Common name: Garfishes, halfbeaks



Long, slender, cylindrical fishes with the lower jaw usually extended into a long beak, and a short, triangular upper jaw. Fin spines absent; dorsal and anal fins short-based, opposite, far back on body; pectoral fins high on sides, pelvic fins inserted towards rear of abdomen, tail concave to deeply forked. Scales large, smooth, often weakly attached; lateral line running along lower sides.

Garfishes often leap from the water when startled. Females produce large eggs with adhesive filaments that attach floating objects.

Garfishes are commercially important throughout their range. Although quite bony, the flesh is good eating.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Garfishes, HEMIRAMPHIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

Tropical Australian species are treated by Collette (1999).

Family Distribution

Garfishes are found worldwide in tropical and warm temperat areas. They are primarily marine, although a number enter estuaries and a few enter fresh water.

Family Description

Garfishes are distinguished by an elongate lower jaw and short upper jaw, found in all species except the snub-nosed garfishes of the genus Arrhamphus.

Family Size

The maximum length is about 45 cm.

Family Feeding

Garfishes are herbivores, primarily on seagrass and green algae; the small proportion of invertebrates found may be ingested accidentally.

Family Commercial

The family is of some commercial importance in Australia as food and bait fishes.


Dianne J. Bray


Collette, B.B. (1974). The garfishes (Hemiramphidae) of Australia and New Zealand. Rec. Aust. Mus. 29(2): 11–105 figs 1–23

Collette, B.B. (1999). Family Hemiramphidae.  pp. 2180–2196 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds) The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 4 pp. 2069–2790

Dasilao, J.C., Sasaki, K. & Okamura, O. (1997). The hemiramphid, Oxyporhamphus, is a flying fish (Exocoetidae).  Ichthyol. Res. 44(2): 101–107

Meisner, A.D. & Collette, B.B. (1999). Generic relationships of the internally-fertilized southeast asian halfbeaks (Hemiramphidae: Zenarchopterinae).  pp. 69–76 in Séret, B. & Sire, J.-Y. (eds) Proceedings of the 5th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference Noumea, 1997.  Paris : Soc. Fr. Ichthyol.