The gharial is poorly adapted to life on land because its leg muscles are not suitable for walking, and therefore it spends most of its life in water. It prefers quiet river backwaters, where its flattened tail and webbed hind feet make swimming easy.
Fish are the most common food for the gharial. The narrow jaws are well designed for quick snapping motions underwater, and the victims are swallowed head-first. Juveniles will often also eat small crustaceans and frogs. Gharials almost became extinct during the 1970s, and today they are protected throughout much of their range.