15 Fin-tastic Facts About The Paddlefish For Kids

To find out about this unique fish, read these paddlefish facts.

A family of primitive fishes, paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) are a group of ray-finned fishes with a characteristic paddle-like snout.  Presently existing as quite the exclusive extant members of North America. Now the American members are the only traceable comrade of the Polyodontidae family, and are easily found around the Mississippi river basin. They swim with their close-set gill rakers wide open to be able to catch microscopic sea animals. Paddlefishes skull, as well as rest of the body, consists primarily of cartilage and a forked heterocercal caudal fin. The other species of the American paddlefish were Chinese paddlefish, which have now been Extinct for many years.

This popular fish species is also known by many different names like paddlefish sturgeon, spoonbill paddlefish, freshwater paddlefish and albino paddlefish. The most distinguishable feature of this species is the the long rostrum. Seafood lovers like to consume this fish on a regular basis due to it's unique and pork-like taste. Paddlefish caviar is known to have nutty, balanced, and buttery rich flavor, making it a popular delicacy.

To know more about aquatic creatures, you may also look at green sunfish facts and narwhal facts.


Fact File

What do they prey on?


What do they eat?


Average litter size?

70,000-300,000 eggs

How much do they weigh?

60 lb (27 kg)

How long are they?


How tall are they?

58 in (4.9 ft)

What do they look like?

Grey, green, long, paddlelike snout

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?


Where you'll find them

Mississippi river and other fresh water rivers







Scientific Name

Polyodon spathula





Paddlefish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a paddlefish?

Paddlefishes, a member of the family Polyodontidae, are a group of fishes native to the U.S. These are primitively found in freshwater. They have been inhabiting waters of the United States since the cretaceous period around 65 million years ago. They swim with their mouths wide open, which allows their close-set gill rakers to catch the microscopic food which they prey on. Unlike the long snout of other fishes, the rostrum of the paddlefish is not an extension of the upper and lower jaws.

What class of animal does a paddlefish belong to?

American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) belongs to the class of Actinopterygii, this is the class that are recognized by the presence of ray-fins, bony or horny spines. They are native to the U.S. and use the process of filter feeding through their gill rakers to catch microscopic food.

How many paddlefish are there in the world?

There is no exact data available on the number of spoonbill paddlefish populations in the world. However, as this species belongs to the Vulnerable category, it can be assumed that their limited population is moving towards being Endangered, and in some years this species could face threat of Extinction.

Where does a paddlefish live?

Paddlefishes were commonly found in North America and Asia. However, the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) found in Asia was recently declared Extinct. Now the paddlefish habitat is found in certain terrains of southern Canada and the Mississippi river basin. Though, as the number of paddlefish is declining by the day, it is quite difficult to spot paddlefish distribution in open waters.

What is a paddlefish's habitat?

American paddlefish are residents of freshwater spaces. These fishes commonly prefer deep water bodies with slow-moving currents.

Who do paddlefish live with?

American paddlefish species can be found in the deep sea along with other fishes as they like to swim in a group.

How long does a paddlefish live?

American paddlefish have a life span of as long as 30 years. However, this many vary for other species of paddlefish.

How do they reproduce?

The reproductive cycle in American paddlefish is marked with the onset of late sexual maturity, both in the male as well as female members of the species. The female fishes reach sexual maturity between the age of seven and ten years, while for male members it is around the age of seven years. Mostly the spawning period in paddlefishes is noticed around the springtime. Paddlefish migrate upstream when spring rains raise the water level during March to June. Here, the females release large amounts of eggs  and the males discharge substantial quantities of sperm. The egg and sperm in paddlefishes combine following external fertilization. Following fertilization, and an average incubation period of about seven days, the paddlefish eggs hatch and the young ones are whisked downstream. Further development takes place in freshwater.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, the paddlefish species has been categorized under the conservation status of Vulnerable species. They could be on their way to becoming an Endangered species. Another fish of this species, the Chinese paddlefish, went Extinct many years ago. Reasons vary from the loss of habitat due to construction of dams, to paddlefish fishing by humans.

Paddlefish Fun Facts

What do paddlefish look like?

Spoonbill paddlefishes are a group of large fishes with the characteristic presence of blade-like snouts. The snout of these cartilaginous fishes is the extension of their cranium, forming a pointed structure. Further, the snout of paddlefish is enveloped with electroreceptors. This feature is particularly beneficial in the detection of zooplanktons and makes up for the anatomically poor eyes possessed by these fishes. Available in shades of green or gray, paddlefishes have a smooth skin texture without scales. Generally, these fishes are spindle-shaped. Besides the electroreceptors present on the ampulla of the snouts, half of the body of these fishes is covered with sensory cells that contribute in maintaining an efficient sensory reception. The pointed snouts with electrical receptors and the fascinating lengths of paddlefishes form the distinctive characteristics of this family.

A paddlefish has a unique snout.

How cute are they?

This fish is cute enough to make you wonder how anyone had the heart to hunt them to the extent that they have become a Vulnerable species. With their small eyes and smooth skin, they look really adorable.

How do they communicate?

The communicating channels in paddlefishes mainly involve the electrical, tactile, and visual sensations. The paddle of these fishes is enveloped by electroreceptors, which works as an antenna and, with the help of changing electrical fields collects the impulses from the surrounding environment. The sensory impulses gathered by the paddlefishes are quite beneficial in migration (particularly for spawning) as well as for tracing their prey. Besides electrical reception, paddlefishes utilize their tactile and visual senses for communication purposes.

How big is a paddlefish?

The average length of the members of the family Polyodontidae is known to be in the range of around 58 in (4.9 ft) . They are smaller in size when compared to the Chinese paddlefish.

How fast can a paddlefish swim?

The fastest a paddlefish can swim was recorded at 2.7 mph (121.72 cm/s). The speed may vary depending on the water’s flow and other factors.

How much does a paddlefish weigh?

The average weight of the paddlefish is said to in the range of 60 lb (27 kg). However, in 1916 an American paddlefish was captured in Okoboji Lake of Lowa that weighed more than 198 lb (89 kg) and is known to be one of the biggest found American paddlefish to date.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no distinct names given to the members of this group on the basis of their sex. The males are called male paddlefish while the females are referred to as female paddlefish.

What would you call a baby paddlefish?

The infants of the paddlefish are referred to as offspring, baby paddlefish or juvenile paddlefish.

What do they eat?

The paddlefish diet includes zooplanktons which are tiny animals that can be found in freshwater and saltwater. Their close-set gill rakers are used for filter feeding.

Are they eaten by humans?

Humans not only eat paddlefish, but they can also eat its eggs as caviar. Caviar is a popular gourmet food for humans and can get quite expensive. Humans find this variety of fish rather tasty, and they are good to eat. Humans also enjoy the fighting spirit that this fish shows when it is being captured, so they tend to hunt them for sport.

Would they make a good pet?

These fishes are extraordinarily cute and hence one might get the urge to bring one home to keep in their aquarium. However, it is suggested that this urge to bring the paddlefish home and make them a pet be avoided as these fishes grow rather large and need lots of space. Also, they need a lot of food to survive and grow to their full potential and become the best version of themselves. Keeping a paddlefish in a home aquarium as a pet fish also might lead to damage of their rostra which is rather sensitive in nature. Hence it is advised to not keep a paddlefish as a pet at home because they do not make for the best of pets. One can admire their beauty at a public aquarium which is large and comfortable for them while also keeping in mind their other prerequisites.

Did you know...

Paddlefishes are known to possess snouts enveloped with electroreceptors. This trait in comparison to visual receptions, is known to be beneficial in hunting. Paddlefish populations are presently limited to the Mississippi river and Missouri river. Paddlefish caviar is extremely popular as a delicacy amongst people all over the world. Owing to the minimal amount of evolution observed, the paddlefishes are recognized as primitive fishes; this means that since the beginning of the Cretaceous period, approximately 120 to 125 million years ago, these fishes have shown very little changes in the characteristics of their species. Paddlefishes were designated a reputable position in 1997, as  Missouri’s official aquatic animal. A number of female members of the paddlefish family are known to reach sexual maturity at a far later phase of their life span, sometimes as late as 16 to 18 years of age.  

Why is the paddlefish special to the state of Missouri?

The paddlefish is a very valuable fish. It will intrigue you to know that the paddlefish is one of the oldest species of fish that still exists, and this is the reason why they have always been of great interest to biological researchers around the world. This species of fish is valued not only for its flesh and eggs which are eaten as caviar, a popular gourmet dish, but they are also very popular as sports fish. Missouri declared the paddlefish to be its official state aquatic animal in the year of 1997.

How to catch paddlefish

The paddlefish is not like most other fishes, which eat the bait, lure, or warm and thus are rather easy to catch. Catching a paddlefish is more like an adventure and is hence one of the many reasons why it is so popular amongst humans, especially those who enjoy a fair share of adventure while catching a fish. The paddlefish, which are rather large, is supposed to be caught by using a large three-part hook. For fishing the paddlefish, the method of snagging is used, which is a method of fishing in which a fish is caught with the usage of hooks, wherein the fish does not take the bait in its mouth. And the same is ensured by quickly pulling the fishing line out of the water as soon as any movement on the fishing line is felt.

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 great white shark, or Caribbean reef sharks.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Paddlefish Fash coloring pages.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.
No items found.