• Halfbeaks and Balao

Latin name

Hemiramphus balao and Hyporhamphus unifasciatus

Other names

French: demi-bec; Spanish: aguja, agujeta, saltador.


The body is elongated, rounded, and flattened laterally only in the tail area. The dorsal and anal fins are far back and directly opposite each other. Only the lower jaw is long, the upper jaw is of normal length. These fish usually jump or move quickly on the surface, with only their tail vibrating in the water.


Halfbeaks (Hemiramphus balao) inhabit from New York to the Gulf of Mexico and south to Brazil, including the Caribbean. Balao (Hemiramphus brasiliensis) is common off the coast of Florida and in the Caribbean, and in summer moves north along the east coast and sometimes north to Massachusetts. It inhabits as far south as Brazil.


These sparkling, silvery fish move in whole flocks and are numerous in warm seas.


Hemiramphus brasiliensis has an average length of 6 to 10 inches and is closely related to the Pacific long-finned ballyhoo (H. saltator). Hyporhamphus unifasciatus, which reaches 12 inches, is found in the same area of the Atlantic as ballyhoo, but is also found in the Pacific Ocean from Point Conception south to Peru, including the Galápagos Islands. The related California halfbeak (H. rosae) is smaller, rarely exceeding 6 inches in length. Pacific halfbeaks off the coast of North America include the ribbon halfbeak (Euleptorhamphus viridis), which grows to 18 inches and also has long pectoral fins, and the smaller flying halfbeak (E. velox), which lives from the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil in the western Atlantic Ocean.

Life history and Behavior

No information

Food and feeding habits

It is an important food fish for pelagic species, especially billfish, and are used as trolling bait for big fish found in blue water.


No information

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Beloniformes
Family Hemiramphidae
Genus Hemiramphus
Species Hemiramphus balao
Conservation status Least Concern
Habitat Littoral
Life span, years No information
Maximum body weight, kg No information
Maximum length, cm 40
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Planktonophage

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Halfbeaks and Balao

Tags: Halfbeaks and Balao