Silver Hatchetfish Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

The Silver Hatchetfish is an interesting surface-feeding fish! As a beginner, you might find these unique and attractive fish quite intriguing. In this complete guide, we’ll walk you through every step necessary to maintain a healthy, thriving environment for your Silver Hatchetfish.

silver hatchetfish

Silver Hatchetfish Species Profile and Identification

The Silver Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla) is a small, unique, and fascinating freshwater fish, popularly known for its peculiar appearance and swimming style. Native to the waters of the Amazon Basin, it captivates aquarists with its specialized body adapted for top-level swimming.

  • Species: Gasteropelecus sternicla
  • Family: Gasteropelecidae
  • Habitat: Amazon Basin, South America
  • Size: Up to 2.5 inches (6.4 cm)
  • Temperament: Peaceful, schooling
  • Tank Level: Top-dweller
  • Lifespan: 5-6 years

One of the most distinctive features of the Silver Hatchetfish is its hatchet-like body shape. This peculiar shape, featuring significantly sized pectoral fins, helps propel the fish upward, allowing it to “fly” out of the water to catch insects. Its narrow, silver, elongated body is often camouflaged by innate markings, adding to its unique appeal.

Identifying your Silver Hatchetfish is easy due to its unmistakable features. If your fish possesses a pronounced belly shaped like the blade of a hatchet, strong pectoral fins, and a silver body with a dark horizontal stripe from nose to tail, you have yourself a Silver Hatchetfish. Remember, proper identification is crucial for effective care.

Silver Hatchetfish Supplies

When setting up your aquarium for your new silver hatchetfish, there are several essential supplies to consider. Not only will these supplies help create a comfortable environment, but they will also support the overall health and well-being of your fish.

  • Heater: Since silver hatchetfish thrive in warmer water, a reliable adjustable heater is an absolute must. It will help maintain stable temperatures between 75 and 82°F (24-28°C) in your fish tank.
  • Filtration: A strong and efficient filtration system is crucial to maintain the water quality in your aquarium. A hang-on-the-back (HOB) filter or a canister filter will ensure proper water movement and aeration to mimic your fish’s natural habitat.
  • Thermometer: To ensure a proper temperature range, you will need an accurate thermometer to monitor water temperature. Choose a digital or glass thermometer to keep a close eye on fluctuations.
  • Test Kits: Invest in a good quality, comprehensive water test kit to check essential parameters such as ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels. Regular monitoring helps detect problems early and prevent potential harm to your fish.
  • Aquarium Decorations: To mimic their natural habitat, provide plenty of hiding spots and lower level vegetation for your silver hatchetfish. Invest in some driftwood, artificial plants, and rocks to create a suitable environment.
  • Fish Food: Silver hatchetfish are primarily carnivorous, and it is crucial to provide them with a diverse and high-quality diet. Make sure to have frozen and live food options such as bloodworms and mosquito larvae easily accessible.

By ensuring you have gathered all the necessary supplies, you are setting your silver hatchetfish up for a healthy and happy life in your home aquarium.

Silver Hatchetfish Tank Setup

Setting up a tank for silver hatchetfish can be quite straightforward. To begin with, select a tank that’s at least 20 gallons (76 liters) in size. The silver hatchetfish is a schooling fish, so it is crucial to keep them in groups of six or more. A long and wide tank is ideal to provide enough swimming space for the group.

When it comes to substrate, choose a sand or fine gravel material. Silver hatchetfish prefer the following types of aquatic decor in their tank environment:

  • Plants: Floating plants or tall vegetation such as Java moss, water wisteria, and hornwort will provide the hatchetfish with a sense of security and a natural environment.
  • Driftwood: Adding one or two pieces of driftwood can create the perfect hiding spots for your fish.
  • Hiding spots: Use caves, PVC pipes, or other decorations to create secure retreat options for your silver hatchetfish.

Keep in mind that silver hatchetfish are expert jumpers. Use a tight-fitting lid to ensure that your fish stays safely within the tank. Adding filtration to your tank setup is crucial for maintaining clean water.

Choose a filter that can handle your tank size and has a flow rate that will not create too much turbulence or strong currents — a sponge filter or hang-on-back (HOB) filter will work well for this species.

Lastly, install a heater in your tank to maintain a stable water temperature for silver hatchetfish. Keep the water temperature between 75°F and 82°F (24°C and 28°C) for optimal health. Gradients between those values tend to be the ideal temperature range for hatchetfish.

Silver Hatchetfish Water Requirements

It’s important to provide the right water conditions for your Silver Hatchetfish to ensure their well-being and health. Water temperature, pH level, and hardness are key factors that you need to maintain within the suitable range.

  • Water Temperature: Silver Hatchetfish thrive in water temperatures between 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C). Use an aquarium heater to maintain a stable water temperature.
  • pH Level: These fish prefer slightly acidic to neutral water, with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. Regularly test the water pH and use proper water conditioners if necessary to keep the pH within this range.
  • Water Hardness: Silver Hatchetfish are adaptable to a range of water hardness levels, but keep it between 2 to 12 dGH for optimal results. It may be necessary to use a water softener if your tap water has high hardness levels.

In addition to these water parameters, pay attention to the overall water quality in the tank. Silver Hatchetfish are quite sensitive to poor water conditions, so regular water changes are crucial to maintaining clean and healthy water.

  • Perform 25% water changes at least once every two weeks. This ensures that waste and toxins are removed from the tank while also replenishing essential minerals.
  • Use a high-quality aquarium filter to help maintain optimal water quality. Choose a filter with a gentle flow as strong currents are not suitable for Silver Hatchetfish.
  • Regularly test the water using a water test kit that measures not only pH but also ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. This helps you keep track of the tank’s water quality and address any issues before they become problematic for the fish.

By maintaining proper water requirements and closely monitoring the water quality, you’ll create a healthy environment for your Silver Hatchetfish to thrive.

Silver Hatchetfish Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Silver Hatchetfish a balanced diet is essential for their overall well-being and vitality. They are considered omnivores in the wild, which means that they consume both plants and small animals.

What to feed Silver Hatchetfish

  • High-quality flakes or pellets: Make sure to choose ones that are specifically designed for small, surface-dwelling fish.
  • Frozen or live foods: Silver Hatchetfish will appreciate brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms as occasional treats. Consider incorporating these 2-3 times a week into their diet.

When feeding Silver Hatchetfish, it’s essential not to overfeed them. Generally, 1-2 small pinches of food once or twice a day is sufficient, depending on how many fish are in the tank. Only provide them with an amount of food that they can finish within 3 minutes of mealtimes, as uneaten food can lead to poor water quality, which can cause health problems in the long run.

It is essential to vary their diet to prevent nutritional deficiency and ensure they receive all the essential nutrients. Introduce a mixture of high-quality flakes or pellets, frozen, and live foods to meet their dietary needs.

A balanced diet with high-quality flakes or pellets, combined with occasional treats of frozen or live foods, is necessary for maintaining a healthy Silver Hatchetfish. Remember to provide them with the right amount of food and diverse diet options to promote their optimum health and well-being.

Silver Hatchetfish Care Schedule

Maintaining a proper care schedule ensures a healthy and happy environment for your silver hatchetfish. By following this simple routine, you can provide an optimal habitat for them:

Daily Tasks

  • Feed your hatchetfish 2-3 times per day as overfeeding can cause problems like obesity and poor water quality.
  • Monitor the water temperature, pH levels, and ammonia levels using test kits or equipment to ensure stable water conditions.

Weekly Tasks

  • Clean the aquarium glass to maintain good visibility and remove any unwanted algae.
  • Inspect your filter for any debris or blockages, but do not clean the filter too often as it contains beneficial bacteria. A good rule of thumb is to clean the filter every 2-4 weeks.
  • Carry out a partial water change of 10-20%, and make sure temperature and pH levels are within the recommended range before adding new water.

Monthly Tasks

  • Perform a comprehensive inspection of your aquarium, including the equipment, decorations, and substrate.
  • Evaluate the health of each silver hatchetfish by observing their activity levels, appetites, and appearance for any signs of illness.
  • Replace any burned-out or defective equipment, such as heaters or lights, as needed.

By adhering to this care schedule, you will ensure a thriving and harmonious environment for your silver hatchetfish while also minimizing potential health issues. Remember, a happy and healthy fish is a sign of good fishkeeping.

Silver Hatchetfish Health Problems

Silver Hatchetfish, like any other fish, can encounter various health problems if proper care is not taken. In this section, we will discuss common health issues, symptoms to look for and how to prevent or treat these issues.

  • Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): One of the most common health problems in Silver Hatchetfish is Ich, which is a parasitic infection. Signs of Ich include white spots on the body, fins and gills, along with rapid breathing, and rubbing against objects in the tank. To prevent Ich, maintain stable water conditions and promptly remove any infected fish and treat them in a separate quarantine tank. Increase the water temperature by 1-2 degrees F and use an Ich medication as per the recommended dosage.
  • Fin Rot: Another health problem that you might encounter is Fin Rot, which is usually a bacterial infection. Symptoms include ragged or discolored fins and white or red edges on the fins. To prevent Fin Rot, ensure good water quality, avoid overcrowding, and maintain an appropriate diet for the fish. Use antibiotics for treating Fin Rot; it’s important to follow the proper dosage and treatment duration.

To minimize the risk of health problems for your Silver Hatchetfish:

  1. Maintain proper water conditions, including the right temperature, pH, and water hardness.
  2. Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods.
  3. Regularly monitor the health of your fish by observing their behavior and appearance.
  4. Keep an eye on the overall conditions of your tank, including the water quality, filter, and aquatic plants.
  5. Perform regular water changes and tank maintenance.
  6. Consider implementing a quarantine period for new fish before adding them to the main tank.

By carefully following these guidelines, you should be able to minimize the risk of health problems and ensure the well-being of your Silver Hatchetfish.

Silver Hatchetfish Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for your Silver Hatchetfish, consider their peaceful nature and preference for the top part of the aquarium. It is essential to select species that will not compete for the same space or intimidate the Silver Hatchetfish, which tend to be shy and stress easily.

  • Small schooling fish: Silver Hatchetfish do well with small, peaceful schooling fish like Neon Tetras, Rummy Nose Tetras, and Harlequin Rasboras. These fish add color and life to the aquarium without causing any stress to the Silver Hatchetfish.
  • Peaceful bottom dwellers: To make the most of your aquarium space, consider adding some peaceful bottom-dwelling fish like Corydoras, which will occupy the lower portion of the tank. Their social and peaceful behavior makes them ideal tank mates for Silver Hatchetfish.
  • Mild-mannered larger fish: Larger fish like Angelfish or Discus can also be considered as tankmates, as long as they are not known to be aggressive or fin nippers. Always observe the behavior of these fish to ensure they do not cause any distress to your Silver Hatchetfish.
  • Invertebrates: Snails and shrimp can be introduced to the tank for a more diverse aquatic community. These invertebrates can coexist harmoniously with Silver Hatchetfish and can even help with algae control.

AVOID aggressive or territorial fish species: Species like Cichlids, Oscars, and aggressive Barbs should be avoided, as they tend to bully or even prey on Silver Hatchetfish.

The key to selecting the perfect tank mates for your Silver Hatchetfish is to choose peaceful, non-aggressive species that do not compete for the same tank layer. Establishing a harmonious community will allow your Silver Hatchetfish to thrive and enhance the beauty and balance of your aquarium.

Silver Hatchetfish Breeding

Breeding Silver Hatchetfish can be quite a challenging task, especially for beginners. However, with proper knowledge and preparation, you can successfully breed these intriguing fish.

Firstly, it’s essential to set up a separate breeding tank to provide a conducive environment for both the adults and the fry. A 20-gallon capacity breeding tank with low light, floating plants, and a sponge filter will suffice. Maintain the water at a slightly acidic pH between 6.0 to 6.5, with the temperature around 78-82°F.

Next, follow these steps:

  1. Select a healthy and mature pair: Choose an active male and female with no signs of illness and a minimum age of six months.
  2. Condition the breeding pair: Feed them a high-quality live and frozen diet, like brine shrimp and bloodworms, to encourage breeding behavior.
  3. Introduce the pair to the breeding tank: Monitor their behavior and remove them after successful spawning.

Now comes the waiting period – Silver Hatchetfish are egg scatterers and will deposit their eggs on the floating plants or near the water surface. Hatching should occur within 24-36 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming after 48 hours.

Caring for the hatchlings includes:

  • Remove the adult pair to prevent them from eating the fry.
  • Introduce infusoria or liquid fry food to provide sustenance.
  • Gradually advance to baby brine shrimp and micro-worms as they grow.

Frequent water changes and meticulous maintenance are crucial to ensure the fry’s survival. Remember that breeding Silver Hatchetfish is not an easy task, and you might encounter setbacks along the way. Patience, proper care, and dedication will ultimately help you succeed.


Taking care of Silver Hatchetfish can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for beginners in the world of fishkeeping. Now that you have a complete guide to assist you, it’s time to start your own thriving Silver Hatchetfish community. Feel free to leave a comment, sharing your experiences or asking any questions you may have about these unique and captivating fish.

Fish Care Guides   Updated: June 9, 2023
avatar Hello, my name is Fabian, and I am the Chief Editor at Aquarium Nexus. I have over 20 years of experience in keeping and breeding fish. The aquarium hobby brings me immense joy, and I take great pleasure in sharing my experiences with others.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *