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Silver Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla)

Renowned for their unique body shape and peaceful nature, Silver Hatchetfish are a popular choice among freshwater aquarium enthusiasts. This article provides an in-depth look at these fascinating fish, covering everything from their profile to their dietary needs.

Silver Hatchetfish Facts

Fact Detail
Scientific Name Gasteropelecus sternicla
Common Names Silver Hatchetfish, common hatchetfish, river hatchetfish
Habitat Amazon Basin, South America
Body Shape Hatchet-shaped
Preferred Water Layer Surface
Size Up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm)
Diet Insects and small crustaceans
Water Conditions Slightly acidic, soft water
pH 6.0 – 7.0
Temperature 74-83°F (23-28°C)
Minimum Tank Size 20 Gallons
Unique Feature Ability to leap out of water to catch prey

Silver Hatchetfish Profile

The Silver Hatchetfish, scientifically known as Gasteropelecus sternicla, is a small freshwater fish native to South America. They are most notable for their distinct, hatchet-shaped body which allows them to glide through the water with ease.

  • Size: Typically reach up to 2.5 inches in length.
  • Lifespan: Can live up to 5 years with proper care.
  • Habitat: Prefer calm waters with plenty of floating vegetation.

Silver Hatchetfish Coloring

The Silver Hatchetfish exhibits a striking silver coloration that beautifully reflects light. This shiny appearance makes them a dazzling addition to any aquarium.

  • Body: A metallic silver hue covers most of their body.
  • Fins: Transparent fins with a slight silver tint.

Silver Hatchetfish Habitat

Silver Hatchetfish inhabit the calm, freshwater rivers and floodplain areas of the Amazon Basin in South America. They thrive in slightly acidic, soft water with dense vegetation. These fish prefer the upper layers of water, often staying near the surface under overhanging vegetation or floating plants. Their unique body shape, resembling a hatchet, is well-adapted for quick surface movements in these densely planted environments.

Silver Hatchetfish Aquarium Setup

Setting up the right aquarium for Silver Hatchetfish is essential for their health and well-being. This section delves into the specifics of tank size, water parameters, and decoration to create an ideal environment for these unique fish.

Tank Size and Type

Choosing the correct tank size and type is the first step in creating a suitable home for Silver Hatchetfish.

  • Minimum Tank Size: A 20-gallon tank is essential for a small group of Common Hatchetfish, providing enough space for swimming and surface activity.
  • Tank Shape: Longer tanks are preferable over taller ones as these fish are surface dwellers and enjoy horizontal swimming space.

Water Conditions

Maintaining the right water conditions is crucial for the health of Silver Hatchetfish.

  • Temperature: Keep the water temperature between 74-83°F (23-28°C).
  • pH Level: Aim for a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water is ideal.
  • Filtration: A gentle filter is necessary to maintain clean water without creating strong currents.

Lighting and Decoration

Proper lighting and decoration can replicate the Silver Hatchetfish’s natural habitat and reduce stress.

  • Lighting: Subdued lighting is recommended to mimic the dimly lit waters of their natural environment.
  • Plants: Floating plants like water sprite or duckweed provide shade and hiding places.
  • Substrate: A dark, fine-grained substrate can help to showcase the fish’s natural colors.
  • Decor: Driftwood and caves can provide additional hiding spots, although these fish predominantly stay near the water surface.

Community Tank Considerations

When adding Common Hatchetfish to a community tank, certain factors must be considered for a harmonious environment.

  • Compatibility: Ensure tankmates are peaceful and similar in size to avoid any aggression or stress.
  • Surface Dwelling: Since Silver Hatchetfish are surface dwellers, avoid overcrowding the surface area with other top-dwelling species.
  • Avoiding Jumpers: Keep the aquarium covered, as Silver Hatchetfish are known to jump, especially if startled or in poor tank conditions.

Silver Hatchetfish Breeding

Silver Hatchetfish, known for their unique, hatchet-shaped bodies, are a fascinating species to breed in home aquariums. Originating from South America’s Amazon Basin, these fish require specific conditions for successful breeding.

Breeding Environment

To replicate their natural habitat, a large, well-planted tank with dim lighting is ideal. The water should be soft and acidic, with a pH between 6.0 to 7.0, and a temperature range of 75 to 80°F (24 to 27°C). Floating plants are essential as they prefer to spawn near the water’s surface.

Spawning Process

Silver Hatchetfish are egg scatterers. The breeding pair, once established, will exhibit a unique spawning dance near the water’s surface. During this dance, the female releases eggs which are simultaneously fertilized by the male. These eggs will adhere to the underside of floating plants or the water’s surface.

Post-spawning, it’s crucial to remove the adults as they might consume the eggs. The eggs typically hatch within 36 hours, and the fry are free-swimming a few days later. Initial feeding should be with infusoria or specially formulated fry food, gradually transitioning to brine shrimp nauplii as they grow.

Silver Hatchetfish Diet & Feeding

A balanced diet is essential for the health of River Hatchetfish. They are omnivores and accept a variety of foods. Hatchetfish is a greedy eater.

  • Basic Diet: High-quality flake or pellet food as a staple.
  • Supplementary Foods: Offer live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or daphnia for variety.
  • Feeding Frequency: Feed small amounts 2-3 times a day.

Silver Hatchetfish Compatibility

Silver Hatchetfish are peaceful and do well in a community tank, but their tankmates should be chosen carefully.

  • Good Tankmates: Small, peaceful fish like tetras and guppies. Ideal tankmates include Black Widow Tetra, Rummy Nose Tetra, dwarf cichlids and corydoras.
  • Avoid: Large or aggressive fish that may bully or eat them.
  • Schooling: They prefer to be in groups of at least 6-8 individuals for comfort and security.

Silver Hatchetfish Common Diseases

Common Hatchetfish are susceptible to common freshwater fish diseases, notably Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, commonly known as Ich or white spot disease. This manifests as small, white cysts on the skin, fins, and gills. They are also prone to fungal infections, evident through cotton-like growths on the body or fins. Poor water quality often exacerbates these conditions. Regular tank maintenance, proper filtration, and prompt isolation of affected fish are crucial for prevention and management of these diseases.


The Silver Hatchetfish is a fascinating and beautiful species that can make a wonderful addition to a well-maintained aquarium. By understanding their needs and behavior, aquarists can enjoy the unique presence of these stunning fish in their aquatic community.