Types of Knife Fish and How to Keep Them

Knife fish is a small tribe of freshwater fish found in the tropical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. This fish can be identified from the anal fin which blends with the tail fin. It is also classified as a large fish because it grows to reach 150 cm.

Based on their taxonomy, Knife fish belong to the Notoperidae family, which is a group of primitive or ancient fish. This fish has a flat body with a small head. The jaws are longer in accordance with the increasing age until far beyond the back of the eye.

The maximum length of Knife fish approximately 875 mm and body weight can reach 15 kg. The sides of the body are decorated with rows of black balls, each of which is surrounded by a white circle like a ship's window.

This fish also has a pelvic fin which is relatively short and does not cover the urogenital part. The male Knife Fish has a longer pelvic fin and closes the urogenital part, tube-shaped genitals, smaller in size than the female. So, here are some of the most popular types of ornamental Knife fish in the world.

Types of Ornamental Knife Fish in the World

1. Clown featherback (Chitala ornata)

Having the scientific name Chitala ornata, this species originates from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, which is usually found in the Mekong river valley, Chao Phraya, and Mae Klong. However, these fish can also be found in areas outside their home regions, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and also the United States. Therefore, Clown featherback is considered one of the most invasive species in the world.

The adult Clown featherback has five to ten (or even more) black spots that usually decrease in size when fish grow. This type of Knife fish is also often equated with Chitala chitala, but they are different. The difference lies in ocellated spots and the lack of faint lines on the back of Chitala ornata.

Clown featherback can grow up to 1 meter and weigh up to 5 kg in the wild. You can also see two tentacles on his nose, above his large and toothed mouth. In the middle of the body, there is a dorsal fin that resembles a flag. Besides, Chitala ornata does not have pelvic fins. The price of these fish ranges from $36 to $105.

2.Belida (Chitala lopis)

Chitala lopis belongs to the of Notopteridae (Knife fish) tribe. This river fish is known with the name Belido/Belida—a name that is taken from one of the rivers in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Chitala lopis can be found in Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula, even though it is now hard to catch due to damage to river quality and capture.

The spread of Belida in South Sumatra is mostly found in Ogan Komering Ilir District, Ogan Komering Ulu, Muara Enim, Musi Banyuasin, Musi Rawas, Palembang, and a small portion in Lahat. In general, there are no significant differences in the number of Belida species in various regions. Then, the price of this fish should be around $10.

3. Indian featherback (Chitala chitala)

Chitala chitala is a type of Knife fish originating from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. This fish is often found in the Ganges, the Indus River Valley, Brahmaputra, and the Mahanadi River. This type of Knife fish is also known as Indian leatherback. The body of this fish can extend to 122 cm, but most reach about 75 cm. Having a silver body, this fish has shades of gold or silver along its back. Also, Chitala chitala has a series of fairly small dark spots that lead to the back of its body as well. This species also has a Hindu religious background. Indian featherback is considered as one of the avatars of God Narayana (Vishnu). This fish is sold around $17.

How to Keep Knife fish in Aquarium

  • Use a large aquarium; the most ideal size is 2x1.5 meters. Fill it with water 30 to 45 cm high.
  • Keep the aquarium water temperature around 24-28 degrees Celsius.
  • Make sure the water pH is at 6.2.
  • Give wood or plants to the aquarium. It can be used as a hiding place for Knife fish.
  • Then, feed it regularly 3 times a day. Because Knife fish are classified as carnivorous fish, all kinds of fish food can be given to them. When it is three days old, Knife fish larvae can prey on small shrimp or fish that are in accordance with their mouth size. You can also give them a fish such as a catfish or a goldfish. Other foods that can also be given are small sized frogs.

How to Breed Knife Fish

When the mating period has come, the male Knife fish genitals will turn red and remove white sperm. Place bamboo on the bottom of the aquarium for the location of attaching eggs. Put bamboo that has a length of about 1 meter. In just one spawning process, the female Knife fish can produce up to 300 eggs.