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Freshwater Gar: Xenentodon cancila (Hamilton, 1822)

Freshwater Gar: Xenentodon cancila

Freshwater Gar: Xenentodon cancila

Systematic position:

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes)
Order: Beloniformes (Needle fishes)
Family: Belonidae (Needle fishes)
Genus: Xenentodon

Synonyms: Belone cancila (Hamilton, 1822), Belone graii (Sykes, 1839), Esox indica (McClelland, 1842), Esox hindostanicus (Falconer, 1868).

Common names: Gangturi, Kakia, Kakle, Kankhya, Kakhua (Bhuiyan, 1964), Kakila, Kaikla, Kaikka (Bangladesh) and Freshwater Garfish (Fishbase).

Distribution: Bangladesh, Ceylone, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Malaya and Siam (Bhuiyan, 1964).

Conservation status: Non threatened.

Morphology: Body very elongate and slightly compressed or sub-cylindrical. Jaws are prolonged into beak, lower jaw longer than upper. Each jaw contains a row of sharp teeth. Dorsal and anal fin opposite each other and very close to caudal fin. Back grayish and whitish below. Lateral line present and complete.

Head 39.2% SL and 36.25% TL. Height 8.8% SL and 8.1% TL. Eye 12.1% HL.

Fin formula:

D. 15-16; P1. 10-11; P2. 6; A. 17-18 (Rahman, 2005)
D. 16-19; A. 16-19; P1. 11-12; P2. 6; C. 15 (Bhuiyan, 1964)

Maximum length: Maximum length reported 30.4 cm (Day, 1878), 23 cm (Bhuiyan, 1964), 27.4 cm (Hussain, 1999), and 26.1 cm (Rahman, 2005).

Habitat and niche: Found in freshwater bodies, some common habitats are- ponds, ditches, inundated fields (ITDG, 1999), canals, beels, floodplains, haors, baors (oxbow lakes), rivers, lake etc.

Food and feeding: It is a predator fish species (ITDG, 1999). Bhuiyan (1964) described this fish as a voracious and feeds on small fishes.

Breeding: Naturally breeds in flowing water bodies, especially in rivers (ITDG, 1999), and floodplains during monsoon. No artificial breeding is recorded in Bangladesh.

Economic importance: Used as food fish and captured from open freshwater water bodies of Bangladesh. This fish usually marketed in fresh or dried condition. This fish contains 3.4% fat, 77.1% water (Huda, 1059).

Harvesting and production: In many floodplains, rivers etc. a special method called ‘Kakila fishing’ is applied to capture this fish, in which aquatic floating vegetations or other tree branches are gathered on the surface of water. The school of X. cancila jump onto it and collected by the fishermen.

No specific production data is found in Bangladesh. But catch of this fish is reduced much at present time than previous years.


Bhuiyan, A.L., 1964. Fishes of Dacca, Asiat. Soc. Pakistan, Pub. 1, No. 13, Dacca, pp. 30-32.

Hamilton, F., 1822. An account of the fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches, Edinburgh & London, pp. 1-405.

Huda, A.K.M.S. 1959. Further observation on the fat content of East Pakistan fishes, Proc. Conf. Fish. Officers, Govt. of East Pakistan.

Hussain, M.M., 1999. Fishes and Fisheries of the River Atrai in Rajshahi with Reference to its Limnology, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Department of Zoology, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh, pp. 5-200.

ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group-Bangladesh). 1999. Food, Livelihood and Freshwater Ecology: The Significance of Small Indigenous Fish Species, DRIK, House 58, Road 15 (A) New, Dhanmondi, Dhaka 1209, Bangladesh, 48 p.

Rahman, A.K.A., 2005. Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh, 2nd edition, Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, pp. xviii -263.

Sykes, W. H., 1839. On the fishes of the Deccan.  Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., pp. 157-165.

Talwar, P.K. and A.G. Jhingran, 1991. Inland Fishes of India and Adjacent Countries, Vol. I, Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi-Calcutta, pp. 163-165.

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Shams works on freshwater ecosystems, primarily fish diversity in terms of their availability, and richness; also aquatic invasive species and their impact on ecosystem. Email: More...

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