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Big, silvery, primitive fishes prized by fishermen for their fighting abilities but not often seen in the aquarium trade.

The megalopids belong to the Order Elopiformes. Members of this order are large, herringlike fishes that produce leptocephalus larvae (this trait has linked them to the Orders Albuliformes and Anguilliformes).

They possess many “primitive” characteristics, such as cycloid scales, a gular plate, and pectoral fins located low on the body. It is an enigmatic group whose position in the grand scheme of fish systematics is still nebulous. They have elongate, laterally compressed bodies with the following characteristics: a terminal or superior mouth, a swim bladder that lies up against the skull, a single dorsal fin with an elongate ray extending from the posterior margin, pelvic fins positioned well behind the pectoral fins (which are located low on the body), a broad-based anal fin, and lateral line tubes radiating over the surface of the lateral line scales.

The largest tarpon reaches a maximum length of 2.4 m (7.8 ft.). Just two species are known; both inhabit marine ecosystems in tropical and subtropical seas—although one will enter freshwater on occasion. The Eastern Atlantic species is sometimes found refuging on reef faces or fore-reef slopes.

Megalopids are active fishes that have been observed attacking smaller schooling fishes at night.


Native range:

Taxonomic rank: Family

Common name: TARPONS

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Captive care: The tarpons are too large and free-ranging to keep in the home aquarium, although they are displayed in public oceanariums.

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