for Your New Clown Knife Fish
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Name Origin: “Noto” means back. “Pterus” means feather. Also called feather backs, the clown knife fishes keep their feather-back name in Latin. The “clown” part comes from their usually circular dot pattern. The dots increase with age (and size).
Water Conditions: Although they come from soft acid water originally, clowns adapt to most water conditions. Just keep their water clean -- not always easy as they eat huge amounts.
Appeal: Some aquarists like clown knife fish for their unusual shape and swimming practices. They even swim backwards. Others like them for their huge appetites.
Size: In aquariums, you rarely see clown knife fish larger than 18 inches. They grow double that size in the wild (where they get more room and food).
Jumpers: Yes, they jump. Keep them well covered. Put weights on top of the lids of the big ones. Otherwise, they’ll knock their lids off. One key jumping time – when you turn on their lights. A cover of floating plants helps a lot. It discourages jumping and reduces the light. Clown knife fish prefer darker tanks. They cruise in the twilight times.
Schoolers: Clown knife fish school when small. Larger ones get territorial and start whomping on other knife fish. They get along fairly well with other larger fishes. If picked on, they pick back – especially at night.
Breeding: Forget it.
Foods: Unless you can provide live foods at first, don’t start with these guys. Guppies, goldfish, and California blackworms work best at first. Clown knife fish convert to plankton and krill as they grow older. Try different foods because they do adapt to a variety of victuals.
Gravel Choice: Darker gravels help keep their tank lighting subdued.
Tank Mates: You can mix clown knife fish with equal-sized non-violent American cichlids. If you mix them with territorial cichlids, expect lots of fights. Actually, we’ve had these guys beat up much larger oscars. They whup ’em at night, when the lights go off. We had one gentleman tell us his arowanas kept dying. Seems he kept putting his new arowanas in with his big clown knife. Not a fair fight.
Plants: Add some grassy plants such as Vallisneria or Sagittarius to make them feel more at home. Even plastic plants help. Clown knife fish leave your plants and gravel alone – unlike most other large fishes.
Hiding Places: Give them some caves to hide in. They want to stay out of the light during the day. At the very least, toss in some pieces of PVC pipe. Clown knife fish need these hideouts the most when they’re small.
Eyeballs: When you look at their eyeballs (which turn white with age), they look blind. Relax. They’re not blind. Drop a goldfish near them and you’ll see them prove it. Clown knife fish can even find food in the dark.
Disease: When using any medications, use them carefully. The clowns’ sensitive skin makes them susceptible to the dye treatments.
Filtration: Clown knife fish like clean water. Do not overfeed. Add snails to clean up the excess. Change their water weekly or more often.
Last Word. Remember that these guys grow large. LA
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