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  1. #1
    Red Devil

    Clown Knife Information

    Order: Osteoglossiformes
    Suborder: Notopteroidei
    Family: Notopteridae
    Genera: Chitala

    Scientific Name:
    Chitala Ornata

    Common Name:
    Clown Knife Fish, Featherback

    Southeast Asian...found in calm, large rivers and backwaters that are overgrown.
    Clown Knife Fish are very popular as food fish in their native land throughout Asia.

    Water Parameters:
    PH: 5.5 to 7.0
    dH Range: 2-10
    Temperature: 75F to 82F (24-28C)

    General Body Form and Characteristics:
    The Clown Knife Fish is nocturnal, although they do sometimes come out during the day. They are quite remarkable to watch when they swim, as they are just as comfortable swimming backwards as they are going forwards, and they are amazingly flexible. When changing direction, they can turn within their own body length and often seem as though they have no backbone. Although they are very high through the body, they are very narrow widthways. This makes it possible for them to fit through very slim spaces where most owners would think it was impossible for them to wriggle through.
    They tend to be quite shy and skittish fish which can be easily startled when surprised. Unlike their South American name sake, they have very good eye sight, which enables them to be highly skilled predators. They are ambush predators so while hunting, they like to approach small fish from behind, sneaking up very slowly, then pouncing and engulfing their prey whole in their enormous mouths. They can fit much larger fish that you would think into their mouths, so they cannot be considered safe in a community tank.
    They are very hardy fish once they reach a certain size, but can be sensitive to water conditions and some medications when they are smaller than 9 or 10". I have heard of many cases of young fish, 3 to 5", dying soon after they are purchased due to shock or unsuitable tank conditions.
    And last, but not least, Chitala species have air breathing organs. Coming from low oxygenated waters, they have developed the ability to breathe air from the surface. So it is not uncommon for these fish to come up for the occasional air gulping.

    When young, these fish are comfortable in groups, but as they mature, they much prefer to live singly. Adult specimens will not tolerate another Clown Knife or similar species in their tank, though, there has been success with raising young Clown Knives together to adulthood. They also cannot be kept with smaller fish of any kind, as anything small enough to fit in their mouth will be considered as food and they will often take a snap at larger fish, just on the off chance they may get a meal out of it. Clown Knives tolerate large tankmates quite well, often ignoring attempts by territorial cichlids to chase them off. This can sometimes lead to problems with injuries being inflicted, although the clown will usually retreat to its hiding place before any major conflict occurs.

    Tank Size and Aquarium Set Up:
    The first thing you need to think of when it comes to this fish is that it can reach an enormous size, even in the home aquarium. They are often offered for sale as small as 3", and a lot of fish stores seem to forget to mention to the prospective owner that this cute little wiggler can reach lengths of up to 36". They can be comfortable in a 55gal tank up to around 10", but then you will need a tank that is an absolute minimum of 180 to 240 gallons and bigger is always better.
    Due to their nocturnal nature, they need a place to hide during the day. A piece of pipe or a cave where they can get away from the light. Without this, they can become stressed very easily and will try to fit themselves into any dark space they can find, often causing damage to themselves. They do better with open swimming space, but they are adept as negotiating obstacles such as plants and piles of rock. In the wild, they inhabit slow moving rivers and lakes in many areas of Asia, and do well in tanks set up similar to this type of environment.
    They prefer a neutral pH and softer water, but larger fish can adapt to a higher pH and hard water.

    Clown Knife Fish can be extremely picky eaters. In their natural habitat, they are exclusive piscavores, and this can become a problem in the home aquarium. If you start young enough, they can be trained to eat pellets and some frozen foods, but this cannot be guaranteed, so a supply of healthy live feeder fish is usually required especially in the beginning when you bring them home from the LFS. This supply can consist of pretty much anything the fish can fit in its mouth, Goldfish, Buenos Aires Tetras, Neon Tetras, small Convicts, Guppys, etc. Some other foods that will sometimes be accepted are pieces of prawn, shellfish and some meaty foods such as beefheart, although animal proteins are not considered to be very healthy for them and should only be fed occasionally. Vary your Clown Knife's diet as soon as possible. Don't let your Knife get locked onto ONE food type. Mine loves Hikari Massivores, cooked jumbo Shrimp, and frozen Silversides.

    Growth Rate:
    Growth rate will vary depending on various factors-
    1) Tank Size
    2) Water Quality
    3) Diet
    In the wild, they have been recorded 36" and over. Usually in aquariums, they will obtain a decent size of 18" to 24". For the most parts, I've had pretty fast growth rate for these guys...growing at an inch per month.

    Generally silver, with a green tinge. The most striking feature are the circular markings along the middle area of the fish (ocellaris). The ollecari may increase in size and number as the fish grows. There are also Golden, Spotless, and Albino variations available.

    Because only young fish are kept and most never reach maturity, as far as I can find out they have not been breed in an aquarium. And there are no exterior differences between males and females.
    Breeding/Reproduction: Captive breeding is possible but this probably won't happen unless the fish are kept in a very large tank, in this case, that means 500 gallons or more. They are usually bred in ponds. The pair will usually lay their eggs on a flat rock with floating plants as cover. The male will aggressively guard them until they hatch in 6 or 7 days. The fry should be moved into a rearing tank and fed baby brine shrimp until they are large enough to take other foods.

    A monster of the hobby, the Clown Knife should not be purchased by the casual hobbyist. Reaching huge sizes few people can properly house them and fewer can help them thrive. With its elongated head, huge underslung jaw and humped back, it definitely is unique, beautiful monster type of a fish. Along with its odd looks, these fish have great personalities and are amazing to watch gliding around the tank at night It is also very popular because of its common availability, relatively low price, and variable pattern of large spots. It seems that no two are exactly alike. They may have no spots at all and sometimes you may find one with two rows of smaller spots going into very large spots.

    Other Similar Knife Species:
    Chitala Chitala: Rare and endangered...not likely to be readily available to the hobby, yet the scientific name is also used to describe the Clown Knife
    Chitala Blanci: Also known as the Royal Knife
    Chitala Lopis: Also known as the Giant Knife or Giant Mekong Knife
    Notopterus Notopterus: Also known as the Asian Featherfin, Asian Black Knife, or Bronze Knife

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  2. #2
    1 is the magic number Gr8KarmaSF's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    Quarantine Tank
    Thanks for the revamp and new write up Liz and Benz - Looks awesome!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by JD7.62
    I always pictured J as a skinny Asian middle aged guy with probably salt and peppered hair, typical school teacher type, not some tatted up dude that could almost kick my butt!

  3. #3
    Red Devil
    Quote Originally Posted by Cichla dude;3859119;
    Wow nice info and profile their Liz...
    Mind if I add my two clown knifes???
    thank you... Ben is a big part of this too.... ... you go right ahead...nice Knives

  4. #4
    Datnoid 808's Avatar
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    07-25-2014 1:25 PM
    Nice info, cant wait to get one to go in the 240.

  5. #5
    Red-Claw Crab mashedaz's Avatar
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    07-08-2013 3:12 PM
    Thanks very much for the info guys.its helped me learn alot about my knife.good work.

  6. #6
    Red Devil
    Quote Originally Posted by mashedaz;4006759;
    Thanks very much for the info guys.its helped me learn alot about my knife.good work.
    thanks glad it helped you

  7. #7
    Great Barracuda Experiment397's Avatar
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    05-03-2014 2:49 PM
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    one more thing is that they are very good jumpers, mine bailed a couple of times but survived each one.

  8. #8
    Red Devil
    Quote Originally Posted by Experiment397;4102002;
    one more thing is that they are very good jumpers, mine bailed a couple of times but survived each one.
    thanks for adding this info....

  9. #9
    Bluegill Smitty0044's Avatar
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    07-23-2012 12:21 PM


    Couldnt of put it any better love my clowns and bigger is better lol

  10. #10
    Red Devil
    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty0044;4343704;
    Couldnt of put it any better love my clowns and bigger is better lol
    i enjoyed when mine was a baby too.. thats when you bond... i had mine in a tank by himself the first year... boy did i spoil him...

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