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Silver Hatchetfish: Complete Care Guide (Diet, Tank & More)

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Silver hatchetfish are a great fish to add to your freshwater community tank. They are overall peaceful little fish that stay small in size.

As with any fish, they do have a few needs to ensure that they are in the perfect habitat. Read on to learn more! 

Silver Hatchetfish Care Guide

Scientific NameGasteropelecus levis
Common NameSilver Hatchetfish, Common Hatchetfish
Size1.5 inches
Minimum Tank Size15 Gallons

Silver hatchetfish are very small and only grown to around an inch and a half in length. They are beautiful additions to any tank because they have a reflective silver coloring. They also have a peaceful, but shy demeanor making them great tank mates. 

Freshwater Hatchetfish Types, Appearance & Temperament


Hatchetfish are one of the most unique-looking freshwater fish. Hatchetfish received their name because of their very rounded enormous bellies.

This is what gives them an axe-head appearance. Silver hatchetfish are also named for their color, as it is reflective silver. This silver will manipulate the light that hits them.

Gasteropelecus levis

Their very pronounced chest has strong muscles, and their side fins are also elongated. This gives them the ability to fly out past the water’s surface.

They are the only aquarium fish that are able to perform this powered flight.  

Silver hatchetfish are fairly small and will only grow to 1.5 inches on average. Their bodies are covered with a reflective silver color. They may also have black or bronze stripes on their bodies.  

Temperament and Behavior

Silver hatchetfish are shy and will often look for a place to hide. In the wild, they will hide amongst the roots of floating plants. They can easily be stressed with very active tank mates without a place to hide.

Silver hatchetfish are peaceful fish that would do well in a community tank with suitable tank mates. 

Common Hatchetfish

Silver hatchetfish, Gasteropelecus levis, are often mistaken for the common hatchetfish, Gasteropelecus sternicla.

Although they may appear very similar, their behaviors and their sizes are what separate them. Common hatchetfish are much larger than silver hatchetfish.

The silver hatchetfish will only reach about 1.5 inches and the common hatchetfish will grow to about 3.5 inches.

Common hatchetfish have certain behaviors that none of the other hatchet species present. Common hatchetfish are known for stalking their prey instead of pursuing the prey.

They are also known for out-competing tank mates during feeding time as they are always wanting more.

Marbled Hatchetfish

Marbled hatchetfish, Carnegiella strigata, are the most common hatchetfish in the aquarium hobby, even more common than the common hatchetfish.

The marbled hatchetfish will only grow to about 1.75 inches and they only have a lifespan of about two years.

Their bodies are covered with a black marbled pattern which is how they received their name. Along with their black marble they have bronze stripes as well.

This hatchet species is more active and will need plenty of space to swim around in. Marbled hatchetfish are also known as being the best jumpers out of the hatchetfish. 

As they can jump more than five feet forward or upwards.

Blackwing Hatchetfish

Blackwing hatchetfish, Carnegiella marthae, are smaller than the others as they will only grow to around 1.25 inches in length. 

They are also found in Colombia and Venezuela, living in slow waters that have lush vegetation. Because of this, they prefer plenty of floating plants providing more cover.

Although they are not as active as other hatchetfish they do require the same open space as the others for swimming. 

They tend to be timider and need plenty of places to hide as they are easily stressed. They are so easily stressed that they may become agitated by activity outside of the tank.  

This hatchetfish is also less likely to jump out of the tank compared to other hatchetfish.

Blackwing hatchetfish have black pectoral and back fins which is how they get their name. The bottom of the bodies are bright silver and will become a darker hue the higher up the body.


Silver hatchetfish typically live between 3-5 years. 

Diet and Feeding

Silver Hatchetfish

Silver hatchetfish are carnivores and in the wild, their diet is 90% insects. 

It is important to replicate this diet in captivity for them to be healthy and reduce their stress. Providing live or frozen foods will replicate this diet at home. 

Proteins can be live, frozen, or freeze-dried. Great choices for live food for silver hatchetfish are brine shrimp, daphnia, tubifex, fruit flies, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, blackworms, and bloodworms.

They will also eat flake food, ensuring they are high quality and protein.

During feeding times the filtration system should be off. This will prevent food from sinking too quickly. 

When feeding your silver hatchetfish, watch to ensure they are able to eat enough before it sinks to the bottom.

Common Hatchetfish

Common hatchetfish are carnivores that in the wild typically eat crustaceans and insects, including mosquito larvae and vinegar flies.

In captivity, they will eat either flake, live, or fresh food at the surface of the water.

In order to recreate their diet in captivity, variety is very important, alternating proteins such as pinhead crickets, blood worms, fruit flies, and brine shrimp.

Common hatchetfish should be fed smaller meals several times a day to avoid overfeeding.

It is a good idea to turn the filter system off during feeding times to prevent food from sinking to the bottom of the tank.

Marbled Hatchetfish

Marbled hatchetfish are carnivores in the wild; they will eat small insects such as vinegar flies and mosquitos.

In captivity, they will eat almost any small protein as long as it is near the surf of the water where they stay.

Marbled hatchetfish need a steady diet of meat proteins in order to receive all the nourishment they need to stay healthy and thrive. 

Fruit flies, tubifex, and bloodworms are great options for living off frozen food. They can also be fed protein flakes as well.

Blackwing Hatchetfish

Blackwing hatchetfish are carnivorous fish that love to eat insects. The diet that is recreated in captivity should be a protein diet that has plenty of variety. 

A combination of dried, live, and frozen foods should be given. 

Great options for live food for Blackwing hatchetfish are tubifex, crickets, fruit flies, daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms.

Aquarium Setup & Water Conditions

Silver Hatchetfish

Silver hatchetfish need a tank of at least 20 gallons, this will comfortably house a small group of 6.  

They are also very sensitive to ammonia, because of this they should be added only to an established tank with stable parameters.  

Water parameters for silver hatchetfish:

  • Water Temperatures: 74°F to 83°F
  • pH Levels: 5.8 to 6.9
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 12 dKH

Floating plants are important for silver hatchetfish tanks as they are very shy and live near the water surface. 

The floating plants will provide them plenty of space to hide and feel safe. 

Common Hatchetfish

Common hatchetfish need a clean tank that is kept at stable parameters to thrive. Similar to silver hatchetfish, common hatchetfish prefer plenty of floating plants to lay low. 

Floating plants are also best for common hatchetfish because they live mainly at the water surface.

Water parameters for common hatchetfish:

  • Water Temperature: 72°F to 79°F
  • pH Levels: 6 to 6.8
  • Water hardness: 2 to 14 dKH

Common hatchetfish should be placed in a tank no less than 15 gallons. They also do very well with moderate or normal lighting, so they do not need special lighting.

Marbled Hatchetfish

Marbled hatchetfish are very sensitive to changes in water conditions. Maintaining stable water parameters is very important. 

Water parameters for marbled hatchetfish:

  • Water Temperature: 74°F to 80°F
  • pH Levels: 5.6 to 6.5
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 12 dKH

Marbled hatchetfish require more open room in a tank to swim as well as eat.

A small school or marbled hatchetfish should be housed in at least 20 gallons, this will give them plenty of room to swim freely as well as about territorial issues. 

Blackwing Hatchetfish

Blackwing hatchetfish prefer darker substrates and low lights as this helps them feel safe and reduces stress levels. 

Plenty of floating plants are great to filter out harsher lights, as well as provide hiding places. Blackwing hatchetfish should have a tank size of no less than 15 gallons.

Water parameters for Blackwing hatchetfish:

  • Water Temperatures: 74°F to 83°F
  • pH Levels: 5.8 to 6.9
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 12 dKH

Hatchetfish Tank Mates

Silver Hatchetfish

Silver hatchetfish should be kept in a group of at least 6 others. They thrive in tanks that are dedicated solely to silver hatchetfish.

However, they can do well in a community tank with tank mates that are bottom dwellers. Silver hatchetfish spend the majority of their time in the upper levels of the tank.

Suitable tank mates for silver hatchetfish:

  • Cichlids
  • Tetras
  • Corydoras
  • Plecos
  • Loricariids

Common Hatchetfish

Common hatchetfish are preferred over the silver hatchetfish for a community tank mate.

This is because the common hatchetfish is not as shy and will not get as stressed by tank mates and sharing their space.

Tank mates for common hatchetfish should be peaceful, avoiding aggressive fish that may threaten the common hatchetfish by stealing their food. 

Suitable tank mates for common hatchetfish:

  • Dwarf Cichlids
  • Tetras
  • Snails
  • Shrimps
  • Loricariids
  • Crabs
  • Corydoras

Marbled Hatchetfish

Marbled hatchetfish are peaceful however they are more territorial than their cousin hatchetfish. 

To avoid territorial issues it is best to choose tank mates that will not occupy the upper water levels as the marbled hatchetfish do not like to share. 

Tank mates that are very active should also be avoided as the marbled hatchetfish will become stressed.

Suitable tank mates for marbled hatchetfish:

  • Shrimp
  • Snails
  • Corydoras
  • Dwarf Cichlids

Tank mates to avoid for marbled hatchetfish:

  • Other species of hatchetfish
  • Betta Fish
  • Tiger Barbs
  • Danios

Blackwing Hatchetfish

Blackwing hatchetfish are not as territorial as marbled hatchetfish and do better in a community tank.

They should be kept with peaceful tank mates as they can easily get stressed by aggressive or very active fish. They should also be kept in a group of at least six of their own kind.

Suitable tank mates for Blackwing hatchetfish:

  • Peaceful Characids
  • Callichthys Catfish
  • Loricariid Catfish

Hatchetfish Breeding

Unfortunately there is not a lot of confirmed information on Silver hatchetfish breeding. They are also very difficult to sex, but the females do become rounder as they fill with eggs.

What is known about silver hatchetfish breeding is that they deposit their eggs on plants, most often it would be near the surface of the water and typically on floating plants. 

Also temperature and natural light can affect their growth rate. Eggs that are exposed to natural sunlight hatch within a 24-hour period.

It is said that softer waters with a lower pH can encourage spawning, as well as a diet rich in insects.

However, due to the limited and sparse information, attempted breeding is not recommended for silver hatchetfish.

Origin & Distribution

Hatchetfish are native to the swamps and rivers of South and Central America. They can be found in pools, headwaters, and tributaries around the rivers and swamps. 

Silver hatchetfish are found in the Amazon basin. Some species of hatchetfish such as common hatchetfish are now captive-bred and tank-raised. 

However, most hatchetfish are wild-caught.

Because most hatchetfish are wild-caught and oftentimes arrive at fish stores underfed and have weakened immune systems leading them to be more likely to catch a disease. 

This is due to the long journey from being caught up until they arrive at the fish store.

It is always best to quarantine hatchetfish after purchase. During this quarantine, they should be fed high-quality foods and treated with quarantine medications if possible.

Hatchetfish are very prone to white spot disease as well as ich.


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