Amia calva (Linnaeus, 1766)
member of the Bowfin Family (Amiidae)
Young of the Year: White Bear Lake, Ramsey County, Minnesota 30 June 1988
Male and Female: Baton Rogue, Louisiana 17 January 1992
In a Name?
Do They Live?
"Cool Fact": Bowfins come to the surface every few minutes to breathe air. They use their swim bladder as if it were a lung. They also use gills to breath in the water.
Big Do They Get?
It is hard to determine the age of bowfins. We are pretty sure that they live to at least 10 years, but they may live twice that long or more. They have been kept in captivity for 30 years, but captive animals of all kinds often live much longer in captivity, then they do in the wild.
Do They Eat?
The ravenous (eats a lot) bowfin will eat just about anything that won't eat it first. They eat fish of all kinds and often feed at night on frogs, snakes, turtles, and the occasional small mammal that travels on water lily pads. They also can fast (not eat) for very long periods of time. One bowfin kept in an aquarium did not eat for almost a whole year!
Do They Reproduce?
After spawning is over, the male stays to protect the eggs (which are really developing embryos). After they hatch and swim away from the roots, the larvae form a tight school in the shape of a ball. The male continues to protect the larvae until they grow to about 100 mm (about 4 in). The ball breaks up then and we believe the young move to deeper water.
Some like it smoked, though. Some fish managers think bowfins are destructive because they eat other game fish. But other fish managers find that they help prevent stunting of sunfish. Bowfins have no special conservation status in Minnesota.
Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.
Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program
This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)
Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Last updated 23 October 2002