Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Walbaum 1792)

Other Names: Akerstrom's Sea-pike, Barracuda, Barracuda, Dingo-fish, Giant Barracuda, Giant Sea-pike, Short Barracuda, Small-eyed Barracuda, Striped Seapike

A Giant Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, at Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia. Source: Will White. License: All rights reserved


A voracious marine predator easily recognised by the black scalloped tail with pale tips on the upper and lower lobes, numerous indistinct oblique bars along the upper sides and scattered dark blotches along the lower sides, and a pointed snout with a protruding lower jaw. 

The Great Barracuda is a popular and highly-prized recreational fish. Although excellent eating, large fish should be avoided due to the risk of ciguatera poisoning. Great Barracuda have been implicated in rare attacks on divers, and have bitten unsuspecting people dangling arms and legs in the water.

Great video of a Great Barracuda in the very shallow waters of Bonaire, Dutch Antilles.

Great Barracuda being cleaned by cleaner wrasses.

Video of a Great Barracuda at Richelieu Rock, Thailand

Images and video footage at ARKive

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Sphyraena barracuda in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Sep 2019,

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Walbaum 1792)

More Info


Off North West Cape (and possibly  south to Albany) including Rowley Shoals and Scott Reef, Western Australia, Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, to Sydney, New South Wales, including reefs in the Coral Sea; also Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Atlantic-Indo-west-central Pacific.

Juveniles school in shallow inshore waters over sandy, weedy bottoms and estuaries including mangroves. Large adults are solitary and pelagic around shallow reefs and deep reefs to the edge of the continental shelf; also in offshore waters and around oceanic islands.


Dorsal fin VI, 9; Anal fin I, 10; Lateral line 75-87.

Body long, slender, snout pointed, lower jaw protruding beyond upper jaw. Mouth large, upper jaw reaching to or just beyond front of eye. Gill rakers absent on first gill arch. Origin of first dorsal fin behind pelvic-fin origin; pectoral fin not reaching origin of dorsal fin. Caudal fin of adults with a pair of large lobes near the midline of posterior margin; caudal fin forked in juveniles smaller than 50 cm.


To 200 cm TL and a weight of about 40 kg.


Dark green to brownish above, sides silvery fading to white below, with numerous dark oblique bars on upper sides, and occasionally black blotches on lower sides that are more prominent in juveniles; caudal fin black with white tips.


Voracious carnivores that rely on surprise and short bursts of speed to actively prey mostly on smaller fishes, squids and occasionally on crustaceans.

Barracuda captures fishes with a swift ram feeding strike and can attack prey larger than the gape of their jaws. In order to swallow large prey, they sever their prey into pieces with powerful jaws replete with sharp cutting teeth. A robust palatine bone embedded with large dagger-like teeth opposes the mandible at the rear of the jaws providing for a scissor-like bite capable of shearing through the flesh and bone of its prey. (Grubich et al, 2008)


The Great Barracuda is a popular and highly-prized recreational fish, and is often taken by anglers trolling artificial lures. Although the flesh is excellent, people should avoid eating large fish because of the risk of ciguatera poisoning.


IUCN Least Concern

Species Citation

Esox barracuda Walbaum, 1792, Petri Artedi renovati: 94. Type locality: West Indies.


Bray, D.J. 2019


Australian Faunal Directory

Great Barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Walbaum 1792)


Aiken, K.A., Dooley, J., Marechal, J., Pina Amargos, F., Russell, B. & Singh-Renton, S. 2015. Sphyraena barracuda(errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T190399A115319634. Downloaded on 01 October 2018.

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Russell, B.C. 1986. Part VII Fishes. pp. 79-103 in Berry, P.F. (ed.). Faunal Surveys of the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reef, northwestern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 25: 1-106 

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21 

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

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de Sylva, D.P. 1973. Barracudas (Pisces : Sphyraenidae) of the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas — a preliminary review of their systematics and ecology. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India 15(1): 74-94 figs 1-4

Edwards, G. 1771. A catalog of the animals and plants represented in Catesby's Natural History of Carolina with the Linnaean names,. pp. 1-2 in Catesby, M. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. (Revised by G. Edwards). To which is now added a Linnaean index of the animals and plants. London : B. White 100 pp.

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Grubich, J.R., Rice, A.N. & Westneat, MW. 2008. Functional morphology of bite mechanics in the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). Zoology 111(1): 16-29. DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2007.05.003

Habegger, M.L., Motta, P.J., Huber, D.R. & Deban, S.M. 2010. Feeding biomechanics in the Great Barracuda during ontogeny. Journal of Zoology: 1–10.

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37382008

Behaviour:200 cm TL; 50 kg

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Danger:Aggressive; may cause ciguatera

Fishing:Recreational fish

Habitat:Coastal, pelagic

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CAAB distribution map