View Full Version : Keeping gars. Hujeta, and needle nosed

04-16-2008, 05:11 AM
The first gars I've had are the "Hydro" gar or Hujeta (sp?). I've seen them along with the needle nosed gars most frequently in aquarium stores. The Hujeta Hydro gar is a silver colored fish with "glenoid" or diamond shaped scales, a black spot on it's tail, and a protruding snout typical of the gar species. The Needle Nosed gar has a very long snout with a dark stripe all the way down it's body and less prominent glenoid scales.

The Hujeta and the Needle Nosed gar should be kept in groups of at least 2 and it's said that 2 males with 1 female is ideal. Sexing is difficult however, but the females grow faster and bigger than the males, so if given a selection from the same batch I would take 1 larger and 2 smaller. These fish like each others company and look good together as they seem to like to hang out in positions where they face the same direction.

The Hujeta or Hydro gars get about 8 inches long in aquariums and I suggest at least a 60 gallon tank for them. The Needle Nosed gar gets to at least 12 inches and 100 gallons would be minimum I would think. length and width in a tank is better than depth due to the fact that these fish are long and somewhat inflexible and need room to turn.

These 2 types of gar are both beautiful but can be quite skittish, and if spooked can easily ram themselves so hard against the glass that they break off or seriously injure their snouts. They love eating feeder guppies and feeder goldfish, but I would ween them off this food for their main diet to something like freeze dried krill for two reasons. One is that feeder fish can carry parasites and you don't want to infect your fish, but the most important reason is that by hand feeding your gars will associate human presence with food and, will with time, be less prone to bolting and injuring themselves on the glass.

These fish are stalkers and like to lie just under the water surface. having plants, fake or real, that go to the surface is recommended. They are not very active and it's best not to keep them with Danios or other fish that swim around so vigorously as this activity can bother them.

Salt is also very important for most gars. I forget the recommended amount for a fresh water aquarium, but it may be 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons of water. Check on that first though. The reason is that as gars mature they become more and more prone to getting bacterial infections and suddenly dieing. That was the sad demise of my 2 Needle Nosed gars.

I also had a South American Spotted gar that was quite beautiful. It had markings like that of a Rainbow trout with some pink on its underside. This fish should never have been sold for aquariums however as it was incredibly skittish and never tamed down like the Hujeta or the Needle Nosed. It was sad to see it freak when I walked by the tank and slam against the side of the tank. It eventually died I believe to a lack of salt in the tank.

You don't need so much salt that live plants can't grow. The amount recommended for fresh water tanks is fine.

To finish, if you are considering one of the North American gars such as the Florida or Florida Spotted gar, these fish get very very large. It's irresponsible to acquire one unless you have a 300, or better yet, a 500 gallon tank to keep them in. I myself have 2 Hujeta that are about 4 years old and 3 Florida Spotted gars that are about 9 months old. I have them all in a 100 gallon planted tank at the moment and I'm planning on building a mostly plywood 300-500 gallon tank soon. I've also taken the trouble of contacting 2 public aquariums in my area that have Florida Spotted gars and they will take mine if my plans for their future don't work out.

I wrote this up because there hasn't been much activity in the gar sub-forum recently. I've had about 4 years of experience with a few types of gars and I have some ideas that may be helpful for anyone intending to keep them. Some say the smaller Amazonian species such as the Hujeta and the Needle Nosed will not ween off live feeder fish, but I know that not to be true, and on the contrary I believe it's important to do so for the reasons given. You want your fish to see you as its meal bearer, not it's enemy. Freeze dried krill is my food of choice because it is very nutritious, floats on the surface, and it's a low density food, allowing them to eat more without over eating.

04-23-2008, 12:21 PM
your info seems to be mostly accurate and its nice to see a fellow gar keeper on the forum. however most of your info covers the non-true gar species. i'll take a second and add to your gar info...

i have been keeping gar for quite a few years now and i feel there are some misconceptions about these fish. first off...people always blow their size and aggression out of proportion. aside from the alligator gar (atractosteus spatula) and the longnose gar (lepisosteus osseus) these fish will rarely exceed 24" in captivity (raised from young of the year)...although it can happen and a future upgrade should always be a possibility and a strong thought. my current largest gar is a 4-5 year old florida/spotted gar that is right around 18". my foods of choice are raw (shell on) shrimp, fish fillets, floating pellets, fd krill, and smelt.

on a side note...many of the fish labled as "gar" are in fact not gar at all. for example (hujeta gar, marbled gar, needle nose gar, etc). most of these fish belong to the characin family and the "needlenose gar" (Xenentodon cancila) is a Beloniforme...again...not a gar. i personally am not a big fan of common names due to reasons like this.

i hope my added info may be of some help to anyone planning on purchasing and keeping these fish in the future.

04-23-2008, 10:30 PM
Thanks for responding to my post. I also have Florida Spotted gars and I recognise these as being true gars. I rarely see them sold in aquarium stores though, and that's just as well since they do get quite large. Characins are a lot easier to find, but yes, they are a very different fish looks wise and temperament wise and they don't have that specialized air bladder they can, in effect, breath with. F gars are also much mellower than the Characins in my experience.

My F gars are about a foot long each and I feed them mainly FD krill, though they seem to eat anything including flake food and I give them goldfish occasionally too.

I was at the aquarium store I bought my F gars at yesterday and saw that they still have one for sale. Funny thing is that it was still the same size it was 9 months ago, about 4 inches long. The owner is either lying or is really restricting its food. I'm pretty sure I looked and saw none left in this tank of theirs months ago though it was pretty high up and I may have missed it.

If the owner's being honest I don't have the heart to underfeed mine to that degree. Out of curiosity, how often do you feed yours, and have you ever been bitten? I got bit the other day and it actually drew blood! I didn't think it could at 12 inches and I have pretty calloused fingers.

Anyway, I adore these fish and look forward to building a very large hopefully squarish planted tank in the future. Do you have any pics of yours?

04-24-2008, 12:00 AM



here are a few quick pics i could dig up. pictured are my two florida/spotteds and my tropical gar. they are all between 15 and 18 inches.

i feed mine about every other night. i do not recommend restricting food to stunt growth. if the fish cant be housed then it should not have been boughten. how big is your gar currently and what tank is it in?

florida/spotteds tend to slow down in growth at roughly 14-16 inches. after that they may grow 1/2"-3/4" per year. these estimates all come from personal experience and not "hear say". again it's important to point out that i do very regular (large feedings) and extensive water changes to obtain optimal conditions...i DO NOT stunt growth in any way. do you have any pics of yours?

04-24-2008, 04:16 AM
I want to make this very clear. I do not in any way stunt the growth of my fish. I've been feeding mine once or twice a day with the intention of making sure my 2 characin in the same 100 gallon tank get at least one piece of krill each feeding . The Characins don't seem nearly as food oriented as the F gars I have are, and I probably end up feeding the F gars too much just so the 2 Hujeta Characins get at least some. While the Characins may get 1 or 2 pieces of krill each feeding, the F gars get about 10 each give or take. I also mix some flake food and spirulina for my pleco and the F gars end up eating some of those flakes too.

I had an issue with people thinking I stunt the growth of my gars and that is ridiculous.
There is the other extreme of feeding too much and I don't think anyone thinks that that is a good idea. If the aquarium store was telling me the truth and the F gar they have is from the same batch as mine then they must be stunting their gars growth or lying about it's age.

I care about the wellbeing of my fish and put them into a 100 gallon tank as soon as I felt they were big enough to deal with the at the time 12 inch arowana I had. My F gars I've had for about 9 months, and I bought them when they were about 4 inches long, and they're now about 12 inches long. They're nice and fat and probably eat too much. My Hujeta Characins are about 8 inches long and I've had them for around 4-5 years. They seem to have stopped growing, but it's not because of any intention of mine. I've always given them as much as they can eat because they don't seem to over eat. I actually end up overfeeding my F gars and tilapia just so the 2 Characins can have some.

This is not a situation where unless you let your fish gluttonize itself you are stunting it's growth. In the wild a fish may go for long periods of time without finding prey and when they do find food they eat as much as they can. In an aquarium it's not good for them to be allowed to eat as much as possible and I urge everyone reading this to cool your passion and get it straight. I DO NOT STUNT MY FISH, NOR DO I ENDORSE STUNTING OF ANY FISH FOR ANY REASON. If you feed yours every 2 days there must be some reason for that. Maybe it's because this kind of fish doesn't need to eat every day? They sure WILL eat every day though won't they? Are you sure you're not the "stunter" here?

Of course I don't think you are, and I don't stunt my fish either! If anything I overfeed them.

To get beyond this issue: Your gars are beautiful. I've never seen one with a snout like the one above the other in the top photo. Is that the Tropical gar? I have to figure out how to use my GF's camera to get some more recent pics of mine. The ones I have were taken about 2 months ago. I've been reading up on how to make a tank using plywood for the bottom and the back and I want the next one to be about 300 gallons. I figure that I'll need to move them to a bigger tank in 3-6 months, but right now they have plenty of room. Eventually I'd like a really large tank that's square and say 7 or 8 feet long on each side. I'm envisioning a large wood stump or two being centrally located with Anubias Bartari growing on the top of each stump. There would be Java moss on the lower parts of the stump and maybe my pleco or some of my tilapia can keep it pruned.

04-24-2008, 10:48 AM
i didnt mean to come across as acusing you of stunting your fish. i just wanted to stress the point that it is not a good idea to do...which you obviously know. your gar seems to be growing at a fairly normal rate...so i def. do no think you are stunting his growth.

now...as for me being the "stunter". for the first year of my gars life i did multible (roughly 3) feedings per day and did a 50% water change every two days. they have all obtained a length of 15"+ inches in that one year. after their first year their growth/metsbolism slow dramatically. i now do one (fairly large) feeding every two days and they are very thick and healthy...as im sure you can see.

i have to go to work now, but i will elaborate on some things a little later. sorry for the misunderstanding.

04-24-2008, 12:38 PM
sorry for the double post. i just didnt have enough time to finish my thoughts.

the gar with the shorter wider snout is the Tropical gar. they are a member of the Atractosteus genus (they all have the wider snout) which includes the Cuban gar, Tropoical gar, and Alligator gar. these three species tend to be the most aggressive of the gar too.

here is a shot of the wider snout...

in a previous post you asked if i have ever been bitten...yes i have. i have been bitten by a 12", 15", and 18" florida/spotted gar. My Trop got me once at around 12", but barely broke the skin. they arent that aggressive, but if you get caught leaning against the tank w/ your fingers in or near the water they will get you just about every time. i have also been bitten while hand feeding them.

i think that covers things for now...

04-25-2008, 01:18 AM
Your fish are amazing. Your Florida gars look exactly like mine except mine are a bit younger and smaller. That tropical gar is something else though. I feel I've done quite a bit of research or both the Characins and true gars and I've never seen a picture of a Tropical gar before. Where are they found in nature?

I'm pretty slow when it comes to uploading pics, but I do have a few I posted on my profile. I like the view from above that you've provided as the spots really show and they look cool from that angle. I'm also in the process of redoing my 100 gallon planted tank because I introduced the dreaded brush algae and I want to have it looking good before I take more pics. I've removed most of the plants and have them in a new smaller tank with co2, SAE's and Ottos. The 100 gallon is going to have to be completely emptied and scrubbed, all equipment and such bleached and rinsed, and I'll have to put the gars into a 60 gallon for a few days. I don't want to freak out these fish, but in the long run I think they liked the plants I had in abundance in the 100 gallon. They seem a little weirded out since I've removed so many of the plants and wood.

Just to mention, I have 2 large canister filters in my 100 gallon, and I also have 2 very large powerheads pulling water through about 4 inches of gravel. I like to have more filtration than less, and I never have problems with ammonia, nitrites, or pH. I don't have a nitrate test, but I do have a lot of plants still and I do 30% water changes every couple weeks. I add some salt to the tank as well, and I judge the amount with a water lilly plant I have. If the pads stop ascending there is too much salt and I do another water change until it's diluted enough for the pads to start ascending again.

Anyway, I don't know anyone else who has these gars on this forum but one other person, and I'm not about to recommend anyone getting them because as you and I know, it takes a bit more of an investment in order to keep them humanly.


04-25-2008, 03:04 AM
tropical gar (Atractosteus Tropicus) come from Central America. they are obviously much less common than the typical florida/spotted gar, so there really isnt much info available on them. i know a few other people who research and study these fish for a living. theyve been tons of help since i have been keeping gar.

if you ever need any insight or info just pm me or start a thread and ill chime in. there really isnt much acurate info available on gar, so us "gar people" usually try to help each other out.

also...whatever happened previously between you and the mods i would like to stay out of. there will always be differences in opinion in this hobby and we all need to learn how to accept them.

you got me looking through my gar photos and i found an old feeding pic of the trop. it was around 12" in the photo.

Lady Hobbs
04-25-2008, 01:48 PM
Demjor......your gars are really something. How old are they before they mate and will they mate in captivity?

04-25-2008, 05:00 PM
Demjor......your gars are really something. How old are they before they mate and will they mate in captivity?

i dont think there has been a reported case where gar have mated in captivity (home aquaria). i think they are typically sexually mature at 2-4 years of age. my gar range between 1 and 5 years old. thanks for the kind words lady hobbs.

06-17-2012, 02:56 AM
I have a Hujeta Gar do you knoe how big it will get in a 29 gallon tank?

06-17-2012, 01:09 PM
Jebus, a 4 year bump. I think we may have a new record!

06-17-2012, 01:12 PM
jimbosclice, this is a very very old thread

Please start a new thread to ask you questions