Marine Biology
Flying Fish

Fish Profiles Flying Fish Exocoetidae

Flying Fish
Jose Juan Gutierrez's image for:
"Fish Profiles Flying Fish Exocoetidae"
Caption: Flying Fish
Image by: Pearson Scott Foresman
© Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Flying fish (Exocoetidae) is a type of marine fish of the phylum chordata and in the order of Beloniformes. The flying fish is best known for its ability to glide out of the ocean water. The flying fish are known to glide distances of up to 40 meters, once they're in the air. They can do this by spreading their large pectoral fins. They often fly out of the water to escape predators, some of which include larger fish, such as porpoises, mackerel, dolphins, tuna, swordfish and squids, among others. The flying fish inhabits all the oceans of the world, particularly the tropical and subtropical ocean regions. This type of fish can grow to about 45 centimeters (18 inches) long.

Flying fish

The flying fish have an aerodynamic body, which enables them to acquire enough speed to get ejected out of the water at speeds of more than 70 km (43 miles) per hour. Once in the air, the flying fish use their pectoral fins, which they flap, to glide through the air, reaching heights of up to 6 meters (20 feet) above the ocean’s surface, and distances of approximately 400 meters (1,300 feet). Some species, such as the Cypselurus, possess two pairs of fins, allowing them to extend their time out of the water.

Flying technique

To propel themselves out of the water, the flying fish move their tails more than 60 times per second. Upon reaching the desired speed, they acquire an angle that allows them to break out of the water. Once out of the water, they spread their pectoral fins, which allows them to remain in the air for a few seconds. The record for a flying fish out of the water is 45 seconds, recorded off the coast of Japan. When they near the ocean surface again, they may flap their tail without submerging into the water. By using this technique, they may regain another flight, extending their time in the air, as well as the distance covered.


The flying fish is commercially fished in many Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Japan.  In Japanese cuisine, the flying fish is sometimes utilized to make varied sushi dishes. It is also essential in the Taiwanese diet. In Barbados, where the flying fish abound, they form part of the national dish, and it’s known as cou-cou. Fishermen benefit from the fact that fish, including flying fish, are attracted to light to capture live flying fish. On moonless nights, fishermen may light up torches to capture them. Others may use nets held from two boats to capture them while in the air.


Flying fish are believed to have developed the ability to propel out of the water in order to escape predators. Flying fish are omnivores; they feed on plankton and smaller fish. They may grow as big as 45 centimeters (18 inches). There are more than 60 species of flying fish in seven genera. The flying fish was believed to leave the water in order to sleep ashore, hence its name in Ancient Greek, which literally means “sleeping outside.” Their ability to glide out of the water is such that often fishermen find them on their ships' decks.

Barbados has been historically known as the land of the flying fish, because of its abundance. The flying fish is depicted in various aspects of Barbadian culture. The flying fish can be seen on coins, sculptures, art, touristic logos and even passports. Flying fish were studied in the early days of flying as prototypes of airplanes. According to, It is believed that flying fish may have evolved a flying mechanism to escape their predators; however, once in the air, they often become food for birds.

More about this author: Jose Juan Gutierrez

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