African Knifefish

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Species group:

Other common names: African Brown Knife; Brown Knife Fish; Black Knife Fish, African Knife; Brown African Knife

Scientific name: Xenomystus nigri

The basics:
The African Knifefish is native to river basins in Central Africa.The Knifefish is a nocturnal fish which produces weak electrical fields that help it navigate in low light.African Knifefish are popular aquarium fish and are usually peaceful with fish of similar size. They tend to be timid and shy away from food and other fish when they are introduced into the tank. Once they adapt to their surroundings they become hardy and live long. The African Knifefish emits barking sounds during courtship and often makes clicking sounds when they feel threatened. These fish will come to the surface from time to time to swallow air and make a bell-like sound in the process.

The African Knifefish is brown-violet to brown or silvery-brown to black in color while the fins are lighter. The head is darker than the rest of the body. The African Knifefish has a stocky build and an elongated laterally compressed body with an arched back. It has a very long skirt-like fin (instead of the usual caudal and anal fins) that begins below the gills and continues till the pointed end of its body. It has around 130 soft rays that comprise the anal fin. This continuous fin makes it possible for them to swim rapidly both forwards and backwards. The African Knifefish is the only knifefish that lacks the dorsal fin. The name ‘knifefish’ comes from the tail of the fish which resembles a sword blade.

They have a large mouth with a pair of short barbels that help the fish while it is hunting. They have large eyes which provide the fish with excellent night vision. The eyes and barbels enable the fish to locate its food. It has very small scales that give the fish a smooth appearance.

8-12 inches. Although it can reach 12 inches (30 cm) in length, it is the smallest member of the family Notopteridae.

As juveniles, Knifefish can be housed together because of their tendency to form schools; as adults they become territorial, quarrelsome, and intolerant of other Knifefish. African Knifefish cannot be housed with smaller fish like Guppies and Neons, which they could easily swallow. The African Knifefish can be housed with other medium to large sized species that are non-aggressive.

The African Knifefish requires a 30-55 gallon tank because it tends to outgrow small tanks. As adults, they will require a heavily planted aquarium with a lot of swimming space. The aquarium must be tightly covered to prevent the fish from jumping out.They are also secretive by nature and they tend to avoid light. They are most active at night.

In the wild, African Knifefish live in calm and slow-moving waters with dense vegetation and a rich substrate. They need to be provided with numerous hiding places made from rocks, driftwood, and plants as they are a shy species. Plants like the Amazon sword plant, java moss, wisteria, crystalwort, and dwarf ambulia can be used to decorate the tank.

African Knifefish are nocturnal, preferring to hide during the day. They should be fed after the lights are turned off. Floating plants help to block out the light; moonlight or LED lights are preferable at night. They are generally tolerant of a wide range of water conditions.

73.00-82.00 °F


14.280-71.420 mg/L

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