Animals

Fin-tastic Facts About The Ladyfish For Kids

Check out our interesting ladyfish facts about these fish with an instinct to fight for their survival.
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Ladyfish, also known as elops, are popular among anglers. They are great baitfish, especially for sharks and many people also find them fun to catch as a sport. Once hooked, a ladyfish will furiously jump as it fights hard to escape.

The tiny family Elopidae contains the ladyfish. These Elops saurus fish are similar to tarpon fish and can be found all over the world. They look similar to tarpon in appearance, but they are much smaller and ladyfish are a great light-tackle sportfish that can be seen in schools along the Gulf coast and are commonly found in brackish waters. The genus Elops includes at least six species of ladyfish, all of which are similar in scale, behavior, and characteristics. The ten-pounder Elops saurus can be found towards the west of the North Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and southern Brazil, although it is most abundant in Florida and the Caribbean Sea. 'Ten-pounder', 'ubarana' in Portuguese, and 'malacho' in Spanish are all names for this fish. The Pacific ladyfish (E. affinis) can be found from southern California to Peru in the eastern Pacific, though it is scarce in northern Baja California. Spaniards call them 'machete', 'chiro', and 'malacho del Pacifico'.

The ten-pounder (Elops saurus) could be the most acrobatic, pound-for-pound inshore fish in colder climates. They take to the air with no provocation, doing tarpon-like cartwheels and bonefish-like line-peels. They battle tooth and nail over fish that aren't any larger than the typical Henry's fork rainbow. The Elops saurus has a long, slender body, a compact oval cross-section, a broad, deeply forked tail, and a caudal fin with long, slender symmetrical lobes. Its mouth and eyes are also very wide, and its tiny head is pointed. Its scales are thin and slim and they have small but sharp teeth. The gular plate is a bony plate that connects their two lower jaws. On its arms, it's silvery, and on its back, it's silvery green or blue. Its pectoral, anal, and pelvic fins are pale and sometimes yellowish, while its dorsal and tail fins are dusky.

If you enjoy our cool facts about ladyfish (which are found abundantly in Florida), then do visit the articles on the giant trevally or the amberjack too.

Ladyfish

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small bony fish, menhaden, silversides, shrimp, and smaller ladyfish

What do they eat?

Carnivore

Average litter size?

3-15 pups

How much do they weigh?

30 lb (13.6 kg)

How long are they?

3 ft (1 m)

How tall are they?

N/A

What do they look like?

Silvery green or blue

Skin Type

Scales

What are their main threats?

Sharks, tarpons, larger ladyfish, dolphins, and bonefish

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Brackish water lagoons, ocean surface, bays, and mangroves

Locations

The North Atlantic Ocean

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Mammal

Scientific Name

Elops saurus

Family

Elopidae

Genus

Elops

Ladyfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a ladyfish?

The ladyfish is a coastal-dwelling fish that can be found in tropical and subtropical waters and temperate waters, especially in Florida.

What class of animal does a ladyfish belong to?

Ladyfish belong to the class Actinopterygii.

How many ladyfish are there in the world?

Whilst an exact population is not known, ladyfish are present in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, and there are six distinct species. They are mostly inshore fish that live in hypersaline bays, estuaries, coastal lagoons, along shorelines, and also on the Gulf coast.

Where does a ladyfish live?

You can find ladyfish towards the west of the North Atlantic Ocean, right from Cape Cod, in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and towards southern Brazil. They are also found in the waters near Bermuda and south of North Carolina. In a few instances, ladyfish have been spotted in both the Indian and western Pacific oceans too.

What is a ladyfish's habitat?

This species prefers saline lagoons, coastal bays, and mangroves. They are also known to withstand high levels of saline water. Ladyfish like expansive water regions in reasonably fast flowing rivers, as well as shallow bars and eddies at river bends. They can survive at depths of 160 ft (50 m). As they are a fish species that loves warm temperatures, ladyfish cannot survive in cold temperatures for a prolonged period. It can survive in low temperatures for a limited period, though. This fish has been successfully kept at temperatures ranging from 53-95 F (11-35 C) and they are found in abundance in Florida.

Who do ladyfish live with?

All oceanic fish, including the ladyfish, migrate in close-knit schools, and they act almost like a single entity when threatened by larger fish. This is different from the behavior of larger predatory fish, who are usually solitary and hunt for their food independently.

How long does a ladyfish live?

The average ladyfish lives for at least six years if it is not captured or preyed on.

How do they reproduce?

Throughout the year, ladyfish breed in offshore areas. During the fall, spawning is said to take place off the coast of Florida. Inshore in estuarine environments young larvae have been seen and these larvae go through drastic shifts in their body shape over time. At the beginning of the lengthening process, larvae have a long, slender body that is colorless and translucent, with large fang-like sharp teeth, a short head, and very petite fins. They don't have gills or red blood cells, and their gut isn't open. These larvae consume oxygen and nutrients through their skin. By the end of this stage, the larvae become fully developed leptocephalus larvae and will have grown about 1.5-1.7 in (4-4.5 cm) in length. The larvae's length decreases dramatically in the second stage, and they eventually lose their ribbon-like leptocephali morphology. The larvae's bodies undergo significant changes late in the second stage, and during the third stage, including reductions in the length of their body, their snout weight, the height of their dorsal fin and anal fin, and the size of their pectoral fin. Larvae are now between 0.7-0.78 in (1.8-2 cm) in length. Stage three is the second cycle of length gain, where the larvae transform into young juveniles and are  1.1-1.3 in (3-3.5 cm) long.

What is their conservation status?

Their conservation status is listed as Least Concern despite some harmful practices that directly affect the estuaries, coastal mangroves, and marshes that function as nurseries for larval and juvenile ladyfish. Fishing and catching ladyfish is an issue but it does not significantly threaten their population.

Ladyfish Fun Facts

What do ladyfish look like?

A ladyfish has a long, sleek, rounded pike-like body coated in fine silver scales (they are sometimes known as a poor man's tarpon). Also sometimes called a ten-pounder, a river fish, a fiddler, or a silverfish, a young ladyfish has an eel-like look and is translucent. The ladyfish, like its relatives, the tarpon, bonefish, and skipjack, is a member of the Elopidae family, and the ladyfish's tail is considerably forked, and its mouth is large. The ladyfish is a predatory fish with short, pointed teeth and a bony throat plate between its mandibles. The upper body of the ladyfish is bluish or greenish in color, and it has an overall silvery nature. It has no dorsal spines or anal spines, but it has 25-29 dorsal soft rays. It has silvery or dusky yellowish dorsal and caudal fins and pale, speckled pelvic and pectoral fins. The scales on a ladyfish are thin, with over 100 on the lateral line system.

Ladyfish are great targets during light-tackle sportfishing as they demand a little skill from the angler.
* Please note that this is an image of a tarpon, not a ladyfish specifically. If you have an image of a ladyfish, please let us know at hello@kidadl.com.

How cute are they?

Whether this fish is cute or not is subjective, but they are not considered to be typically cute animals. They are mostly caught to be used as bait to catch other large fish and as light-tackle sportfish.

How do they communicate?

Ladyfish, like most fish, can interact with one another in many ways. Tone, color, bioluminescence, motion, electrical impulses, and smell are the most important ways they do this. This communication is typically used to aid navigation, to call for spawning, to warn about predators, and during combat.

How big is a ladyfish?

These elops can grow up to 3 ft (1 m) in length, half the length of an average human, which is pretty large for a fish!

How fast can a ladyfish swim?

A ladyfish's swimming speed is not officially recorded. It has been observed that this fish, once hooked, swims fast and can do so for a long time.

How much does a ladyfish weigh?

This Elops saurus species weighs 30 lb (13.6 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

They do not have gender-specific names. Male and female ladyfish of this species are both just called ladyfish.

What would you call a baby ladyfish?

A baby ladyfish does not have a specific name. Like most baby fish, they are called 'fry' or 'larvae'.

What do they eat?

The larvae of ladyfish consume nutrients from the water. Later on, they shift their focus to frogs, small fish, shrimps, and zooplankton. Young ladyfish love to feast on crustaceans and shrimps. Adult ladyfish are strictly carnivorous, preferring small bony fish and crustaceans. They also eat their relatives, menhaden and silversides.

Are they dangerous?

The ladyfish do not pose any danger to humans. They may only be a threat to their prey.

Would they make a good pet?

They are not ideal pets as they do not survive well in a regular aquarium.

Did you know...

A ladyfish can handle a wide variety of salinity levels.

It is a thermophilic fish, meaning that it cannot survive cold temperatures for long periods. Some ladyfish Florida species have even been reported to have died due to the cold!

In 1766, taxonomist Carl Linnaeus first described and listed the ladyfish.

Many people, even anglers, regard these fish as 'trash trout'.

Fishing and catching ladyfish might seem difficult to some. Capturing a ladyfish is not easy, and fishing and making baits for them is a popular sporting pursuit. Ladyfish fight fiercely against being caught, sometimes leaping out of the water, but they become relatively easy to catch once their head is hooked. Ladyfish consume a variety of baits, especially those that resemble tiny silverfish. All types of cut bait, live shrimp, spoons, hair jigs, bubble rigs, jerk baits, and more, perform well when fishing for ladyfish.

Ladyfish are not only fun to fish, but they also make excellent bait for larger predators of the ocean.

The average ladyfish weighs between 2-3 lb (0.9-1.3 kg). The name 'ten-pounder' comes from their strength and speed.

The ladyfish's scientific name roughly translates to 'serpent reptile' because of their looks.

Do people eat ladyfish?

People consider the ladyfish edible, but as they have plenty of small bones and a mushy flesh-like appearance, they are not as popular to eat as some other fish. If you are interested in trying them, you can find interesting recipes that involve scraping the meat from the skin of fillets and frying it as patties, fish cakes, or balls. Ladyfish can be purchased at many local fish stalls, but you can also order them online too.

Why do ladyfish jump?

Baits are not gentle on fish and when the ladyfish is hooked, it will try to flee. They feel the fishing line's strain and continuously jump until they are lifted out of the water. This jump is a natural response to the fish being caught.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish, including the longnose gar or the black neon tetra.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our ladyfish coloring pages.

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