AskDefine | Define gar

Dictionary Definition



1 primitive predaceous North American fish covered with hard scales and having long jaws with needle-like teeth [syn: garfish, garpike, billfish, Lepisosteus osseus]
2 elongate European surface-dwelling predacious fishes with long toothed jaws; abundant in coastal waters [syn: needlefish, billfish]

User Contributed Dictionary



Etymology 1

Short for garfish.


  1. Any of several fish, of the family Lepisosteidae, that have long, narrow jaws; garfish

Etymology 2

From gera, gerva (Swedish göra, Danish gjöre), from Germanic *garwjan. Compare yare.


  1. To make, cause (someone to do something).
    • 1885: Time gars me tremble. Ah, how sore the baulk! / While Time in pride of strength cloth ever stalk — Sir Richard Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Night 15






Old High German garo


  1. cooked
  2. ready
  3. done


  1. at all







Old English


From Germanic *gaizoz. Cognate with Old Saxon gēr (Dutch elger), Old High German gēr, Old Norse geirr.




(plural )

Derived terms


  • Middle English: gare



French gare


  1. station (railway)

Extensive Definition

In American English the name gar (or garpike) is strictly applied to members of the Lepisosteus, a family including seven living species of fish in two genera that inhabit fresh, brackish, and occasionally marine, waters of eastern North America, Central America, and the Caribbean islands.


In British English the name gar was originally used for a species of needlefish, Belone belone, found in the North Atlantic, itself likely named after the Old English word gar meaning "spear". Belone belone is now more commonly referred to as the "garpike" or "gar fish" to avoid confusion with the North American gars of the family Lepisosteidae.
The genus name Lepisosteus comes from the Greek lepis meaning "scale" and osteon meaning "bone". Atractosteus is similarly derived from Greek, in this case from atraktos, meaning "arrow".


The gars are members of the Lepisosteiformes (or Semionotiformes), an ancient order of "primitive" ray-finned fish; fossil gars are known from the Permian onwards. Their primitive traits are their very hard armour-like ganoid scales, a swimming bladder open to the pharynx that can function as a lung and the heterocercal tail. Fossil gars are found in both Europe and North America, indicating that in times past these fish had a wider distribution than they do today. Gars are considered to be a remnant of a group of rather primitive bony fish that flourished in the Mesozoic, and are most closely related to the bowfin, another archaic fish now found only in North America.

Anatomy and morphology

Gar in aquaria

Gar are popular fish for public aquaria where they are often kept alongside other large, "archaic" fish such as sturgeon and paddlefish. However, a few species, most commonly Lepisosteus oculatus, are sometimes offered to aquarists as pets. They do of course need very large tanks but in all other regards they are easy to keep. They are not much bothered by water quality or chemistry, and are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. Gar must be allowed to breathe air, so some clearance between the surface of the water and the hood is essential.
Gar get along well with any other fish that is too big to be eaten (such as large catfish, cichlids, and centrachids). They do not like aggressive tankmates, and despite being predators are essentially peaceable, sociable fish that do well with their own kind. Sturdy aquarium plants and bogwood can also be used to create hiding places, since gars are very fond of lurking in slightly shady regions.
Feeding presents no problems. Most will take all kinds of meaty foods, including mealworms, crickets, earthworms, frozen lancefish and shrimps (defrosted), and strips of squid. Oily fish (like salmon and mackerel) as well as fish guts will quickly pollute an aquarium but are very effective at tempting newly introduced specimens to eat. Once settled in many specimens will also eat floating pellets as well. There is no nutritional reason to feed gar live fish, and cheap feeder fish in particular tend to introduce parasites into an aquarium.

Gar diversity

Genus Atractosteus:
Genus Lepisosteus:


External links

gar in German: Knochenhechtartige
gar in Spanish: Lepisosteiformes
gar in French: Semionotiformes
gar in Italian: Lepisosteidae
gar in Lithuanian: Kaimanžuvės
gar in Hungarian: Kajmánhalfélék
gar in Dutch: Beensnoeken
gar in Japanese: ガー
gar in Polish: Niszczukokształtne
gar in Portuguese: Semionotiformes
gar in Serbian: Холостеи
gar in Turkish: Lepisosteiformes
gar in Chinese: 雀鳝目
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