Care Guide for Pencilfish – Surface-Dwelling Schooling Fish
The pencilfish is such an interesting surface dweller that everyone should keep at least once. They are hardy, active fish with pointed noses and pencil-like bodies. These fish have distinct behaviors and are not like other schooling fish. The amazing world of pencilfish is a great option if you are looking for a nano fish to add to your community tank.
What are Pencilfish, you ask?
These distant relatives of Tetra are from Nannostomus genus. They can also be found in many countries throughout South America. Many species are available in the aquarium hobby, such as:
– The hockeystick, diptail, and brown pencilfish are called N. eques. – Beckford’s pencilfish is also known as N. beckfordi. – Both the red and gold versions of the pencilfish include Coral red or red arc (N. mortenthaleri), – Dwarf penguinfish (N. margaratus), Dwarf pencilfish, (N. rubrocaudatus), One-lined pencilfish, (N.trifasciatus), -lined fish (N.
While most pencilfish swim horizontally like normal fish, some like the diptail pencilfish have the amazing ability to swim diagonally at a 45-degree angle. At least six pencilfish should be purchased from the same species, as they are schooling fish. To lessen aggression, coral red and purple pencilfish can be aggressive towards one another. We recommend that you buy at least 8-10 with a ratio of 1 male to 2 females. You will need to save money if you want to buy a bigger school. Prices can range from $3-25 depending on species.
Hockeystick or brown pencilfish (Nannostomus species eques).
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Pencilfish
Pencil fish can fit in a 10-gallon aquarium, but we personally like a 20-gallon high or 29-gallon tank for them. These taller aquariums are great for displaying fish that swim at different layers, so you can get top-dwelling pencilfish, midwater fish, and bottom dwellers. However, Beckford’s and coral red pencilfish swim in the middle of the water so be aware. Most pencilfish sold at fish stores are wild-caught and prefer tropical temperatures from 75-80degF (24-27degC) and pH from 6.5-7.5. If necessary, you can add catappa leaves to gently acidify the water.
While pencilfish are not notorious escapers like killifish, they may jump if startled, so make sure to get a tight-fitting aquarium lid. Plus, the ornery species (e.g., coral red and purple pencilfish) need lots of live plants and tall decorations to block line of sight and minimize territorial disputes.
Coral Red Pencilfish (Nannostomus Mortenthaleri).
What fish can live with pencilfish? Pencilfish do well with similar-sized, peaceful fish in a community aquarium. Corydoras and tetras are common tank mates. They are also good dither fish, which can make shyer species feel more comfortable, and help them hide less. Hobbyists love to pair them up with dwarf cichlids such as apistogrammas. Some people keep them with betta fish. However, it is possible to have them separated if they become aggressive. Because pencilfish have been known to predate upon crystal and cherry shrimp, they are not recommended.
What do Pencilfish Eat?
Providing lots of high-quality foods is the key to keeping your pencilfish healthy. Their small, pointed mouths make it difficult for them to eat small foods that sink quickly or float. To keep food buoyant for longer, avoid fast flow near water surfaces. Our favorite foods to feed include baby brine shrimp, cyclops, daphnia, crushed flakes, and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food.
Three-lined pencilfish (Nannostomus trifasciatus)
How to Breed Pencilfish
It is not always easy to breed all species, but hobbyists have been able to successfully breed Beckford’s pencilfish. You will need a 10-gallon aquarium with a soft pH, warmer temperature at 80degF (27degC), a sponge filter and dim lighting. To ensure that you have at least one male or one female, gather at least six people. To hide eggs from their parents, add lots of javamoss and dense foliage to the mix. Feed them well, and soon you should see spawning behavior where the male pokes the female’s belly to encourage her to release her eggs. At this point, you can either move the eggs to a specimen container with an air stone or remove the parents from the breeding tank.
Eggs can hatch in as little as a day depending on the temperature of the water. The fry will become free-swimming within 4-6 days. Feed them powdered fry food, green water, infusoria, vinegar eels, micro worms, and newly hatched baby brine shrimp. You must ensure that your water is clean and free from any contaminants.
Male & female Beckford’s pencilfish (Nannostomus beckfordi red’)
Pencilfish can be kept easily, are good in community tanks and look great against a background of aquatic plant. We hope you enjoy them as much we do. For more options to occupy the top half of your aquarium, check out our article on the 10 Best Top-Dwelling Fish for Your Aquarium.