Barracuda are extremely attractive, impressive fish. They are carnivores with long lifespans and can live longer than 14 years. The largest recorded caught barracuda was 1.7 m long, weighing 44kg, but it is thought that they can grow up to 2m and weigh up to 50kg.
They are widely spread around the tropical regions, where plenty of food is found in the shallow waters surrounding coral reefs. While there are over 20 species, the best known is the great barracuda.
They are extremely fast swimmers with powerful mouths lined with two sets of teeth, making them the perfect hunters of the sea. They can slice their prey in half if it is too big to eat in one go.
The great barracuda prefers to hunt independently, but smaller species of barracuda like to shoal and hunt together as a group.
They have unique patterns on their bodies, so it is possible to identify them and follow individual fish. They are shiny and silver with countershading, sometimes looking grey, sometimes blue or white. They blend in with the water, making them invisible to their prey.
They eat anything that comes their way, big or small. If they're not swallowed whole, they get chopped up quickly. They're known for ambushing their prey. They sit and wait until a suitable dinner comes around the corner. They camouflage so well into their environment that they can execute an all-out surprise attack before the victim suspects anything.
They have slim but muscular long bodies and can move from 0 to 58km per hour in 2 seconds, a real live torpedo of the sea.
While they are amazingly fast predators, they are not at the top of the food chain, with sharks, dolphins and groupers among the predators who like to have barracuda for breakfast. Humans also hunt them for sport fishing. They're not considered endangered, but some population numbers are declining.
While there have been incidents of barracuda being attracted to shiny metal objects, sometimes diving equipment, it is more a case of mistaken identity on the fish's part than a deliberate attack, so do not worry, but do admire these extraordinary fish from a distance.
Written by Bogna Griffin, Marine Biologist
For diving with barracudas, see Koh Tao Divers.
Photos by Ivana Orlovic Kranjc and Janez Kranjc.