Your New African Black Knife Fish
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African Black Knife Fish Factoids

Origin

Liberia and the Nile basin

Maximum Size

12’’ but 8’’ more typical

Longevity

10 years

Housing

Bigger the better

Security

Likes tunnels, caves, pipe

Temperature

Prefers 75 to 82o

Attitude

Nocturnal at first.  Good eater.

Foods

Loves live foods.  Will eat flakes and pellets.

Water

Needs clean water


LA Pic
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.

LA Pic
African knife fish usually find some secure nook to use as their base of operations.

Nocturnal (sort of):  Most knife fishes use their weak electric currents to navigate in murky waters and at night.  Ditto these guys.  However, African black knife fish very rapidly adjust to your daytime schedule.  If you feed them during the day, they come out during the day.  After eating, they like to return to the security of their “lair.”  They rarely cruise for the heck of it during the daylight hours.

 

LA Pic
Semi-dark (watersprite covered) tanks suit African knife fish well.

Water Conditions:  Although they came from soft acid water originally, African black knives adapt to most water conditions.  Just keep their water clean. 

LA Pic
Not black over this white gravel.  Don't put your knife fish over black gravel either.

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.

LA Pic
Six African knife fish share this wooden hidey-hole.

Schoolers:  African black knife fish school together.  They get along with their own species – unlike most knife fishes.  They get along fairly well with other larger fishes.  They love smaller fishes like tetras.  Keep them away from “bite-size” tank mates.

Breeding:  African black knife fishes do not breed in captivity.

LA Pic
The knife fish eats the same flakes as the goldfish.  Joke's on both of them.  They're cichlid flakes.

Foods:   Most knife fishes stay on the picky eater list.  African black knife fishes eagerly eat flake foods after a week or so.  They seem to adapt quicker when kept in groups.  They eat better when they compete and interact with each other -- like middle school kids.

LA Pic
African black knife fish bleach out over white but do show up well.

Gravel Choice:  Darker gravels help keep their tank lighting subdued.  These guys usually bleach out over light colored gravels.

LA Pic
Put a few flakes in the water and all the African knife fish get into the act.

LA Pic
African knife fish plus albino bichir and tire track eel.

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. 

LA
Knife fish love their home base.  However, the fantails insist on sharing.

LA
Wood makes great caves and crannies for your knife fish.

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.

Filtration:  African black knives like clean water.   Do not overfeed.  Add   snails to clean up the excess. 

LA
Here's an ossa knife fish for a little contrast. 

LA
Not sure where they get that "nigri" black in their Latin name. 

LA
Just a bit shy during the day.

LA
But hunger will often bring them out to explore.

LA
This guy came right out front.

Last Word:  If you hear strange clicking sounds coming from your aquarium at night, relax.  Your African black knife fish is working his night shift.  P.S. I’m starting to suspect that the African knife fish are definitely not as black as the black ghost knife fish from South America.  Let’s just call them grey African knife fish.  LA.

© 2003, © 2004, © 2006  LA Productions

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