Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

Spitting fish learn target practice at Bristol aquarium

An archer fish spits at an artificial fly
The fish are being taught hunting techniques using artificial flies

A shoal of spitting fish at an aquarium in Bristol is being taught hunting techniques - using artificial flies.

In the wild, archer fish spit jets of water up to three metres high to knock flies, mosquitoes and even spiders into their mouths.

But at the Blue Reef Aquarium, the fish are honing their spitting skills by aiming at a mobile dotted with artificial flies.

Staff said the fish's natural hunting instinct may have become rusty.

Archer fish are native to northern Australia and south-east Asia.

The aquarium has seven or eight fish of about 18 months old, a spokesman said.

At feeding time, plastic flies are smeared with bloodworm and suspended on a mobile.

When the fish hit the target, bits of food are dislodged and fall into the water for them to eat.

Senior aquarist Lindsay Holloway said the fish were normally fed nutritious pellets and bloodworm, but added: "In the summer if we have some insects flying around I'll be surprised if they don't go for them."

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