Clown Knifefish (Chitala chitala)

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Clown Knifefish

Clown Knifefish

Chitala chitala

946 Litres (250 US G.)

115-122 cm (45.3-48")




6.0 - 7.5

24 -28 °C (75.2-82.4°F)

5-10 °d

1:1 M:F

Live Foods
Other (See article)

8-15 years



Additional names

Clown Knifefish

Additional scientific names

Notopterus chitala, Chitala ornata


Asia: Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra and Mahanadi river basins in India.


It is difficult to visually sex this fish. However, they have been bred in captivity, but mainly in Thailand where they are considered food fish. They lay their eggs between May and July and the male looks after both eggs and brood. In order to breed them they would have to be an exceptionally large tank that replicates their wild environment.

Tank compatibility[edit]

A highly aggressive and predatory fish that should not be kept with smaller fish, can only be kept with similar sized robust fish in a very large tank. It can only be kept with other Clown Knife's in groups of 3 or more.


A carnivorous fish and prefer a high-protein diet, often only accepting live food when young including bloodworm and small fish. They can gradually be weaned onto other foods such as chopped mussel, cockle, shrimp and whitebait. As they grow they will accept larger foods such as prawn, earthworms, sprats and cod.

Feeding regime[edit]

When these fish are under 15.2cm (6") they are best fed twice a day, but once they get over 30.5cm (12") they are best only fed two or three good meals a week.

Environment specifics[edit]

These fish are large and need a tank to match with ample room to turn around. They prefer subdued lighting and a gentle current. They need excellent filtration, however, as they can be messy fish. They prefer soft water with a neutral pH.


A nocturnal predatory fish with a surprisingly large mouth. May be territorial, but has been kept in groups in captivity, so long as enormous aquariums are provided.


A large and distinctive looking fish. It has the typical Knifefish shape, a high humped back and low-set head with the anal and caudal fins joining each other in an eel-like fashion. The body is deep blue-silver with several large black blotches down the flanks.


External links[edit]