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FAQs on the Clown Knifefish, Chitala chitala, C. ornata

Related Articles: Featherfin Knives, Bony Tongue Fishes, Arowanas, Arapaima, African Butterflyfish, Featherback Knifes, Mormyrids, ElephantfishesNew World Knifefishes, Black Ghost Knife,

Related FAQs: Feather Fin Knives 1, Feather Fin Knives 2, & by Species: African Featherfin Knife, Xenomystus nigri, & Bony Tongue Fishes, Aba Aba Knifefish, South American Knifefishes, African Butterflyfish, Arapaimas, Arowanas, Mormyrids,

 

Clown knife questions, fdg.   9/26/09
Hey first time asker long time reader... love your site
<Great!>
I just bought a clown knife. and a love it to death best fish I've ever bought. However a live in a small rural town and the idiot at the local pet store didn't even know what kind of fish this is and therefore a cant trust anything he told me.
<Indeed.>
I have only seen him eat a few times and a keep him with 3 tinfoil barbs which can sometimes eat live foods but a don't know if he is eating at all except the few I've seen him gobble up.
<Clown Knives are fairly omnivorous. Excellent "starter" foods are earthworms, what Americans call nightcrawlers I believe. They're extremely nutritious, and their wriggling about gets most Knifefish interested *very* quickly.>
I searched a bit online about feeding a know they like live foods and frozen/freeze dried foods but when feeding him live foods how many should a put in there?
<The best thing is not to use live foods at all.>
he is about 3-4in long and they sell 10-12 feeders for a dollar at the local idiot pet shop...(this guy has me all confused)
<Do not use feeder fish, period. The reasons why have been discussed many times here at WWM, but to summarise, there are four issues. The first is disease. Any cheap feeder fish has a high probability of carrying disease. If they're selling ten fish to the dollar, just how carefully do you think they care for them? Secondly, there's nutrition. Minnows and carps (including Goldfish) contain a lot of fat, and this is known to cause problems to captive fish. I know of at least two detailed studies on aquarium fish mortality where the people dissecting fish that had died prematurely noted the fish had much more fat around their internal organs than wild fish of the same species. Minnows and carps also contain thiaminase, which destroys vitamin B1, and over time, causes very serious harm to the fish. Thirdly, there's aggression. Fish that eat live feeder fish become more aggressive, and since Clown Fish can be psychotic at the best of times, this is not something you want to encourage. Finally, there's practicality. Live feeders are expensive, and once a predator becomes used to them, it may not accept other foods, limiting your range of options.>
Do a just put all the feeders in there at the same time or just buy a bowl or something and keep em in that for a few days and just put a few in? will he over eat? will the Tinfoils eat them all?
<You don't use feeders at all, ever. There is absolutely no up-side to using feeders and lots and lots of negatives. Unfortunately, too many pet stores in the US sell feeders, prolonging this myth that predatory fish need them. Here in the UK feeder fish aren't sold at all, and no-one has any trouble keeping predatory fish. Me? I've trained mine to be hand-fed. I use long steel forceps, dangle bits of lancefish or seafood in front of the predator, and enjoy the spectacle. Clown Knives will take pellets once settled, which is the IDEAL staple given how nutritionally balanced
something like Hikari Cichlid Gold is. But in the meantime, or as an adjunct to the pellets, offer wet-frozen lancefish, squid, prawns, cockles, mussels, white fish fillet. Live earthworms and river shrimps are good
foods for settling fish in. Don't be afraid to starve a Knifefish for a while: it's battle of wills, and eventually you'll win!>
Thank you so much for ANY help you can give me
<Cheers, Neale.>

Clown Knife Fish; sys., fdg.   7/16/09
Hello,
<Hi,>
We recently bought a used 39 gallon bow front tank that was listed on a local auction website. The ad stated it came with a 9in clown knife fish and a 8inch needle fish.
<You understand this tank is far too small for Chitala species Knifefish, and barely adequate for Needlefish (Xenentodon cancila)? This latter species is gregarious and tends to be very nervous when kept singly, and I can't imagine a worse tankmate than something as potentially aggressive as a Clown Knife.>
I did some Googling since I had never heard of these fish, and decided I only wanted the tank, but would take the fish too since they came with the tank and then give them away.
<Hmm...>
When we picked up the tank the lady had already drained most of the water out of the tank. We brought a Styrofoam cooler for the fish. She filled that up and caught the fish and put them in. We left some water in the bottom of the tank We have had other fish tanks so I know I wanted to keep as much of their own water as possible.
<Actually, the whole water thing is a bit of a red herring; provided fish are acclimated across, say, an hour to different water conditions, it's a good idea *not* to introduce water from an old tank into a new tank. The water fish are shipped in is laden with ammonia for obvious reasons, and it's also a good way for parasites to get from one tank to another.>
We went to the store and bought 35 gallons of steamed distilled water.
<Why? Do understand distilled (or RO, or de-ionised) water is dangerously toxic to fish if used raw. It must always be mixed with something else to add minerals to the water. A 50/50 mix of hard tap water and RO water works very well, but otherwise, plain vanilla tap water is always better than too much RO water.>
We put that all in the tank and put the filter back on it, which we did not clean nor change the filter so we could try and keep much of the beneficial bacteria since we didn't have the means to cycle completely first. We put the heater in and warmed it up to around 75 degrees. We had also bought some feeder gold fish from Wal-Mart (bad place, I know but when it's 10pm you are left with little choice), which we put in while it was warming up.
<None of these fish should be fed Goldfish; that is, not unless you want them to get sick. Please read:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fdgfdrartneale.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
There are no, zero, zip, nada reasons why Goldfish or Minnows are worth using; some folks think they are, but they're ignorant. Goldfish and Minnows contain high quantities of fat and thiaminase, and over time, these WILL make your fish ill:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/goldfshfd.htm
Neither Clown Knives nor Needlefish need these foods, and both, with care and patience, can be weaned onto appropriate invertebrate or wet-frozen foods. River shrimps, earthworms and small crickets are a good starting place, but with time try wet-frozen lancefish, cockle, strips of squid, prawns, etc. Variety is important, since some foods are nutritious in some ways but deficient in others (mussels and prawns contain thiaminase for example, so are good now and again, but not as a staple.>
We put the clown and the needle fish in the tank, and the clown spotted (or sensed) the goldfish right away and started hunting, which I felt was a good sign.
<Hmm...>
I noticed right away upon putting the clown in there that he was entirely too big for this tank and we need to get him a bigger tank ASAP. Oh did I forgot to mention once my husband saw him, he wanted to keep it.
<I see.>
There was 11 feeders in there, the clown ate 2 with in an hour of being put in the tank and us sitting there watching him. The needle fish ate 2.
<May I ask how you checked the Feeders didn't contain gut parasites, worms, etc? Forgive me if you're a microbiologist with access to a microscope and appropriate dissection tools for random sampling. You didn't check? Ah, that's my point! How well maintained do you imagine Goldfish are that are cheap enough to sell ten for the dollar? Cooped up a thousand per 50 gallon tank? I think you see where I'm coming from here: Feeder Goldfish are hands-down the worst possible way to feed a predatory fish. The risk of one Feeder might not be too great, but ten, a hundred... over the weeks and months the risk goes from negligible to very serious.>
We got the tank on Saturday, all the feeders that were in there were gone by Monday night. Tuesday I went to the local fish store and started picking their brains about the fish and what I could do to make it more comfortable. I bought some more feeders from them, goldfish for the clown and Rosey red minnows for the needle.
<Argh!>
Each morning I have woke up and had to fish a goldfish out who's guts were hanging out. Yesterday I put in 6 feeder and had to fish out one this morning. I decided not to put any more in till tonight and would only put 2 in for each of them. I originally thought it was the needle fish trying to eat a bigger fish than he could handle, but tonight I fed them and my husband was watching them (he is very intrigued by the hunt),
<Biting my tongue here...>
and he saw the clown get one, then took it over to his corner and spit it out. The body that was left floating fit the same description as the others I have been fishing out in the mornings. I thought well maybe they are too big. The clown went after another and got it. My husband originally thought he swallowed it, but looked again and nope he spit this one out too. I just went and fished those two carcasses out of there. Currently there is one Rosey red and one gold fish left, and the gold fish is swimming but appears to have been swiped at by either the needle fish or attempted to be eaten by the clown.
<I see.>
Can you give me some incite as to why he would be spitting them out?
<Got good sense?>
I am going to take my water to be tested hopefully tomorrow. I did buy some Amquel Plus to put in the tank to get rid of nitrates and ammonia.
<Amquel Plus removes ammonia from tap water; it has no impact at all on the ammonia produced by your fish, and certainly isn't a solution to poor water quality.>
Should I be putting in aquarium salt in too?
<Whatever for?>
I bought 2 pieces of slate to try and give the clown a bigger place to hide, am afraid to stick my hands in the tank long enough to place them securely. He seems to get stressed if I turn the hood lights on, which I rarely do because I know they like the dark. Will this lack of light bother the needle fish?
<No.>
He seems to be doing well, I just wonder where the heck he puts two fish in his gut!! haha. While I still don't want either of these fish, my husband does and we will be setting up our 125 gal tank as soon as we can locate it (it's in storage somewhere)...
<I see.>
I hope I gave enough information
<No really; I need the following, at minimum: temperature, filtration rate (or at least make/model), nitrite, and pH.>
I will include the picture that was listed in the ad I bought it from. Oh and I forgot to mention this has sand in it instead of gravel, is that OK?
<Fine so long as it isn't too deep; an inch, tops, unless you have plants with roots.>
There is also some black stuff, which the guy at the fish store told me it could be black and white sand mixed, but he wasn't for sure with out seeing it.
<Looks like black sand to me.>
Also, since the clown is so big, I took out almost all the decorations, I felt it was too much for him to have to try and navigate through, the clay pot is in there but he is too tall to fit in there, he hides behind the rock thing in the corner by the filter (which is now on the other side of the tank)
I included a couple pictures of the clown also, hope they aren't to big.
If you have any other suggestions I am all ears, as I am completely new to these kind of fish and you have to seem quite a bit of knowledge on them.
Thanks, Carrie
<Neither Needlefish nor Clown Knives are "easy", and I suspect you're going to find these fish very challenging. Your first job is weaning them onto a proper diet; you simply cannot carry on with the Goldfish, so the fact they're not eating them isn't a problem. Let them starve for 3-4 days, and then offer something else, perhaps earthworms or mealworms. I find metal or plastic forceps really useful for offering such foods without disturbing predatory fish; for some reason, they'll ignore the forceps while being freaked out by fingertips. You could also try frozen lancefish, holding them in the current with the forceps and wiggling them enticingly.
Needlefish go for "flashes" of silver, and once they bite, they tend to consume whatever they've caught. Clown Knives aren't too fussy, and some specimens even take pellets, but it's often a trial of wills at first.
Offer as many different things as you can, including white fish and seafood from the kitchen whenever you have some. See what he goes for! I happened to have an article in the June 2009 issue of TFH Magazine on these fish, so if your local library has a subscription, you might want to stop by and have a read. Do bear in mind Clowns will routinely reach 75 cm/30 inches length under aquarium conditions, and depending on the species can get much bigger than that. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Clown Knife Fish - 7/16/09
Hello again,
Thanks for your reply. I do feel a bit disturbed by your reply, but you gave some really good information overall, so I can get over being disturbed.
<Very good.>
Please understand that we got this tank and went on information given to us by the previous owner. We are feeding it what she told us, if nothing else we saved these guys by taking them out of an unknowledgeable home and brought them here, where we at least try to find all the information we will need for them to be the best fish they can be.
<Indeed so.>
After reading many sites I am fully aware of how big they can get and how much work they are, which is why I don't want to keep the clown. My husband wants to keep it and although I am the one who will likely end up taking care of it, if he wants it and we can house it then so be it. Like I said we have a 125 we are going to move it to. I would like to have that set up and properly cycled before moving it. Yes, I know even a 125 is too small. My husband is more than willing to get a 300gal tank. We have already started researching on where to get one of these monsters from.
<An expensive proposition from new, but used tanks are rather less expensive.>
The needle and the clown seem to be ok living with each other.
<For now. The problem is that (male?) Chitala can become very aggressive. What is known about their habits in the wild suggests males defend nests, in some cases so aggressively they attack humans in the water.>
The clown sticks to the bottom and the needle to the top, but I do understand what you are saying about them not being good tank mates, when we move the clown the needle will not go with it. Again this is how they came, so we were going with very bad information.
<Fair enough.>
I had no idea the raw water would be bad for the fish... point noted and taken seriously, I will never make that mistake again, I thought I was doing good
<Raw, de-ionised water is indeed very, very bad.>
I will not feed them for 3-4 days. Can I try thawed frozen shrimp that comes in a bag at the grocery store or I thought I read in another reply they said shrimp off the ice in the coolers in the store.
<Yes, once or twice a week, shrimps are fine. But they MUST be a minority component of their diet. It's steadily becoming clearer that thiaminase is a major health problem, so read through that article linked last time, and draw up a shopping list of foods that are thiaminase-free.>
I will follow your tips to get them off the goldfish and Rosey reds. Can I use earthworms that you buy at a tackle store for fishing with?
<Yes.>
I feel there is no need to be rude here, I got these fish with the tank. They were obviously being mistreated by their previous owner, at least I have the sense to research more about them, so I can try and take care of the right way. I did not inspect any fish for any parasites or anything.
<That's my point; we aquarists can't, hence the need to be careful and use safe food. If I'm being forceful in my argument here, it's because an awful lot of aquarists, especially in the US, seem to use feeder fish.>
I didnt know better and well you can change the past only learn from our mistakes and try to find better ways in the future, which is what I am doing emailing you.
<Point taken.>
I had no idea, the guy at the fish store suggested I put it in so I did.
<Do always remember the guy in the fish store is selling you stuff; I'm here volunteering to answer e-mails because I won't people to have more success keeping their fish.>
I dont know what [the addition of salt] for. All I know is the previous owner told me she did it. I am trying to get all the proper information here, which is why I am asking questions. A simple no there is no need would have sufficed here.
<As you prefer.>
The filter is a Tetra-O FS 20-40, again this is what came with the tank, I am not claiming that it is a good enough filter.
<Hmm... not familiar with this. Is this the FS AquaTech 20-40, which pumps 170 gallons per hour? Check the "gph" rating on the filter. For your big fish you need at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover or not. So for a 40 gallon tank you'd want 6 x 40 = 240 gallons per hour. For a 125 gallon tank, 4 x 125 = 500 gallons per hour, and so on.>
I don't know if it is or not. I don't know a lot o the care of these fish at all and thats why I am coming to you.
<While we serve it "straight up", you are getting good information here.>
I will take the information you have given to me and try to do my best. I actually have not found a whole lot of information on the needle fish, can you recommend some good reading on those?
<There's a primer here, about halfway down:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/belonids.htm
They're fairly widely kept by advanced aquarists. Do search by their Latin name, Xenentodon cancila.>
Thanks,
Carrie
<Cheers, Neale.>

Clownknife feeding  - 01/24/06 I have a 6" Clownknife a 3" Oscar and a 9" Arowana and they all get along fine but I find it difficult to fee the knife be cause the Oscar hogs all the food. What can I do? Mark <Fill the Oscar up with pellets, trying to feed it about the same area/time daily... then feed the Knife. Bob Fenner>

Re: Xanthichthys auromarginatus/freshwater killer... feeding and Notopterus comp. 2/4/09 Thank you for the email, After sending it, I realized that blue throat triggers eat the smaller foods like Mysis shrimp and brine shrimp. (are those the same thing?). <Nope> Anyways I put some frozen brine shrimp in (enriched, I'm getting some Kent Zoë today) and he swam around eating it. <Ah good> To answer your question the two eels are echidna nebulosa and Gymnothorax richardsonii. they are small right now, at about eight inches, and I vary their diet with frozen silversides, live mussels, clams, and crabs, and frozen or raw crabs and frozen or raw shrimp. <Sounds good> On the freshwater topic, I was just curious if a protein skimmer would work on a freshwater tank, or if one would need a skimmer. <Mmm, not really and no...> I am not planning to ad one or anything, I am just curious. Also, when the clown knife gets bigger, would it be wise to separate him from the king tiger Pleco, and the black ghost knife? <Yes> Do you think the tire track eel and the silver dollars will be safe in the long run too or is it best to separate them when he gets to a certain length? <Could be inhaled with a big "Whomp" some evening...> thanks for all the info, will <Welcome. BobF>

Mixing Apteronotids and Notopterids, Dempsey color, UGs...  9/10/07 ok a couple questions... <The beginning of sentences are capitalized...> could I house a black ghost knife and a clown knife together? <Not a good idea> my blue Dempsey is about 2 inches long , but he hasn't become blue yet. a little in the head and tail but not solid. rest of his body is just white. water quality is great so is there something wrong with him or does the color just come in time? <Likely> what's your opinion on undergravel filtration? <Tried and true. Can work in many applications. RMF> thank you.

Clown Knife Fish Non-Live Food Training 06/28/07 Hello, Your website is great! Unfortunately I could not find anything about training a Clown Knife Fish to eat non-live food. I've tried even warming krill/shrimp, I've tried Shrimp Pellets, Freeze dried Bloodworms, and Flakes. My 6" clowns just don't eat it. I have to revert to Live Ghost Shrimp, but I do not want too. Please help me find a way to train the Clown Knife to eat other prepared foods? Step by Step, please. As you know, Feeding time for these guys is only at night when the lights are off. Hope you can help? Thanks <Greetings. Training Knifefish to accept dead food follows the same pattern as with any other opportunistic carnivore -- patience and a little starvation! As you realise, many people keep Knifefish by feeding them goldfish and minnows. This is very dangerous in the long term because of the risk of introducing parasites and the poor nutritional value (high fat and thiaminase content) of goldfish and minnows. So well done on doing the responsible, sensible thing by weaning your Knifefish onto safe alternatives. Small Knifefish are fond of (wet) frozen bloodworms, i.e., the kind you keep in the freezer. I have yet, in 20+ years of keeping fish, to find anything that likes freeze dried bloodworms or brine shrimp. I know people use them, but I've never had any luck with them. So get the wet frozen kind. These smell yummy and even difficult fish seem to accept them readily. If you train the baby Knifefish to take frozen foods, feeding the adults becomes very easy. Larger Knifefish in the wild eat fish, large insects, and crustaceans, so these are the things to concentrate on. One of the best ways to use frozen whitebait (or any other small, silvery fish) is to defrost it and then throw it into the current of water coming out of the filter. The flash of silver mimics the movement of small fish, and predatory fish will usually strike at the flash, and eat the food. I have personally found small pieces of oily fish (such as salmon or herring) extremely good for tempting predatory fish, presumably because of the smell, but be warned that oily fish *heavily* pollutes the aquarium and you will need to do a big (50%) water change afterwards. As well as fish, crustaceans like unshelled prawns and crayfish are excellent foods for adult Knifefish. If all else fails, alternate live foods, such as earthworms, mealworms, and crickets can also be used. Once the Knifefish learns to accept a variety of foods, tempting them onto floating pellets is not difficult. It helps if they share a tank with other fish that feed from the surface, like Tinfoil Barbs or Giant Gouramis. The Knifefish will see where the food is coming from, and take the floating pellets. Obviously, Knifefish are big and potentially aggressive, so don't mix with smaller fish or anything likely to pick a fight (like cichlids). Cheers, Neale>

Re: Clown Knife Fish Non-Live Food Training 06/29/07  You guys are great! Thank you Neale for the information. <You're welcome. If you love Knifefish, keep an eye out for a book called "Jurassic Fishes" published by TFH. It's a beautiful book, sadly out of print, but filled with the loveliest photos of Knifefish as well as other "monsters" like Arowana and gar. One of my favourite books! Neale.>

Feeding Clown Knife 03/17/07 Hi <Hello Ray, Brandon here.> Ive had a clown knife for a couple of months now, and during that span it has grown from 3 4 inches to 6 7 inches. At first, when he was smaller, I fed him a combination of brine shrimp and blood worms (frozen) along with small (not goldfish feeders) fish. However, I had to leave for college during that time (I got it during my winter break), but not without telling my parents what I would like them to feed it (e.g. continue feeding it brine shrimp and blood worms along with the occasional fish). However, they started to feed it the minnows that are commonly found in pet stores. <Mmmmm.  Minnows are bad news.  This is a really good way to introduce disease into the tank, and to your fish.  Ever hear of hole in the head?  This is one of the ways that your fish can get it.> So, upon coming home for spring break, I find that my clown knife refuses to eat anything other than brine shrimp and blood worms along with live fish. <Define anything.  Have you tried any other crustaceans?> Given his size now, wouldnt brine shrimp and blood worms be too small and not nutritious enough for him? <Depends on how much you give it.  It is never a good idea to stick to one variety of food though.> I went out and bought frozen krill in order to try to wean him off of live fish but he refuses to eat them. He just lets them drop to the bottom before proceeding to ignore them (the first time I put them in he ate one but then quickly spit it back out and since then has ignored them). <Seems that the Chitala chitala does not regard these as food.> I even tried cutting the individual krill into smaller bits in case they were too large for him. Thus, I have not been feeding him anything lately (this has gone on for about 3 days now). Just wondering, how long can I go without feeding him without starving him to death? <Three days is not going to starve him, but it will definitely stress him. I would say it might take a month or more before he starves to death.> Also, what is the best way to wean him off of live foods (save for an occasional snack) and what food should I use to do this (if not krill)? <Krill is not really a part of this fishs natural diet.  It is quite possible that you will never wean him off of live food.  I have had to come to this realization, with one of my saltwater fish.  I would say that the best way to proceed when faced with this sort of thing, is to set up a 10 gallon tank, with some gravel, and a plant or two, and put about three dozen ghost shrimp in it.  Feed them a high quality food (gut loading), and give the Chitala chitala about three - four a day.  If it is taking blood worms, you might try mixing something that you want it to eat with them, eventually the fish will ingest the other food, and could start to recognize it.  Another resort is to try a small piece of store bought fish attached to the end of  a feeding stick, wiggle it around and see if the fish takes it.> Finally, I have one final question that has nothing to do with feeding him sorry. <No worries.> I plan on building a new tank him during spring break, but I have read conflicting reports as to how large they will get. While I know that they grow to 4 feet in the wild, I have read that they usually dont grow past two feet in captivity. <I dont usually show up late for work but it happens.  I would plan on a four foot max length just to be on the safe side.  There is no guarantee that this fish will get to four feet, but there is no guarantee that it wont either.  Everywhere I have seen them sold, I have seen a sticker posted that stated that the max length was 48 inches.> However, I have also read in some places that they can grow up to 3 3 ½ feet in captivity. So my question is this how large can I expect my clown knife to get and based on this, what size tank should I make with what dimensions? <I would plan on four feet.  I would also advise you to go and buy the tank.  Shoot for 150 gallons.  It will cost about the same to buy the tank, as it will to make it, and the store bought tank will most likely be (not to insult your abilities.) more well made.  But since you asked, I will say that the dimensions should be something like, 72 ½ inches long, 18 ½ inches wide, and 28 ½ inches high.> Thanks for taking the time to read this long question and thanks for making such a great website (Ive read through many articles and FAQs just for fun. Wait, is that bad? :-) ). <You are most welcome.  Thank you for the kind words.  Good luck with the Chitala chitala.  Brandon> -Raymond

Clown Knife Life-spans in wild/captivity  - 12/07/06 First thanks for the excellent site and knowledge, when all else fails you guys have the answers. <Welcome> I have been researching the Clown Knife (specifically Royal Clown Knife - Chitala blanci) life-spans.  I am about to adopt a pair from a friend that have been raised in a 300 gallon tank for the last 2 years from 4" to 16" each.  I am moving them both into a 240 Long (96x24x24).  I am very interested in the average lifespan of them in captivity or in the wild.  Can't seem to find much on the net to support an educated guess. I have read that they rarely grow past 24" in captivity, but can reach 4' in the wild (may be pushing it IMO). Thanks for any insight you can provide. Joe <I've been to the "new" Bangkok aquarium just two months back... and they have some Notopterids of this and related species that they've had for teens of years. Unfortunately fishbase.org doesn't have a chart/data for this species' length/age relationship... in the wild. Bob Fenner>

Clown Knife Fish   2/9/06 Hello, <Hi there> I am a recent aquarium addict (1 year) and need some information / help.  I have 3 aquariums (started with 2 Betta bowls for decoration that never made it home before I rationalized purchasing an aquarium), one 30 gal (filtration - penguin 125) and a 55 gal (filtration - penguin 350).  The very BEST purchase I've ever made!!!!!  In my 55 I have a 7" clown knife, one Plecostomus, two 4" tinfoil barbs, two 2 1/2" albino tinfoil barbs and 4 giant Danios (did have four 1 1/2" but two of them weren't fast enough to duck the knife so I replaced them with two 3" ones) . <These will also be inhaled...> I plan to eventually get a 125 gal for all in the 55 gal, is this enough? <Not for the knife eventually> I plan to put filtration rated for 175, what do you recommend? <That you read WWM> Also, I started out feeding my knife pellets that it appears to not be eating - partly because of the greedy 6" Pacu (purchased in error due to bad information from LFS) I got rid of before adding the barbs and Danios.  So I for obvious reasons (disease / filtration) reluctantly started feeding him 12 Rosies every 3-4 days and some ghost shrimp which he of course happily devours.  He recently ate all 12 Rosies in about 2 hours, should I be concerned? <Re what? Going broke? Disease? Behavior modification?> He has no problems with his tankmates as he comes out of hiding from time to time throughout the day (unlike with the Pacu) but still ignores the pellets.   How if at all possible can I get him to eat the shrimp pellets without starving him to death lacking live food? <Not likely to eat pellets...> Also, during the pellet spell he developed a 1/4" white stripe or spot which disappeared when he started eating live Rosies.  Might that have been stress related because he was waiting for a real meal? <Yes, good way of putting this.> I'm sure part of it was the skittish and supper fast Pacu, <Heeee!> but it started going away while the Pacu was there and I fed live food.  Although the tinfoil barbs are fast as well, they don't seem to bother him nearly as much because he comes out a lot more during the day. He looks to be in perfect condition on his new diet.  My other question is once I get the 125 gal, what more colorful tankmates do you recommend for my clown knife? <... perhaps some easier-going Neotropical cichlids like Juraparoids... or large/r minnow sharks that hail from the same part of the world as the knife...> Also, my 30 gal....heh, heh...thought I was finished eh....*grin*?  I have 4 tiger barbs, 3 albino tiger barbs, 2 albino rainbow sharks and a Plecostomus.  My only concern is the sharks seem to fight from time to time. <Very common> Well really the bigger one (3 1/2") chases the smaller one (2 1/2").  Will putting all fish from the 30 into the 55 once I upgrade to the 125 help this problem with the sharks?   <Likely will help> The Plec will be put in the 125 once it gets too big.  What other algae eaters do you suggest for the tiger barb / rainbow shark tank, because I only want 2 Plecos in the 125 and I know they get too big for the 30 and 55? <See WWM...> Or will a common Pleco be ok in a 55 gal?  My third tank....ok...ok...I'm wrapping it up.  I kept an iguana in a 55 gal aquarium that I want to use for fish.  Is it safe if it's cleaned and rinsed well?   <Should be, yes> Yes....definitely an addict...how did I go from Betta bowls to wanting 125 gal setups?  Are there any support groups out there? <Yep... Aquarium Clubs! And the Nets specialized BBs! Enjoy and keep sharing. Bob Fenner>

Clown Knife Behaviour - 11/01/2005 My (Clown) Knife often breathes from the surface (I read that they are capable of breathing atmospheric air) is this in any way stressful for him?  <Uhh, no, not unless water quality is forcing him to do so.> If so would adding an air pump help this situation?  <I would test water quality - be sure to maintain as optimal (0 ammonia, 0 nitrate, less than 20ppm nitrate).> Also, he/she has recently begun keeping its mouth open constantly with it's tongue partially out. Is this an indication of anything bad? <Possibly so. With no information about your system, there's not much I can go off. Do please be testing your water.... if it is not optimal, make it so with water changes. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Clown Knife Vision, Navigation - 09/02/2005 Do Clown Knifefish have good eyesight?   <Nope, pretty crappy, actually.> Also, do they possess and use the electrical organ for navigation like Black Ghost Knifefish and Elephant Noses?   <These are actually very different from the clown knife....  The clown likely uses scent more than anything for finding food and such.  Please see here for more:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/osteoglossiforms.htm .> Thanks,  Kristen :) <Sure thing.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Clown Knife, Cory Cat - 08/16/2005 Greetings Bob, <Hi, Richard; Sabrina here, this morning!> This morning I noticed my clown knife had something in it's mouth and it turned out to be a Cory cat.   <Yikes!> I knew that the clown knife ate live fish but I didn't think it would until it was much bigger.   My knife is about 6-7 inches long right now.   <That's plenty big for any knife to start eating small fish....  These are very efficient predators.> The Cory seems to be stuck in his mouth.   <Not good....  Chances are, he spread his dorsal and pectoral fins to prevent being eaten.  I suppose it worked, sort of....> It has been in his mouth now for a few hours.  Is this normal? <No, and yes.  It's a normal reaction for the Cory to prevent himself being eaten, and it's normal for a clown knife to try to eat smaller fishes....  If the Cory is dead, and the knife is in obvious, extreme distress, I would try removing the Cory's pectoral fins with thin, VERY sharp scissors, then pull it out - GENTLY - or have a vet do so, if you've got a vet who would.  If the Cory is alive, let 'em have some time to work this out.  Watch the knife very closely for a while.  This may work out fine on its own.> This is the first time I have seen my knife eat live food.  Please advise. <Err, this is probably obvious, but whatever the outcome of this instance, remove all smallish catfish from the knife's tank, or you'll be sure to see this happen again!> Warm Regards,  Richard D. Warren <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Clown Knife, Cory Cat - II - 08/16/2005 Sabrina, <Hi, Rich> Thank you for your help.   <Any time.> Unfortunately my knife didn't make it.   <I am so sorry to hear this....  So sorry for your loss; they are such beautiful, interesting fish!> I appreciate all your help though. <I wish I could have been of more help.  Perhaps in the future, you might look to Xenomystus nigri instead of the clown....  Though it might still have the same issue with small Corys and Otos, it would stay small enough to be safe with larger Corys and other catfishes.> Rich Warren <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina

Clown Knife not eating 7.23.05 I have a clown knife fish and I moved him from a 45 to a 75 and know he is not eating. He was eating at least 55 Rosies and mixed with some goldfish now he goes on his hunt eats maybe one or two. Its been two weeks since I put him in the new tank. Ph and everything is fine with water. Help me please <As long as your water parameters are in good shape I would not worry too much, make sure he has somewhere to retreat to and hide in the new tank.  He may still be getting used to his new surroundings.  I am sure he will come around. -Gage>

Clown Knifefish system 7/10/05 Hi, I have recently just purchased a Clown Knife Fish and am confused about what PH the tank should be. <Where they live in the wild the pH ranges from 6-8, so anywhere in that range, as long as the fish is properly acclimated, will work fine> So far my tank is at 6.8 as suggested by the place of purchase, but I have been reading that other people have their tanks set at 7.0 or higher. <6.8 will work fine> I really enjoy having my fish and don't want anything to happen to it. I have a 55 gallon tank right now and would also like to know any suggestions you may have on a good tank mate for my clown knife fish. I would really appreciate your feedback. <Be aware that the clown Knifefish (Chitala chitala) attains 4 feet+ in length, and will most definitely outgrow your 55.  It will eventually need a ~500+ gallon tank if you are to keep it to adulthood.  As for tankmates, anything not too aggressive, and nothing that is a fin-nipper.  If you're looking for big (for that future 500 gallon tank ^^) you could go with a 'Royal Pleco'> Sincerely, Steve <M. Maddox>

Clown knife problem 7/5/05 Dear Bob,            I hate to  bother you with this, however you seem like one of the only people that might be  able to help me.  I have a clown knife, approximately 7 inches long.   He was accidentally overfed and became grotesquely bloated.  I haven't fed  him now in a month, yet the bloating has not gone down.  I spoke to the  owner of a local fish store who advised me to add salt to the water.  I  have been doing this but it doesn't seem to help.  I have never seen this  before and I am having a difficult time finding anyone who can help.   <Mmmm, what sort of salt? I would try a level teaspoon of Epsom (Magnesium sulfate) per ten gallons of water>     Have you ever seen or heard of this before?   If so, what should I do?   If not, can you refer me to someone?  Thanks  again for your time. Warmest Regards, Janet Sanders <Some sort of gut blockage... what were you feeding? Hopefully not goldfish... Bob Fenner>

Re: clown knife problem 7/6/05 Dear Bob, <Janet>             Thanks  for the quick reply.  Unfortunately, it is goldfish.  I had fed my  fish the night before leaving on a business trip.  The next day, my son  (not knowing I had just fed the fish), fed them again -- my fish has been sick  since.  What should I do? Thanks, Janet <Try adding a level teaspoon of Epsom salt per ten gallons of system water... Hopefully this will "move" the blockage. Bob Fenner>

Clown Knifefish, Tiger shovelnose feeding, Toadfishes Dear Bob and Associates, I am a relatively experienced freshwater aquarist, but I have a little problem that I have never been able to find a solution to. I have a juvenile clown knife (Chitala chitala, 6") and a juvenile tiger shovelnose (Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum), and I am stumped as to what to feed them besides live foods (ghost shrimp and mollies/Platies - never "rosy reds" or goldfish). I understand the enormous size these fish will attain, and I do not want to feed them unhealthy live fish (i.e. - goldfish) as they grow. Do any of you have experience with these fish? Since they're nocturnal, I assume that it would be best to try whatever non-live foods you suggest after lights-out in the aquarium. <I would feed these guys glass worms, blood worms, plankton, Mysis, etc. Live ghost shrimp on occasion. Pelleted foods if they will eat it. If you are going to continue with the mollies and Platies you should gut load them with the above foods.> I also have developed a huge fascination with toadfishes. I am particularly interested in the three-spine toadfish (Batrachomoeus trispinosis, commonly sold as "freshwater lionfish", though I know it's heavy-brackish to marine). Do you know of any web sites with comprehensive and DETAILED information on these fish (or toadfish in general...I have looked on fishbase.org, posted in the WetWeb forums, etc. and had no luck)? I would like to set up a "community of toadfish" fish-only marine tank, but I don't want to go into it blind. <Unfortunately I do not have much information on these fish, I would start with a search on google.com. Have you checked http://reefcentral.com/ There is also some information at the link below http://www.wetwebmedia.com/batrachoididae.htm Best Regards, Gage> Any info you could give (whenever it is convenient for you...no rush) would be greatly appreciated. Have a great day! Thanks, Matt Parkison

My new Clown Knife & Ropefish I just purchased a Clown Knife (about 6"). I put him in a 25 gallon hex with a Rope fish and they seem to be doing fine. I've been told that both can grow quite large. Do you think they'll be ok or should I return them. <Return them....  My clown knife grew to a length of 25 inches long! It is now living quite comfortably in a 650 gallon tank...  It was originally living in a 150 gallon tank but outgrew that!  The clown knife will reach 18 inches long in about a year and a half, this fish will NOT be able to live in a 25 gallon tank.  As for the Ropefish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) These fish will get over 36 inches long as adults... and require a 90 gallon tank.  So, that too will not be able to live in a 25 gallon tank.  I suggest you do some research before purchasing fish, there are many fish that will do quite nicely in a little 25 gallon tank.  Many of them are just as interesting as these fish.  Trust me it's no fun having a fish that is in a tank to small for it.  These fish are sick all the time, and you have to constantly be changing the water to keep up with the waste output.  Good luck. -Magnus>

Clown Knife  I am thinking of purchasing a Clown Knife fish and I was wondering what size of aquarium I should purchase?  I was also wondering what are common tankmates for a clown knife? <I raised knife fish for many years, and the Clowns are some of my favorite species!  They get really (really) big, they usually stay around 2 feet long in the home aquarium. In the wild you can find these fish around 36 inches in length.  The largest one I had was just over 25 inches long and was being housed in a 150 gallon tank.  though she seems slightly cramped in there.  I would say that a 150 is the bare minimum for an adult clown knife.  I eventually moved her to a 650 gallon tank since she was so large.  As for tankmates, Clown knife fish aren't aggressive.  They don't typically pester other tankmates, unless they are very small.  The other tankmates MUST be larger than the clown knifes mouth.  If they are bite-sized fish they are gone!  My clown was over 18 inches long within the first year and a half, and at that size it could easily swallow a 3+ inch goldfish.  I kept a school of tinfoil barbs with my clown, these fish were about 8 or 9 inches total in length.  The barbs were very active and didn't seem to get in the way of the clown at all. Also in the tank was a Pleco, and surprisingly a large Raphael catfish.  It seemed that my clown disregarded any bottom dwelling fish (though not sure if it's true with all clownfish).  As for other tankmates, the requirements are that they must be fast fish, in case the clown does get testy.  The tankmates can not be aggressive, if a clown knife should become injured, or it's anal fin damaged it will not be able to swim.  And the fish will stress itself to death. Cichlids are not to be kept with knives.  And the biggest concern is that the fish need to grow faster than the mouth on the clown (which will grow quickly).  They will need to be big fish.  If these fish are larger than the clown can swallow, then the clownfish will not even care about them. Other concern with the clown is that you will need to offer it a place to hide.  I used a large piece of driftwood in my tank along with giant fake plants (4 feet long varieties).  This made a natural looking wall for the fish to hide behind, thus making it more comfortable.  I also found that I only left one side of my tank lights on (the side opposite the hiding spot).  As well as have one of the plastic plants floating on the surface of the water, shading much of the tank.  Clowns prefer to hunt at night, and don't typically come out during the bright day.  Doing this I found my clown would tend to come out more often during the day without the intense lighting.  Be sure to get your clown on food other than live fish.  I spoiled mine when it was young by only feeding it feeder fish and when it was older I couldn't get it to switch easily.  I found myself purchasing 2-3 dozen goldfish ever couple of days to feed it.  Fact: An adult clown knife can eat 2 dozen medium sized goldfish in a single night.  Good luck on the fish.  They are very enjoyable, and quite impressive. -Magnus>

Everybody To The Limit! - 04/13/2004 I purchased a knife clown about 5 days ago.  He's about 3 to 4 inches long.   <Aww, just a little baby!  Just to check, you do realize that these beauties get over four feet long, yes?> I have him in a 30 gallon tank with 2 gouramis, 2 tiger barbs, 2 angels, a large Pleco, a 4 inch silver dollar, a small Cory cat, a small tetra, and a Kuhlii loach.   <Uh, and a partridge in a pear tree??  This is, nicely put, a little much for a 30 gallon tank, I'm afraid.> I realize knife clowns grow rapidly and that I will not be able to keep this one in my tank for long.   <Or any tank....  A few hundreds of gallons would do for a couple of years.> However, I have fed him fish flakes, freeze dried plankton, freeze dried Tubifex worms, brine shrimp and feeder guppies, and he has exhibited little to no interest in any of these.  I have yet to see him eat, though he swims around freely during feeding time.   <Try frozen bloodworms, pieces of krill, squid, prawn/shrimp.... and skip the feeder guppies, unless you breed them yourself; they run a *terribly* high risk of giving your fish disease.> All the other fish chowed down.  I have also noticed that his fins are nipped.   <Uh, not to be cruel or anything, but what do you expect?  A thirty gallon tank is not suitable for the sheer volume of fish you've got, and *especially* not suitable for a knife capable of growing taller than your average school kid.> I have noticed the silver dollar nip at him a couple of times.   <I would not doubt it.  The barbs are undoubtedly to blame, too.> Any suggestions?   <First and foremost, I would forget about the knife for now.  I hate to be harsh, but there is just not a place in your tank for such a fish right now.  If the stress from the crowd doesn't kill him, the barbs and silver dollar will, I'm afraid.  Then I'd recommend focusing on how to hone down your bioload some; characins are schoolers, and need to be with others of their kind to thrive; you might consider doing a separate tank for the silver dollar, and get him a couple pals, and include the barbs in that tank, and the tetra with some friends, too.  That would take you down to two Gourami, two angels, a Pleco, a Cory, and a Kuhli in your 30g.  The Plec will be next to need a bigger home, if he doesn't already; you implied that you planned on moving the knife to a bigger tank - perhaps instead, you could upgrade, and move this batch (Gourami, angels, Plec, Cory Kuhli) into the bigger tank, leaving the characins in the 30g?  I'd add a couple more Corys and a couple more Kuhlis, too; they, too, are better in groups.  Then, after that's settled, you might like to consider Xenomystus nigri, the African Knifefish, for your larger tank.  This is really the only knife available in the trade that will not grow far too large for the average tank; they top out at about eight inches.  Here's fishbase's rundown on 'em:  http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=5065&genusname=Xenomystus&speciesname=nigri .> I am at a loss for what to do next. <There is really nothing you can do to make the current mix work....  I do not foresee the knife surviving in the current scenario.  I hope that this has been of assistance to you....  Please forgive the "nagging"; I only have the interests of you and your fish in mind.> Thank you in advance, Mariella <Wishing you and your finny pals well,  -Sabrina>

Clown Knife and Algae Eater Hey, I just bought a large-size clown fish with 2 other medium-size tropical fish in a 55 tank. I've learned that  the knife is a predator and will eat anything smaller than its mouth. I'm concerned that if I put an algae eater in, the knife might swallow it as food. Since my tank is full of plants and rocks, it'll be difficult to clean the algae. What should I do!? Thanks for your time. <<Hello. The best way to control algae is by doing water changes. Once your tank is established, test your nitrates regularly, and do the water changes accordingly. Algae thrives on organics in the water, and even the best filter will not prevent build-up of organics, you need to remove them by doing partial water changes. Especially with a large predator in your tank, weekly water changes will be necessary. Is this tank still cycling now? You must test your ammonia and nitrites as well, each week! And keep in mind that your clown knife will eventually outgrow a 55 gallon tank. You will need to upgrade if you want to keep him alive. -Gwen>>

Knives, Spines, Rope and Fire. OK to add Claws? Hi, thanks for the info that you've given me so far, but I've got another question. I've got my 130 gallon tank set-up with a 10" clown knifefish, 12" spiny eel, 6" fire eel, and 12" Ropefish.
<No guppies or swordtails for you, huh?>
 I also own two African clawed frogs (about 4" long each) that are being kept at my mothers work. I'm wondering if I would be able to put the two frogs in the 130 gallon tank. In your opinion, do you think that the clown might decide to take a bite out of the soft, fleshy frogs, or would he leave them alone? Right now, the clown eats 3" long goldfish, but I'm trying to get him to accept frozen shrimp.
<A bit risky, IMO. A Knife will eat anything he can fit in it's mouth. Even if he only tries, he may kill or injure the frog. Not a great mix. Risk would be reduced if the Knife was off live food first and kept well fed. The eels may even cause problems at night, but less likely.>     Also, one other question.  For my 130 gallon tank, would a Classic Eheim 2215 canister filter and a Fluval 404 canister filter be enough for the tank? I'm going to be adding more fish to the tank than I have now and prefer to have above average filtration. If the filtration isn't enough, what's a good filter that I could add to the other two? <Each are rated for around 100 gallons. You should be fine as is, but those are some pretty large fish in there, and growing. I'm a big fan of Marineland's Emperor 400 for bio filtration. Surely wouldn't hurt to add the bio wheels to help with ammonia processing.> Thanks for all of your help. <One last point, which I'm sure you knew was coming. Try very hard to get the Knife off live fish. Hard to do, I know. But unless you can QT the feeders, sooner or later you WILL (not "may") bring Ick or some other nasty into your system. Treating a 130 with these large fish will be a challenge to say the least. Don>

Clown Knife Growing Pains   2/14/06 Well, I indeed messed up pretty badly. I was fascinated by a Clown Ghost Knife at Wal-Mart that was only 5 bucks, which is cheaper than I'd ever seen them before so I bought it. The disgruntled store employee so gratefully neglected to tell me how big they got. < Probably didn't know.> Right now I have in a 20 gallon tank with one Cory Catfish, 2 Black Mollies, and 1 White Mountain Cloud, and the name of a small silver fish I've forgotten. At this moment right now he is about 3 and a half to 4 inches long. How long will it take for him to outgrow this tank and when he does what size tank should I invest in? < They get up to three feet and will be full grown in a couple of years. You will need at least a 100 gallon tank and you will have a pretty hefty food bill too.> My folks I'm 14) will be none too happy with this news when I finally decide to tell them as I just bought a 55 gallon tank to start saltwater. So I would like to know a recommended size tank to buy if I were to put 1 or 2 other fish in with him. What fish get along with Clown Knives?? < Other fish that the knife cannot eat.> Contrary to what I've read over the internet my Clown Knife is very hardy. He's eaten just about everything I've given him except for flake food. That including frozen shrimp, common garden worms, meat from the table, and my ghost shrimp -.-' (which he wasn't supposed to eat). He also managed to survive a 45 minute ride home over not too smooth roads and being from a none too reputable petstore. He has earned what I find an appropriate name for him, Anvil. Quite frankly I've fallen in love with him as he just fascinates me. So after you recommend whatever size tank and how long till he needs it I'll probably be working all summer to earn it. I wouldn't be able to stand to give him away. Great thanks through my ramblings. < A 100 gallon+ tank will be expensive to set up and operate. Hope your parents are as understanding as mine were when I was you age.-Chuck>

Clown Knife Fish   2/9/06 Hello, <Hi there> I am a recent aquarium addict (1 year) and need some information / help.  I have 3 aquariums (started with 2 betta bowls for decoration that never made it home before I rationalized purchasing an aquarium), one 30 gal (filtration - penguin 125) and a 55 gal (filtration - penguin 350).  The very BEST purchase I've ever made!!!!!  In my 55 I have a 7" clown knife, one Plecostomus, two 4" tinfoil barbs, two 2 1/2" albino tinfoil barbs and 4 giant Danios (did have four 1 1/2" but two of them weren't fast enough to duck the knife so I replaced them with two 3" ones) . <These will also be inhaled...> I plan to eventually get a 125 gal for all in the 55 gal, is this enough? <Not for the knife eventually> I plan to put filtration rated for 175, what do you recommend? <That you read WWM> Also, I started out feeding my knife pellets that it appears to not be eating - partly because of the greedy 6" Pacu (purchased in error due to bad information from LFS)   I got rid of before adding the barbs and Danios.  So I for obvious reasons (disease / filtration) reluctantly started feeding him 12 Rosies every 3-4 days and some ghost shrimp which he of course happily devours.  He recently ate all 12 Rosies in about 2 hours, should I be concerned? <Re what? Going broke? Disease? Behavior modification?> He has no problems with his tankmates as he comes out of hiding from time to time throughout the day (unlike with the Pacu) but still ignores the pellets.   How if at all possible can I get him to eat the shrimp pellets without starving him to death lacking live food? <Not likely to eat pellets...> Also, during the pellet spell he developed a 1/4" white stripe or spot which disappeared when he started eating live Rosies.  Might that have been stress related because he was waiting for a real meal? <Yes, good way of putting this.> I'm sure part of it was the skittish and supper fast Pacu, <Heeee!> but it started going away while the Pacu was there and I fed live food.  Although the tinfoil barbs are fast as well, they don't seem to bother him nearly as much because he comes out a lot more during the day. He looks to be in perfect condition on his new diet.  My other question is once I get the 125 gal, what more colorful tankmates do you recommend for my clown knife? <... perhaps some easier-going Neotropical cichlids like Juraparoids... or large/r minnow sharks that hail from the same part of the world as the knife...> Also, my 30 gal....heh, heh...thought I was finished eh....*grin*?  I have 4 tiger barbs, 3 albino tiger barbs, 2 albino rainbow sharks and a Plecostomus.  My only concern is the sharks seem to fight from time to time. <Very common> Well really the bigger one (3 1/2") chases the smaller one (2 1/2").  Will putting all fish from the 30 into the 55 once I upgrade to the 125 help this problem with the sharks?   <Likely will help> The Plec will be put in the 125 once it gets too big.  What other algae eaters do you suggest for the tiger barb / rainbow shark tank, because I only want 2 Plecos in the 125 and I know they get too big for the 30 and 55? <See WWM...> Or will a common Pleco be ok in a 55 gal?  My third tank....ok...ok...I'm wrapping it up.  I kept an iguana in a 55 gal aquarium that I want to use for fish.  Is it safe if it's cleaned and rinsed well?   <Should be, yes> Yes....definitely an addict...how did I go from Betta bowls to wanting 125 gal setups?  Are there any support groups out there? <Yep... Aquarium Clubs! And the Nets specialized BBs! Enjoy and keep sharing. Bob Fenner>

Re: Clown Knife Fish  - 2/11/2006 Thank you for your reply Bob.  I did read quite a few articles in WWM prior to my inquiry.  Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain any specific information to my questions because WWM has comments from your staff stating the clown knife will get two feet in some articles and three or four in others. <All good "guesses" for genus Notopterus... see fishbase.org re... Have seen them near three feet in Thailand's public aquariums, though two feet is a good general maximum for captivity in the West... see this: http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=8765&genusname=Chitala&speciesname=lopis> Therefore I am unaware if a 125 gal aquarium will be large enough for the tinfoil barbs and clown knife. <Not "ultimately"> I understand the giant Danios will eventually be eaten, I got them so the knife would get some extra exercise chasing them.  Is that a good idea?   <Not IMO> Since it's not likely the clown knife will eat pellets, what can I do to limit disease from live Rosies? Thank you. Orlando <... Culture or quarantine them for weeks ahead of time... I'd train the knife to take cut meat... Bob Fenner>

Clown Knife With Problems  12/24/05 Hello, I've skimmed over the articles on clown knife fish and haven't really seen anything about what I've got to ask .Recently I purchased two clown knives. Each is now no more than six inches long. For now, each is in a separate tank until I can get one larger tank at the beginning of the year. Both are fed live feeders , which I'm beginning to learn isn't the best idea , but one will take shrimp pellets at times . I have been unable to find squid  ( other than at the grocery store and am not sure if that's the correct way to feed them) or live krill in my area.   One seems to be getting a little fatty in the belly. At first I simply took this to be a by product of  healthy feeding because this fish can put away the little live feeders . Only now the seemingly distended belly remains . I don't recall it's sides poking out so when I first got it. But at the pet store both of the fish were in the same tank with several other kinds and now it has much more elbow room.   I also keep my tanks and filters clean on a bi-weekly basis. I haven't had any outbreaks of any kind among any of my fish for a long time.   My question is : Is my fish healthy? <A fish that has a distended belly doesn't sound too good.> Overfed? < Clown knife fish can be real pigs. It is easy to over feed them.> Or ,possibly , infected by some internal parasite and ,if so, how can I be sure and what treatments would be necessary? < It could be an internal bacterial infection. If it is it needs to be treated with Metronidazole .> And if the fish is healthy - does that mean the slimmer one isn't and I should up it's rations? < I would feed no more than can be consumed in two minutes once each day.> Something which may be related : How often should Clown Knives be feed ? Daily ?Or just every other day ? < Bigger knifes can be fed a couple times a week as their metabolism slows down as they grow.> On a side note , Do you receive many complaints about pet shop owners either giving less than knowledgeable advice or just not giving any to people ,especially those just getting into the raising fish , purchasing the more exotic fishes - outside of the guppies , goldfish , mollies Etc.? < If pet shops and fish store were giving good advice all the time then we would not be answering questions.>        It's just that I've had to make major tank purchases and accommodate them within my home simply because the seller did not elaborate on just how big some of these fish can get. I know they are in business to stay in business through sells and I have gotten better informed since I began but in listening to other customers when making their choices I rarely hear the seller say ' How big of a tank do you have ? or What other kinds of fish do you have in it ?'       I've come to deal with only one seller in my small area and I've learned and am still learning the  right questions to ask but even then I don't get the entire story .       What worries me is that most people I meet can tell you ' Yes , an Oscar can get very big ,' but they couldn't tell you  how large a clown knife can get or an electric catfish  and yet when they step into the pet store and see that fish and think to themselves how neat it would be in their tank , the seller does little to inform or dissuade . I've grown to enjoy and love fish in the last year  but  if  I'd never messed up and purchased an electric catfish when I was just starting out  I'd never would have learned what I have. However there must be so many fish that get flushed or die from lack of proper care  simply because the buyer wasn't informed and was ignorant of the fact he/she needed to be . It may be different in a large city or other areas but I think there should be some movement towards having the tanks at the pet stores labeled as to level of care , mature size/ min. tank size , proper food and  feeding because often the owner maybe absent and the clerk may just not know and the customer as well as the fish deserve better. Thank you for your time, Thomas Tuck <It is a business, like any other, to make money. Unfortunately ignorance at all levels of this hobby is something that we here at WWM try to overcome everyday. Find a store that gives you good service with a friendly knowledgeable staff and continue to patronize that store even if their prices are not the lowest. Nobody knows everything. That's why we have a crew here instead of just one person. Next time you see a fish that looks interesting I would recommend that you go over to the book section of the store and try to find out some info about it before purchasing the fish.-Chuck.>

Clown Knifefish system 7/10/05 Hi, I have recently just purchased a Clown Knife Fish and am confused about what PH the tank should be. <Where they live in the wild the pH ranges from 6-8, so anywhere in that range, as long as the fish is properly acclimated, will work fine> So far my tank is at 6.8 as suggested by the place of purchase, but I have been reading that other people have their tanks set at 7.0 or higher. <6.8 will work fine> I really enjoy having my fish and don't want anything to happen to it. I have a 55 gallon tank right now and would also like to know any suggestions you may have on a good tank mate for my clown knife fish. I would really appreciate your feedback. <Be aware that the clown Knifefish (Chitala chitala) attains 4 feet+ in length, and will most definitely outgrow your 55.  It will eventually need a ~500+ gallon tank if you are to keep it to adulthood.  As for tankmates, anything not too aggressive, and nothing that is a fin-nipper.  If you're looking for big (for that future 500 gallon tank ^^) you could go with a 'Royal Pleco'> Sincerely, Steve <M. Maddox>

Clownin' Around - Clown Knife Behaviour - 12/03/2004 I have a 55g. tank with two clown knife that are about 6 inches in length, along with a glass cat, a Pleco, and a fiddler crab. <A few problems, here - not the least of which is the size and territoriality of the clown knives.  Please note that the glass cat may likely end up as clown food, and the fiddler crab really requires a way to get out of the water for long-term survival, and really ought to be in saltwater - or at least brackish conditions.> They are all doing great together, however, my one clown will go over to the other side of the tank near the other clown knife. They do not pick on each other but they rub their bodies together for a few seconds then they go their separate ways. <I would assume that this is either courtship or aggression - and far, far more likely to be aggression.> Also when the one clown gets close to the other one, he ends up rubbing his body up against the rainbow rock I have in the tank. He does this in front of the other knife fish only, like he is marking territory or showing off. I see no signs of any parasites, no Ick, no frayed fins, great appetites as well. <I would guess this is part of the aggression issue - but possibly an indicator of gill parasites.  Please observe the fish for heavy breathing or any other abnormalities.> My knifes even come out and swim during the day until I get too close to the tank.  All in all, I have been watching them very closely for any signs of illness, I am out of practice as far as fish, I worked in a great pet store for 10 years and kept up to date on every single animal we sold so that I could give the best information as well. <Always wonderful to hear of reputable fish stores - thank you for being informed on your livestock!> But clown knives were not one on my list, my boss took care of those strictly.  Can you think of any other reasons why the clown knife would be doing this in the presence of the other clown knife only? <If there are gill parasites or another ailment at play, it could be purely coincidence - perhaps the "best" rock to scratch one's operculum on just happens to be next to the other knife's digs?  Otherwise, again, I might attribute this to a display of aggression/territory, as you suspected.> He doesn't do it any other time at all and the temp is usually around 78 degrees F, ph is around 7.0, I keep up on water changes and monitor levels and test regularly as well.   <I am assuming, then, that ammonia and nitrite are at zero, and nitrate is below 20ppm?> Also I was keeping a few red eye tetras, some head standers, zebra Danios and some swords in with the knives. I had to take them all out and put them in another tank because the knives were tormenting them to death. <Heh, yeah - all of those would make tasty snacks for the knives!> A few got Ick and the knives are still fine after I took the other fish out. Which they did eat a few of the Danios and a red eye as well. <This is concerning.  How long ago were the fish removed?  It is quite possible that the knife does, in fact, have ich on its gills.> I know they are eating well. I read all the info you have given to everyone on knife fish and it was very educational for me as well. <So glad to hear this!> However I did not see in great detail about the actual personalities these fish generally have. <Well, to be honest, not a great many folks can really provide adequately for this species....  Cared for properly, the fish can and should grow to be roughly four feet in length - a four-foot fish requires a *much* larger tank than would easily fit in the average living room.  And keeping them just while they're young isn't really the greatest idea - what will you do when they hit a couple feet, have outgrown the 250 gallon tank you've upgraded to for them, and can't find a public aquarium that is willing to take them on?  Please think very seriously about the ultimate size of this fish, and what you plan to do as they age.  If they are already intolerant of each other at six inches in a 55g tank, imagine what they'll do to each other in another foot or so, if they allow each other to live that long....  At the very least, I would remove one of the knives.> Sorry this is so long but this is pretty much the only web site I could find that has a lot of valuable info on it pertaining knife fish.   <And thank you very much for writing in, and thereby helping us expand the information available.> Also if you think my clown knife does have parasites or some other disease, what should I be treating him with? I know there are many meds out there not to be used for scaleless fish, and I suppose the parasites will spread to the other fish in the tank as well? <You are correct on both accounts - knives, especially, are tremendously sensitive to most medications.  I would avoid treating the fish with medicines at all costs.  Watch the "scratcher", and if you begin to suspect that he has ich, I would add salt to the tank.  Be sure to use a salt marketed for freshwater aquaria, and test on a sample of your tank water first to ensure that the salt will not alter your pH undesirably.  I would slowly (over a few days) raise the temperature to the mid-80s (84*F-86*F), increase the salinity to a specific gravity of 1.003 (use a good hydrometer to measure this) and hold it there for at least a week - perhaps a little longer.  Always make salinity changes VERY slowly - spread the change out over a few days.  The ich cannot survive at this salinity, and the temperature increase will cause the ich to speed up its lifecycle to bring it to a vulnerable (killable) point in its development sooner.> Thank you for any info you can give to me. <And thank you again for writing in.  It seems as though you greatly enjoy the Knifefishes.  I would like to recommend, if you choose to relocate both of the clowns due to size issues, that you consider Xenomystus nigri, the "black" or "African" knifefish.  This little fellow won't get much more than eight inches in length, and has many of the same qualities of the clown (same general shape, temperament) packed into a MUCH more manageable size.  Though it lacks the beautiful markings, it is still a very attractive, very interesting fish, and I highly recommend it.  It would live quite well and happily in your 55g, for the full duration of its lifespan.  Please feel free to write back if you have any further questions, and thanks again for writing in!> Shannon <-Sabrina> Need Help I am at a complete loss, and I'm now turning to online resources in my desperate attempt to find a solution to my problem. I found your site to be very impressive; very rarely does one find a resource that contains such a wealth of valid information. I work at a large chain pet store, in the aquatics department. All of us in the department are extremely knowledgeable about fish and their care, and rarely have any problems with any of our fish. However, whenever we receive a shipment of black ghost knives or clown knives, the fish systematically die off within a couple of days. We have no problem with our brown knives, ever. We keep each species in their own tank, the brown knives in a larger tank with zebra Danios (they never come in large enough to eat the Danios), and the ghost and clown knives in their own smaller isolated tanks. We offer ample hiding spots for each type of fish. We feed each frozen food, such as bloodworms, nightly. Our pH is a little high, around 7.8, and our water hardness is through the roof, but our temperature is a consistent 78 F. We always carry juvenile fish; the knives never come in larger than 4 inches or so. We would like to carry ghost and clown knives, but not if it means continuous losses such as we have experienced. If you have any advice as to what we might be doing wrong, and what we might to do rectify this, it would be greatly appreciated. My thanks in advance. L Barker  <<Hello. I need to know if you guys are putting these fish into properly cycled tanks. I know it sounds simplistic, but it would make me feel better if you could provide me with information on ammonia levels, nitrite and nitrate levels in these tanks. The problem with being a store is that as the fish are gradually being sold, over time, the beneficial bacteria can die off without us being aware of it...then along comes a new shipment, and twenty fish are suddenly put back into tanks with limited bacteria. The ammonia level can skyrocket the first few days, resulting in sick knife fish that never fully recuperate due to all the stress from shipping combined with new surroundings...and undoubtedly bad nutrition before you received them. Also, smaller knives are even more sensitive than larger ones. You may have a better survival rate if you can specify 3 inches or LARGER when you order your knife fish. Try, and see. In the meantime, prepare your knife fish tanks either by keeping them full of other species at all times to keep the biofilter alive, or by using pure ammonia to keep the nitrifying bacteria alive, until the shipment lands. You can also try running some peat moss to help lower pH and hardness levels, though these, in and of themselves, should not be enough to kill all the newcomers alone, but it doesn't help when added to the other stressors the fish are facing. Also, keep in mind that knife fish are aggressive amongst each other, and make sure to provide plenty of PVC tubes for the ghosts, at least one per fish!! Keep the lighting low for the first few days, as well. You can cover the tanks with Styrofoam lids to diffuse the lighting, or leave the lights off entirely. -Gwen>>

Clown knife with a bulge My clown knife looks as though it has swallowed a small rubber ball.. the kind that you get out of a gumball machine...   All of my other fish are still in the tank and still have all of there parts... my clown knife will not eat now but is moving around fine... <Is the clown producing feces at all?  If so, is it normal and brownish, or white and stringy?> We have had Mercury for 2 months now and have NEVER seen this before... I understand and have seen the "bulge" after eating, but this is NOT that!! The bulge he has now is huge and very round, again, like he swallowed a rubber ball.. no other way to describe it... <Sounds very much to be a gut blockage or constipation.  I'd suggest to dose the tank with Epsom salts at a rate of 1 to 2 tablespoons per ten gallons (this *should* help), and if the fish looks like he may accept food tomorrow, offer daphnia or mosquito larvae, or possibly (depending on size of the fish) a small earthworm, if the other items are too small for him.  These foods are high in roughage content and may possibly help to pass the blockage.> The owner of the local pet store thought maybe it was a bladder infection <Hmm....  a swim bladder infection is characterized by abnormal swimming (and occasionally accompanied with dropsy) - I do not believe this to be the case.> and told me to wait until tomorrow and see how he was.... <Go ahead and dose with Epsom salts tonight, it may very well help a great deal.> I cannot find ANYTHING on the net regarding this.... CAN YOU PLEASE HELP????? <I do wish to bring up another issue that this may be - there's the possibility that this is a tumor.  That you seem to imply that it happened suddenly and that the fish is not eating lead me to think constipation far more likely.  If it is a tumor, though, there's really nothing to be done, unfortunately.  Hopefully you'll see some improvement soon.> Thank you in advance....  Heather O <Wishing your fish a quick recovery,  -Sabrina>

Clown knife with a bulge - II THANK YOU very much for the speedy reply!!!!!   <You bet!> This morning when we checked in on him.. the one side has gone down completely and the other side is much smaller but now , no other way to explain it.... but it looks like a huge zit with a white head... half an inch long by 1/8 of an inch wide... <Hmm.  That doesn't sound good.  possibly an injury, perhaps infection....> it definitely looks better than last night at 9:00pm.... <That's certainly a good sign!!> as for producing feces.. I am not sure... <Sounds like he passed the most of it.  Still, do try to feed foods with a high roughage content for a few days.> Mercury is about 7 inches long now... and has been doing wonderful until last night... he gets along great with our other clown knife Neptune, who is about 12 inches.... we also have a convict, a scat, an iridescent shark, and a Plecostomus...all live happily together.... <You seem to have a taste for the very, very large....  Ultimately, hope you've got a really big tank!  ;)  > He still isn't eating... but as I said.... I think that he looks much better.... <Good.> Again, thank you SOOOO VERY MUCH for the speedy reply... this is a site that I will keep handy in the future!!! <Excellent.  Pass it along to all your fish friends, too!> Oh, I almost forgot... I do have aquarium salt in the tank... but will add Epsom salt if you still think that will help! <I do think it would help, perhaps, especially if Mercury is still a little bloated.  Also, please keep a *close* watch on that strange mark - if it's an infection of some sort, you'll want to quarantine and treat with an antibiotic.  Hope all goes well, and glad to be of service!  -Sabrina> Heather O

Feeding a Clown Knife Hello guy's I just have a little question to ask. I have a clown knife. it's probably six or seven months old (guessing). He has been eating Rosie's and small gold fish on a regular basis. He can eat about two dozen in a couple of days. My question is this, would it hurt him to eat earthworms? He's only had two, but he loves them. Gobbled one up before it hit the bottom of the tank. Just wanting to know so that I don't hurt him. >> No, earthworms are fine, he will likely eat some frozen foods also, try him on frozen Krill, smelts or Mysis! Good Luck, Oliver

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