Care Guide for Hatchetfish – Oddball Schooling Fish with Wings
Most freshwater fish like to hang out in the lower two-thirds of the aquarium, so it can be hard to fill in the upper third with some activity. The hatchetfish is your answer. The top-dwelling, nano fish is unique in its appearance. There are large schools of them swimming just below the water surface. They do have special care requirements, so let’s take an in-depth look at this oddball.
What are Hatchetfish?
The freshwater hatchetfish are part of the Gasteropelecidae Family and are distantly related with tetras. They are common in South and Central America. They have a hatchet-shaped body with pectoral fins that extend from the body like bird wings. The hatchetfish’s strong pectoral muscles allow them to leap several inches above the water and escape predators quickly.
What are the different types of hatchet fish? Several species are sold at local fish stores, but their availability may be seasonal. They are usually between 1 and 2.5 inches (2.5-6 cm long), so we have listed them in approximate order from smallest to largest.
– Pygmy hatchetfish, Carnegiella myersi – Blackwing hatchetfish, (Carnegiella marsthae). – Marbled hatchetfish, (Carnegiella strigata). – Silver hatchetfish(Gasteropelecus lavis)- Spotted hatchetfishes (Gasteropelecus makulatus)- – Platinum or spotfin hatchetfishes (Thoracocharaxtellatus).
Marbled hatchetfish (Carnegiella strigata)
Although some species, like the common hatchetfish can be kept in tanks or cages, many hatchetfishes were caught wild. The hatchetfish may have been transported from the wholesaler to the store without proper nutrition, which can make them more vulnerable to diseases. Before you make a purchase, check with the fish store to see how long the hatchetfish have been in their possession.
We recommend that hatchetfish be quarantined, fed high-quality food, and treated with the three quarantine medications. Hatchetfish are prone to ich or white spot disease, which is easily cured with Aquarium Solutions Ich-X. Wild-caught fish can also be affected by internal parasites such as tapeworms. To eliminate these parasites, treat them with Fritz ParaCleanse, and then again two weeks later.
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Hatchetfish
Because they live in areas that experience flooding and rainy seasons every year, the pH, GH and other parameters of water can be varied for Hatchetfish. They are tropical animals that thrive in temperatures between 75-80degF (24-27degC). A schooling fish needs to be with at least 6-12 fish from the same species. A school of fish will make them feel more secure and allow them to display their natural behavior. For example, our CEO Cory McElroy once owned a group of 30 silver hatchetfish, and when they changed directions at the same time, he would see a bright flash of light as their scales reflected like little mirrors.
A school of hatchetfish in a blackwater aquarium
Hatchetfish are not super active, so you can keep them in a 20-gallon aquarium or larger. The tank should have a tight fitting lid or hood. They will jump out of any narrow slot they find. You should cover any openings that lead to the heater, filter, or automatic fish feeder with craft mesh.
What fish can live with hatchet fish? Avoid keeping hatchetfish with other fish that are aggressive, large enough to eat them, or fast-swimming and able to outcompete them for food. They are most comfortable with tank mates of similar size and peace, such corydoras catsfish or tetras. South American dwarfs cichlids such as Apistogramma cichlids and German blue Rams are great because they take up the lower part of the tank while hatchetfish stay higher.
What Do Hatchetfish Eat?
Fishkeepers face a problem with hatchetfish as they grow larger. They need to feed them properly because hatchetfish prefer to eat on the surface of the water and don’t like to swim down for sinking food. They feed on insects and zooplankton in the wild using their small, upward-facing teeth. To ensure that the food doesn’t sink too quickly, you should give them tiny foods that float. Good floating foods include high-quality flakes, floating pellets, freeze-dried foods, and live baby brine shrimp that tend to swim toward the aquarium light.
Platinum hatchetfish (Thoracocharax stellatus)
We hope that you enjoy the hatchetfish’s unusual appearance and behavior. For more ideas on other surface dwellers to try, check out our article on the 10 Best Top-Dwelling Fish for Your Aquarium.