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Beckford's Pencilfish

Beckford's Pencilfish Nannostomus beckfordi

The Beckford's Pencilfish originated in shallow creeks of the Amazon basin and is a good choice for a community tank. It is also know as the Golden Pencilfish. It has a dark horizontal band through the mid-line from its head to its tail, similar to a pencil lead contained in old-fashioned wood pencils. Unlike most characins, the Beckford's Pencilfish lacks an adipose fin (the very small fin just in front of the beginning of the tail fin).

The aquarium for a pencilfish should be well planted and quite dark from the plant cover. Feathery, bushy plants that also cover the surface area of the tank are best. Leave a small area at the top open for feeding. The water should be soft and acidic. Filtering the water through peat or adding Blackwater Extract can help create the proper water amber colored water conditions. Blackwater conditions refers to the soft dark water created by the accumulation of decaying leaves in slow moving and still waters of the Amazon basin. Beckford's Pencilfish eat small flake foods, freeze dried bloodworms and live or frozen brine shrimp.

Females are larger and broader than the males. The males also have white tips on their pectoral fins and more pronounced red color on the anal fin and the base of the tail. The red can extend in a line along the lower body in some specimens. Beckford's Pencilfish are a schooling fish and should be kept in groups of about 6 to 10. Males can be territorial over space and females, but do not usually injure other males in a manner that more aggressive species like cichlids do. The Beckford's Pencilfish is livelier than other pencilfish and better suited to community tanks.  Suitable tank mates include other small peaceful Amazon species such as cardinals and neon tetras. Exotic plecos, though larger, are also suitable tank mates. Discus are also possible tank mates as well.

Beckford's Pencilfish Nannostomus beckfordi

Beckford's pencilfish breed in conditions typical of other species living in blackwater conditions. Low light levels are typical and they usual breed at dawn. Covering the tank and then removing the covering at first light can help. Use a small tank with many fine leaved plants or Java moss. The water should be soft (dH 2), acidic (pH 5) and have warm temperatures of 82-86 F (28-30 C). The parents should be removed after breeding, as they enjoy eating their own eggs. Alternately, use suction to remove the eggs. The eggs will hatch within a day or two and the fry will be swimming about in less than a week. They should be fed small powdered foods and live artemia (small brine shrimp). Water changes will help the fry grow quickly. They will start to show coloring in about a month.

Beckford's Pencilfish - Profile

  • Scientific Name: Nannostomus beckfordi

  • Family: Characin

  • Temperature: 24 - 26 C; 75 - 79 F

  • pH: 6.0 - 8.0

  • Size: 6 cm; 2.5 inches

  • Life Span: 5 years

  • Breeding: Normal, Egg Layer

Beckford's Pencilfish - Compatibility

Beckford's Pencilfish are compatible with smaller slower moving tetras, discus, exotic plecos.