Info from Aqualand Pets Plus on Xenomystus nigri
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Not a very black knife fish over light blue gravel.
Origins: Like most African fishes (except cichlids and killies), no fish farmers raise herds of these guys. We ship them all in from Africa – the Nile basin – at three to five inches long.
Nocturnal (sort of): Most
knife fishes use their weak electric currents to navigate in murky waters
and at night. Ditto these
guys. However, African
Water Conditions: Although
they came from soft acid water originally, African
Appeal: Most aquarists like them for their unusual shape and swimming practices. They even swim backwards. Others like them for their attractive black coloration. And, they cost much less than other knife fish.
Size: In aquariums, you rarely see specimens larger than eight inches. They grow 50% larger in the wild where they get more room (and food).
Jumpers: Not as bad at jumping as the larger clown knives from S.E. Asia, you still want to keep yours covered. A cover of floating plants helps a lot. It discourages jumping and reduces the light. African knife fish prefer dimmer tanks. They cruise in the twilight times.
Foods: Most knife
fishes stay on the picky eater list. African
Gravel Choice: Darker gravels help keep their tank lighting subdued. These guys usually bleach out over light colored gravels.
Tank Mates: You can mix them with equal-sized non-violent American cichlids. If you mix them with territorial cichlids, expect lots of fights. Gouramis, goldfish, and larger barbs also make good tank mates.
Plants: Add some grassy plants such as Vallisneria or Sagittarius to make them feel more at home. Even plastic plants help.
Hiding Places: Give your African knife fish some caves to hide in. They prefer to stay out of the light during the day. At the very least, toss in some pieces of PVC pipe. They need a hideout the most when they’re small. You can find clear plastic “ghost houses” for them or, better yet, use a chimney from an oil lamp.
Comments from Adrian Philp: “African knife fish need places to hide during the day, but you should be careful about extremely small holes because they sometimes try to wedge themselves in where they can’t fit. Mine, although he had plenty of hiding spots to choose from, wedged himself in a tiny hole in an ornament and I ended up having to pull him out. He ended up with a huge scar on his back the SECOND TIME he did it, and then I think he figured out there were better places to hide. Your website is awesome.”
Disease: When using any medications, use them carefully. The knife fishes’ sensitive skin makes them susceptible to most dye treatments.
If you hear strange clicking sounds coming from your aquarium at
night, relax. Your African
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