Sevenspot Archerfish, Toxotes chatareus (Hamilton-Buchanan 1822)

Other Names: Common Archer Fish, Common Archerfish, Seven-spot Archerfish, Spotted Archerfish

Sevenspot Archerfish, Toxotes chatareus. Source: Sabene Hoeng. License: All rights reserved


A whitish to dusky grey or tan archerfish sometimes with a silvery sheen, a series of 6-7 black spots on the upper sides, and alternating pale and dark horizontal bands of varying intensity, usually most prominent ventrally.

Watch a BBC video of a Sevenspot Archerfish shooting a beetle off a branch.

Nat Geo Wild video of  archerfish shooting prey off a branch

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020, Toxotes chatareus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Sevenspot Archerfish, Toxotes chatareus (Hamilton-Buchanan 1822)

More Info


Widespread and common in northern Australia, from Broome, Western Australia, to the Pioneer River near Mackay, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, east-Indo-west Pacific: India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea.

Mostly inhabits brackish mangrove estuaries, but also enters lower freshwater reaches of rivers, small streams, lakes, billabongs, and shallow coastal  environments. Juveniles aggregate in small numbers around woody debris, and beneath overhanging branches. Adults are solitary or occur in groups of up to about 20 feeding continually at the surface.


Dorsal fin IV-VI, 12-14; Anal fin III, 15-17; Pectoral fin 11-14; Gill rakers (lower limb) 5-7; Transverse scale rows 3-5/1/9-11.

Body oval to rhomboid, moderately compressed, depth 1.9-2.4 in standard length. Head pointed, length 2.5-3.0 in standard length. Snout 3.3-4.1 in head length. Eye large 3.5-4.9 in head length. Interorbital 2.7-3.7 in head length.  Mouth moderately large, protractile, with lower jaw protruding; angle of jaw oblique, about 35°-40° to horizontal; maxilla slender, scaly and without a supplemental bone; villiform teeth on jaws, vomer, and palatines; a deep longitudinal groove on roof of mouth, which is converted to a tube when tongue is pressed against it. Caudal peduncle depth 2.4-3.2 in head length.

Scales moderately large, ctenoid, extending onto head and median fins; scale rows on body running horizontally; cheeks and operculum scaly; lateral line continuous, curving above pectoral fin.

Dorsal fin continuous, positioned on posterior half of body, opposite anal fin; fourth, and occasionally third spine usually longest, 1.3-2.4 in head length. Caudal fin truncate. Pectoral fins pointed.


Reaches 50 cm TL, but rarely more than 35 cm.


Whitish to dusky grey or tan, sometimes with silvery sheen; sides with series of 6-7 black spots dorsally, and alternating light and dark horizontal bands of varying intensity, about one per scale row, usually most prominent ventrally. Spinous dorsal fin dusky or blackish; soft dorsal fin dusky or blackish, frequently with pale central band; caudal fin whitish or yellowish to very dusky; anal fin similar to soft dorsal or pale basally grading to blackish on outer half of fin; pelvic fins whitish to yellowish grading to dusky on outer portion; pectoral fins usually pale, but sometimes upper rays dusky, particularly in larger specimens. Some fish taking on generally uniform dusky pigmentation after death.


Archerfish rely heavily on vision to detect their prey. They feed by spitting jets of water to dislodge small insects from vegetation above the surface of the water.


Oviparous, pelagic spawners. Breeds during the wet season in fresh and brackish waters. Females are highly fecund, producing 20,000 to 150,000 buoyant eggs.


Moderately important food fish in parts of Indonesia and Southeast Asia; taken by handline, block nets and gill nets. Marketed fresh.


IUCN Least Concern


The illegal translocation of Sevenspot Archerfish into Lake Eacham, Queensland, have been implicated in the extinction of the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia eachamensis.

Similar Species

Species Citation

Coius chatareus Hamilton-Buchanan 1822, Fishes River Ganges: 101, 370. Type locality: mouth of Ganges River, India.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Sevenspot Archerfish, Toxotes chatareus (Hamilton-Buchanan 1822)


Allen, G.R. 1978. A review of the archerfishes (family Toxotidae). Records of the Western Australian Museum 6(4): 355-378 figs 1-11

Allen, G.R. 1982. Inland Fishes of Western Australia.  Perth : Western Australian Museum 86 pp. 6 figs 20 pls.

Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls.

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

Allen, G.R. 2001. Toxotidae.  pp. 3212–3215 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. 5 pp. 2791–3379.

Allen, G.R. 2004. Toxotes kimberleyensis, a new species of Archerfish (Pisces: Toxotidae) from fresh waters of Western Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 56: 225-230 DOI: 10.3853/j.0067-1975.56.2004.1423

Allen, G.R. & Leggett, R. 1990. A collection of freshwater fishes from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 14(4): 527-545. See ref online

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia.  Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Allen, G.R., Storey, A.W. & Yarrao, M. 2008. Freshwater Fishes of the Fly River Papua New Guinea. Tabubil, Papua New Guinea : Ok Tedi Mining 216 pp.

Castelnau, F.L. de 1878. Notes on the fishes of the Norman River. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 3(1): 41-51 (as Toxotes carpentariensis)

Dill, L.M. 1977. Refraction and spitting behavior of archerfish (Toxotes chatareus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 2: 169-184.

Hamilton, F. 1822. An Account of the Fishes Found in the River Ganges and its Branches. Edinburgh : Archibald Constable 405 pp., pls 1-39. See ref at BHL

Lake, J.S. 1978. Australian Freshwater Fishes. Melbourne : Thomas Nelson 160 pp. 140 figs.

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. 1990. Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1. Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs.

Larson, H.K. & Williams, R.S. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. pp. 339-380 in Hanley, H.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds). The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J.R. 1987. Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. Artarmon : J.R. Merrick Publications 241 pp. 142 figs. 

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs.

Morgan, D.L., Allen, G.R., Pusey, B.J. & Burrows, D.W. 2011. A review of the freshwater fishes of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Zootaxa 2816: 1-64

Newport, C., Wallis, G., Temple, S.E. & Siebeck, U.E. 2013. Complex, context-dependent decision strategies of archerfish, Toxotes chatareus. Animal Behaviour 86(6): 1265-1274. Abstract

Pal, M. & Morgan, D.L. 2019. Toxotes chatareus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T166566A1137243. Downloaded on 02 June 2020

Pusey, B.J., Burrows, D.W., Kennard, M.J., Perna, C.N., Unmack. P.J., Allsop, Q. & Hammer, M.P. 2017. Freshwater fishes of northern Australia. Zootaxa 4253(1): 1-104 DOI:

Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Arthington, A.H. 2004. Freshwater Fishes of North-eastern Australia. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 684 pp. 

Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Bird, J. 2000. Fishes of the dune fields of Cape Flattery, northern Queensland and other dune systems in north-eastern Australia. Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwater 11(1): 65-74

Shelley, J.J., Morgan, D.L., Hammer, M.P., Le Feuvre, M.C., Moore, G.I., Gomon, M.F., Allen, M.G. & Saunders, T. 2018. A field guide to freshwater fishes of the Kimberley. Western Australia : Murdoch University Print Production Team, 262 pp.

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Whitley, G.P. 1950. Studies in Ichthyology No. 14. Records of the Australian Museum 22(3): 234-245 figs 1-5 pl. 17 (as Toxotes dorsalis and Toxotes ulysses)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37359001

Behaviour:Spits jets of water at terrestrial insects

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-10 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Freshwater, inshore coastal

Max Size:50 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map