Lepisosteus osseus – Longnose Gar

Lepisosteus osseus or Longnose Gar looks very similar to a caiman. They reach almost 2 meters in length and have a very similar snout to that of a caiman.

Lepisosteus osseus – Longnose Gar

Lepisosteus osseus was first described by Linnaeus in 1758, then as Esox osseus. They were then classified as members of the Pike family. After some time they got their own family: Lepisosteidae or the Gars. The genus Lepisosteus has only four species.

The name lepisosteus can be broken down into two words. Lepis is the ancient Greek word for “scale” and osteus means “bony”. A reference to the very hard diamond-shaped bony scales of this family. Osseus comes from Latin and also means “bony”. The scales are made of a kind of mineralized material that forms a kind of armor called ganoid scales.

Lepisosteus osseus has the longest nose of all Gars. Well nose, actually it is the mouth of the fish. You can distinguish this species from the other species because the long slender nose is at least 10 times to sometimes 20 times as long as it is wide.

Over the years, this species has received many names because it has a wide distribution area. Scientists thought they had discovered a new species and described it over and over again. All synonyms can be found in the extra information of this article.


Longnose Gars are elongated and round in shape. The first thing to notice is their long pointed snout. The muzzle is even twice as long as their head. There have a single row of sharp teeth in this “nose”.

The longest caught Lepisosteus osseus had a length of 183 centimeters and a weight of 22.7 kilograms. In the wild, they can therefore become very long and heavy. In an aquarium they usually stay a bit smaller but can still reach a total length of around 100 centimeters.

The color of adult animals ranges from olive to dark green on the back to whitish on their belly. There are large black spots on the dorsal, tail, anal and ventral fins. Young animals also have these spots on the lateral line, in adult specimen these spots fade.


The distribution area of the Longnos Gar is located in North and Central America. They occur in Quabec, Canada, through the eastern United States to the south to the Rio Grande basin in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico.

They inhabit a wide variety of waters here. Think of the larger rivers, marshes, reservoirs, lakes and horseshoe lakes. They can also be found in the brackish water of the connections with the sea and even briefly in the salt water along the coast. During the spawning season they migrate more upstream, up to about 10 kilometers from their normal habitat. They can also be found in the smaller streams.

They are resistant to water with a lack of oxygen. Instead of breading through their gills, they close them. Above water they take a bite of air that goes to the swim bladder. In the adapted swim bladder, they can extract the oxygen from the air and thus breathe. They can continue to do this until there is oxygen in the water again.


In the wild, the diet of Lepisosteus osseus mainly consists of fish and sometimes some insects or invertebrates. Larger specimens also eat the younger specimens of the same species if given the chance.

The Aquarium

As mentioned, Lepisosteus osseus in the aquarium can reach a length of about one meter and therefore need a very large aquarium. The body is not as flexible as, for example, the Silver Arowanas, so the space between the front and rear of the aquarium must also be greater than the body length. With a maximum length of 183 centimeters, you will need an aquarium of 200 centimeters deep and certainly 1.5 meters high. You can argue about the aquarium length, but I would say about 6 meters is the absolute minimum.

Also keep in mind that they can live very long. In the wild they can usually get about 17 years old, but specimens of 22 years old have also been found. In the aquarium with good care they can even get a lot older, on average 24 to a maximum of 39 years.

The Spawn

Longnose Gars are not sexually mature until around the age of six. Males around the age of three to four years.

Before eggs are deposited, the female is approached by a group of around 15 males. The female swims around in an elliptical pattern. When the female is ready to spawn after about 15 minutes, the males touch the female with their snout on her stomach. They regularly surface. The spawning starts when the whole group hangs with their snout down just above the bottom. The female releases the eggs with rapid vibrations, after which the males fertilize the eggs.

Depending on the age and size of the female, the number of eggs ranges from about 4,500 in a young small female to as many as 77,000 eggs in the largest females. An average mature female will lay about 30,000 eggs. The eggs are sticky, large and green in color.

Note: the eggs have a sticky toxic coating and should therefore not be eaten!

In some cases, the Longnose Gar behaves like a Cuckoo Catfish. They hide their eggs in the nest of the Smallmouth Bass – Micropterus dolomieu. The Smallmouth Bass protects its own eggs and fry, but also that of Lepisosteus osseus.

Rearing the Fry

The eggs hatch after about 3 to 9 days, they are about 8 to 10 millimeters in length. The parents show no further brood care, so the fry have to rely on themselves. The young Lepisosteus osseus live on their yolk sac for a few days. They have doubled in length within 10 days! In the aquarium they can grow even faster with sufficient food, up to 3 millimeters per day.


Due to the maximum length of the Longnose Gar, it should come as no surprise that this is a fish that is not suitable for most aquariums. Once fully grown, they need a huge aquarium that not everyone can offer. In my opinion, sales should therefore be limited to enthusiasts who can demonstrate that they have a sufficiently large aquarium.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Chris Crippen
Cephas – CC BY-SA 3.0



Last Updated on 26 September 2021 by John

Additional information






Esox osseus, Esox viridis, Lepidosteus ayresii, Lepidosteus bison, Lepidosteus clintonii, Lepidosteus copei, Lepidosteus crassus, Lepidosteus elisabeth, Lepidosteus harlani, Lepidosteus horatii, Lepidosteus lamarii, Lepidosteus leptorhynchus, Lepidosteus lesueurii, Lepidosteus louisianensis, Lepidosteus milberti, Lepidosteus otarius, Lepidosteus piquotianus, Lepidosteus rostratus, Lepidosteus smithii, Lepidosteus thompsonii, Lepidosteus troostii, Lepisosteus gavial, Lepisosteus gracilis, Lepisosteus huronensis, Lepisosteus lineatus, Lepisosteus longirostris, Lepisosteus osseus oxyurus, Lepisosteus oxyurus, Lepisosteus treculii, Macrognathus loricatus, Sarchirus vittatus

Common names

Longnose Gar


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Breeding behaviour



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