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Golden Pencilfish (Nannostomus beckfordi)

Golden Pencilfish, scientifically known as Nannostomus beckfordi, is a small and vibrant freshwater fish that brings a splash of color and activity to any aquarium. Native to the waterways of South America, this species is admired for its unique coloring and peaceful nature, making it a popular choice for both novice and experienced aquarists.

Golden Pencilfish Facts

Fact Category Details
Scientific Name Nannostomus beckfordi
Common Names Golden Pencilfish, Beckford’s Pencilfish, Golden Pencil Tetra
Origin South American waterways
Adult Size 1.5 – 2 inches (3.8 – 5.1 cm)
Lifespan Up to 5 years
Coloration Golden-yellow with a horizontal black stripe
Tank Size Minimum 20 gallons
Water Temperature 70-80°F (21-27°C)
pH Level 6.0 – 7.5
Diet Flake food, brine shrimp, daphnia, micro-worms
Compatibility Peaceful; best with small, non-aggressive fish
Breeding Egg scatterer, prefers acidic water for spawning

Golden Pencilfish Profile

The Golden Pencilfish typically reaches a size of about 1.5 to 2 inches in length. They are known for their elongated bodies and unique swimming behavior, often seen swimming at an angle. Their lifespan in a well-maintained aquarium can be up to 5 years, offering a long-term companionship for their owners.

Golden Pencilfish Coloring

One of the most striking features of the Golden Pencil fish is its vibrant coloration. They display a golden-yellow hue, accented with a horizontal black stripe that runs along the length of their body. During mating or when in good health, the colors become more pronounced, adding to their appeal.

Golden Pencilfish Habitat

Golden Pencilfish are native to the slow-moving, freshwater streams and tributaries of the Amazon River Basin in South America. They thrive in densely vegetated waters with plenty of hiding spaces. The water in their natural habitat is typically soft and acidic, with a rich presence of leaf litter and subdued lighting, creating a serene and shaded environment for these small, vibrant fish.

Golden Pencilfish Aquarium Setup

Creating an ideal environment for Beckford’s pencilfish is essential for their health and wellbeing. This section outlines the key aspects of setting up a suitable aquarium for these delicate fish.

  • Tank Size and Water Conditions

The recommended minimum tank size for Golden Pencilfish is 20 gallons. This provides ample space for swimming and exhibiting natural behaviors. The water temperature should be consistently maintained between 70-80°F (21-27°C), with a pH level ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. Regular water changes are crucial to keep the parameters stable and the environment clean.

  • Substrate and Decoration

A soft, sandy substrate is ideal for Beckford’s red pencilfish, as it closely resembles their natural habitat. Adding driftwood, rocks, and a variety of live plants not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of the tank but also provides hiding places and reduces stress for the fish. Plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and small-leafed species are excellent choices.

  • Lighting and Filtration

Moderate lighting is recommended to mimic their natural environment and to promote plant growth. Avoid overly bright lights, as red beckford pencilfish prefer a somewhat subdued environment. Filtration is important to maintain water quality, but the current should be gentle to prevent stressing the fish. A sponge filter or a hang-on-back filter with adjustable flow can be a good choice.

  • Water Movement and Oxygenation

While Golden Pencil Tetra thrive in water with some movement, strong currents should be avoided. Gentle water circulation helps in evenly distributing heat and oxygen throughout the tank. An air pump or an air stone can be used to ensure adequate oxygenation, especially important in densely planted or heavily stocked tanks.

  • Temperature and Humidity Control

Stable temperature is vital for the health of Golden Pencilfish. An aquarium heater with a thermostat will help maintain the correct temperature. It’s also important to monitor the humidity level in the room where the tank is placed, as extreme variations can affect the water conditions inside the aquarium.

  • Maintenance and Care

Regular maintenance is key to keeping the aquarium a healthy environment. This includes checking the water parameters, cleaning the substrate, trimming plants, and inspecting the equipment. Weekly water changes of about 10-15% are recommended to remove waste and replenish essential minerals.

Golden Pencilfish Breeding

Breeding Golden Pencilfish can be a fascinating and rewarding experience for aquarists. This section covers the key aspects of creating a conducive breeding environment and understanding their spawning process.

Breeding Environment

To encourage breeding, Beckford’s pencilfish require a specific set-up. A separate breeding tank of at least 10 gallons is recommended. The water should be soft and slightly acidic with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, and a temperature slightly higher than their regular habitat, around 77-79°F (25-26°C). Dim lighting and plenty of fine-leaved plants or spawning mops will provide the necessary cover for egg laying. A sponge filter is preferred in the breeding tank to prevent fry from being sucked into the filtration system.

Spawning Process

Golden Pencil Tetra are egg scatterers, meaning they lay their eggs among plants and other substrates. The female scatters a small number of eggs daily over a period of several days, often early in the morning. These eggs are adhesive and will stick to the leaves of plants or spawning mops. After spawning, it’s crucial to remove the adult fish to a different tank to prevent them from eating the eggs. The eggs typically hatch within 24 to 36 hours.

Post-Spawning Care

Once hatched, the fry are quite small and require infusoria or other micro-foods initially. After a few days, they can be fed with newly hatched brine shrimp or commercially available fry foods. The breeding tank should be kept clean with regular, gentle water changes to maintain optimal water quality. It’s important to monitor the fry’s growth and health closely during this period.

Golden Pencilfish Diet & Feeding

Their diet in the wild consists mainly of small insects and larvae. In captivity, they thrive on a varied diet of high-quality flake food, brine shrimp, daphnia, and micro-worms. Feeding should be done in small amounts twice a day to maintain optimal health and coloration.

Golden Pencil fish Compatibility

Golden Pencilfish are generally peaceful and do well in community tanks. They are best paired with other small, peaceful fish. It is important to avoid housing them with larger, aggressive fish that may see them as prey. Ideal tank mates include other species of pencilfish, small tetras, guppies, endlers, rasboras, and dwarf corydoras.

Golden Pencilfish Common Diseases

Beckford’s Red pencilfish, like many aquarium fish, are susceptible to common aquatic diseases. The most prevalent include Ichthyophthirius (Ich), a parasitic infection manifesting as white spots on the body and fins, and bacterial infections causing fin rot and ulcers. Maintaining clean water conditions and a stress-free environment is crucial for preventing these diseases.


In summary, the Golden Pencilfish is a delightful addition to any freshwater aquarium. Their unique behavior, striking coloration, and peaceful nature make them a joy to observe. With proper care, a well-set-up tank, and compatible tank mates, they can thrive and bring life to your aquatic world.