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Barracudas

(Sphyraenidae)

Parrotfishes Grey Mullets

Barracudas are found world-wide in all warm and tropical waters, and are usually spotted in shallow water close to coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Here around Koh Lanta we have 4 species of barracuda often observed on all of the coral reefs and dive sites.

Fast, powerful, and known for their often fearsome appearance, barracudas have long, thin, elongated bodies, with some species growing up to 2 m.

The upper body is generally grey or silvery coloured, with a dark blue or dark green colouration, and the lower body is whitish.

Barracuda @ Koh Lanta

Body markings vary by species, typically with stripes, chevrons, spots and blotches helping to distinguish species from one another.

Barracudas have two short, widely separated dorsal fins, a forked tail fin, and small scales. Their fins may be yellowish or dusky.

The characteristic pike-like head is long, thin, and pointed, with a large under-bite in many species. Large, sharp, fang-like teeth protrude noticeably from the jaw, creating a menacing and threatening appearance.

Some species, such as the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) are usually seen alone in shallow parts of the reefs around Koh Lanta, however other species can be seen both in small groups, and in large schools of many hundreds of individuals.

Barracudas are ambush predators, mostly lying in wait to prey on smaller fish. Although incidents are rare, the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) has been known to attack swimmers by mistake.

Remove shiny jewellery and diamond rings when diving or snorkeling, as these objects are known to attract a great barracuda's attention and may appear attractive to them.

4 species found on this page.

Bigeye Barracuda

Sphyraena forsteri

The Bigeye Barracuda is very common at both the Bida Islands and the Koh Haa Islands, particularly around Koh Haa Lagoon, where large schools are seen on almost every dive there.

The Bigeye Barracuda is a long silvery fish, often with a yellow or greenish stripe running from the mouth, through the eye, to, or nearly to, the tail fin base. Above the stripe are often a series of short diagonal bars of a similar colour to the stripe. The upper back (around the dorsal fin) is also the same colour as the mid-body stripe.

Bigeye Barracuda (Sphyraena forsteri) @ Koh Haa

Sphyraena forsteri @ Koh Haa

The lower body is lighter than the upper body. The eye is large, and the lower jaw slightly protrudes beyond the upper jaw. There is a small dark blotch at the base of the pectoral fin, and the forked tail fin usually (but not always) has a very faint dark margin.

Bigeye Barracuda (Sphyraena forsteri) @ Koh Haa

School of Bigeye Barracuda @ Koh Haa

The Bigeye Barracuda grows to 65 cm, but is usually observed in the 25 cm - 35 cm range. This species feeds nocturnally on fish, shrimp and squid, but is often seen in large schools close to coral reefs during the day. These schools can sometimes be very large.

Blackfin Barracuda

Sphyraena genie

Blackfin Barracuda (Sphyraena genie) @ Koh Bida

Sphyraena genie @ Koh Bida

The Blackfin Barracuda has a silvery body with a dusky to dark tail fin with dark margins. The rear dorsal fin and anal fin are also often a dusky to dark colour.

The body is long, tube-like, and the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw. There are about 18 - 22 dark chevron markings on the sides.

Blackfin Barracuda grow to 100 cm, but more usually observed in the 50 cm - 80 cm range. We sometimes see this species alone, but also in very large schools of 1,000+ individuals.

This species is a nocturnal feeder, with schools likely dispersing to hunt at night.

Pickhandle Barracuda

Sphyraena jello

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello) @ Koh Haa

Sphyraena jello @ Koh Haa

The Pickhandle Barracuda has a very long silvery body with a yellowish tail and a huge mouth, with the lower jaw protruding significantly beyond the upper jaw.

There are around 10 - 20 wavy dark vertical bars along the side of the body.

Pickhandle Barracuda can grow to 150 cm, but more often seen 80 cm - 100 cm. The diet includes fish and squid.

Usually solitary, however occasionally we can see schools of several hundred in the shallows just outside of the reef area.

Great Barracuda

Sphyraena barracuda

Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) @ Koh Haa

Sphyraena barracuda @ Koh Haa

The Great Barracuda has a long, silvery tube-like body, large and very pointed teeth, and a lower jaw which protrudes beyond the upper jaw. The body has scattered dark patches and blotches.

When resting near a reef or the sandy bottom, this species can display a barred or mottled pattern to aid camouflage. There may be large black blotches on the tail fin and dorsal fins, especially the rear dorsal fin.

The Great Barracuda grows to 180 cm, but more commonly observed 60 cm - 80 cm.

The Great Barracuda is an ambush predator, feeding on fish and squid. Usually seen solitary, but occasionally in small groups.

Find Out More: Marine Life References and Further Information

Diving with Barracudas

Spot Barracudas around Koh Lanta on one of our high season dive and snorkel trips.

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