Clown Knifefish (Chitala Ornata)
Clown Knifefish, also known as Spotted Knifefish, are captivating, large freshwater fish known for their elongated, knife-like bodies and striking appearance. They display a silver-gray base color adorned with a series of black, circular spots running along their body. These fish are typically nocturnal, shy, and may be territorial with their own kind and other similar species.
Clown Knifefish care is considered intermediate to expert, as they require a large, well-maintained tank, specific tank conditions, and a carefully planned diet.
Clown Knifefish can grow up to 24 inches in size, and due to their large size and temperament, they are best kept singly. They are compatible with large, peaceful to semi-aggressive tank mates that are not small enough to be considered prey.
Clown Knifefish has a generally peaceful disposition but can exhibit territorial behavior towards their own kind and other knifefish species. Due to this, keeping only one Clown Knifefish per tank is recommended, and avoiding housing with other knifefish types. They are compatible with peaceful to semi-aggressive tank mates that are large enough not to be considered prey.
Suitable companions for Clown Knifefish should have a similar temperament and be sizable enough not to be viewed as food; fitting tankmates might include Angelfish, Eartheaters, large Gouramis, large Tetras, large Rainbowfish, African Butterfly Fish, and Synodontis Catfish. Avoid keeping Clown Knifefish with aggressive or highly active species, and do not house them with snails or shrimp, as they may prey on them.
Being carnivorous, their diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, and insects. They prefer live or frozen foods but may also accept high-quality sinking pellets if properly acclimated.
Their ideal tank habitat should resemble their natural environment, with plenty of hiding spots, such as caves, driftwood, and dense vegetation. A dimly lit tank with a sandy substrate is recommended. Strong water filtration and moderate water flow are essential for their well-being.
Clown Knifefish primarily resides in the middle or near the bottom of the tank, although they may occasionally venture to the surface to gulp air or catch a meal. These fish can grow to an impressive size even in a home aquarium. A 55-gallon tank can suffice until they reach around 10 inches, but for long-term housing, a tank of 200 gallons or more is necessary, with larger being preferable. Employ a high-quality filter and maintain a moderate water current.
Knifefish do not have scales, making them susceptible to injuries and infections. Integrating a UV sterilizer into your tank is advisable, as these fish are highly sensitive to medications, and the sterilizer can eliminate many diseases.
In their natural habitat, Clown Knifefish inhabit slow-moving rivers and lakes across various parts of Asia, so they thrive in tanks mimicking this environment. Due to their nocturnal behavior, knifefish should have a variety of shady hiding spots during the day, such as wide PVC pipes, horizontally positioned flowerpots, secure rocky caves or overhangs, and large driftwood clusters. Without such hiding spots, they may become stressed and attempt to squeeze into any dark space available, potentially causing injury to themselves.
As nocturnal fish, Clown Knifefish are sensitive to intense light, so the aquarium lighting should not be too bright. If some parts of the tank need bright lighting, use broad-leaved aquatic plants and floating species to help diffuse the light. Including dark areas in the tank where the fish can retreat during the day as needed is crucial.
Proper filtration, moderate water flow, oxygenation levels, and a consistent maintenance routine that incorporates regular partial water changes are vital for the Clown Knifefish, as it is sensitive to high nitrate levels and sudden changes in water chemistry.
The minimum aquarium size is 80 gallons for juveniles, with an ideal community tank size of 250 gallons or more when fully grown. Maintain a pH of 6.0-7.5, a hardness between 5-12 dGH, and a temperature range of 75-86°F (24-30°C).
Clown Knifefish, like many other fish species, have the potential to jump out of the aquarium if given the opportunity. To minimize this risk, it is essential to have a well-fitted and secure lid or cover on the tank. This will prevent the fish from jumping out and help maintain the tank's water quality by reducing evaporation and limiting the introduction of foreign contaminants.
To learn more about this fish, be sure to check out the Additional Information tab.