did You Know...

The Arctic chars are the only species of fish inhabiting Lake Hazen's waters in Canada's Arctic region.

It is the most scarce fish species found in Ireland and Britain, found in glacial lakes that are deeper and cold.

Unlike the Pacific salmon, the chars do not die after spawning; they breed once every two or three years.

The Arctic char populations go by the name 'golets' in Siberia.

These fish populations play an essential role in the freshwater and marine ecosystems of Northern Canada.

Traditional trap nets, gillnets, and weirs are deployed to harvest wild char in Canada.

Do people eat Arctic char?

The Chars are a popular menu item at many restaurants and eateries. They taste like trout and Salmon but their taste is much closer to the trout. The Arctic char taste is flavorful, moderately firm with high-fat content. The meat is very moist.

It is quite a healthy fish providing Omega-3 fatty acids and Carotenoids. They are cooked in various ways, like being smoked, grilled, or broiled. The Arctic char fishing is an integral part of the Inuit tribes inhabiting Canada, Greenland, and Alaska.

Where to buy Arctic chars?

The Char is gaining popularity in the culinary world; hence the demand in the market for the Char is increasing. A few local markets may import the Chars, and more popularly, the frozen Char can be bought online.

The fish's cost can vary between $9-11 per 1 lb (0.45 kg). They are a little more expensive than Salmon and trout fish due to the fish's lesser availability.

The wild and the farmed char will vary in the color of the skin, looking anywhere between pale pink to bright red. The farmed char is preferable and a safe option than the Salmon and trout species caught from the wild since they are harvested in controlled environments and do not carry any toxic environmental pollutants.

For the farmed Char, North Canada is the major supplier, and Iceland is the second-largest supplier.

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 Hogfish or Candiru.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our arctic char coloring pages.

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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