Gars: Order Lepisosteiformes

Gar may be one of the most daunting freshwater fish in the New World. They grow to large sizes and have long snouts with impressive teeth. Yet, they don’t deserve a bad reputation as they are generally very docile fish.


All seven species of gar reach fairly large sizes, however, the Alligator Gar is the largest. They have been recorded over 3 meters (almost 10 feet) and weighing over 365 lbs (the world record caught bow fishing).

While many people do catch gar, most are not considered good food fish because of their bony bodies.  However, in several southern states, gar is served as a kind of novelty food, akin to American Alligators meat.

A Unique Air Breathing Ability

Most people will see the gar at the surface of the water. This is partly because gar have a tendency to gulp air into their swim bladders.  Their swim bladders are highly vascularized and thus, they can obtain oxygen from the air in the bladder.  They tend to gulp more air in warm stagnant waters where the oxygen content is low. This makes them an extremely hardy fish in stagnant freshwater habitats.


The following seven species are the only living representatives of this order:

  • Alligator GarAtractosteus spatula 
  • Cuban Gar – Atractosteus tristoechus
  • Tropical Gar – Atractosteus tropicus
  • Spotted GarLepisosteus oculatus 
  • Longnose Gar – Lepisosteus osseus
  • Shortnose Gar – Lepisosteus platostomus
  • Florida Gar – Lepisosteus platyrhincus

Species listed under Lepisosteiformes