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Aquarium of the Pacific - Online Learning Center - Species Print Sheet

Conservation Status:  Safe for Now

Aquatic SpeciesCalifornia Barracuda

Sphyraena argentea Bony Fishes, marine

California Barracuda Photographed in their habitat, the Aquarium's Blue Cavern. | © Aquarium of the Pacific
California Barracuda - popup
Photographed in their habitat, the Aquarium's Blue Cavern. © Aquarium of the Pacific

Species In-Depth | Print full entry

At the Aquarium

California barracuda are found in the Blue Cavern exhibit in the Southern California/Baja Gallery.

Geographic Distribution

Kodiak Islands, Alaska to Cape San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico


Barracuda prefer coastal areas near reefs or kelp, but have been found in waters as deep as 37 meters (120 ft). Young are found in shallows. Barracuda are migratory and probably adapt to temperature variations by moving north in spring and summer.

Physical Characteristics

California barracuda have long, slender, almost round bodies. They have a large mouth with canine-like teeth. Their lower jaw projects beyond a sharply pointed snout. They have two dorsal fins that are small and widely spaced. The dorsal side of these fish is grayish-black with a bluish tinge and the ventral sides and belly are silvery or white. The tail is a yellowish color. Females have a charcoal black edge on the pelvic and anal fins. The same fins of males are edged in olive or yellow.


California barracuda average 89 cm (35 in) in length, but can reach up to 122 cm (48 in.) Those weighing over 4.5 kg (10 lbs) are usually females.


The primary prey of these fish is anchovies and other small fishes such as sardines, young mackerel, and grunion.


Barracuda often pump their jaws in order to move water past their gills. Although this behavior may look threatening, California barracuda are typically non-aggressive and will swim away when approached. California barracuda are schooling fish.


Barracuda can live up to 12 years.


California barracuda are not on the IUCN Red List. Researchers believe that populations of California barracuda are stable, perhaps due to their substantial egg production (300,000 to 400,000 per season).

Predators of barracuda include such birds as bald eagles and terns. They are small commercial fisheries for barracuda in which gillnets, trolling and hook and line methods are used. They are a popular target of sport fishers.