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RETICULATED KNIFE FISH (Papyrocranus afer)

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The Reticulated Knifefish Papyrocranus afer is not the usual Knifefish. Most knives swim by rippling their dorsal or anal fin but this species gets around by undulating its entire body. This is much like an arrowana or an eel. Perhaps that is what led to its being called the Pom Pom Knife. It is also known as the Marbled Knifefish, Arowana Knifefish, Pom Pom Knifefish, and African Featherfin Knifefish.

The African Featherfin Knifefish is a member of the Notopteridae family which contains some of the more outgoing species. This species, like its relative the Clown Knifefish, can grow to huge proportions. Although the Reticulated Knifefish doesn't get quite as big, it is still a very large fish. It can get up to about 32 inches (80 cm), weighing just under 3 pounds (1320 g). A 55 gallon sized tank or more will be okay for a juvenile, but as an adult and for its full lifespan, it will need a much larger aquarium of 100 gallons or more.

As indicated by its common name Marbled Knifefish, this fish has a dark brown to almost black body with lighter mottled spotting, giving an almost marbled effect. Its body is flat and elongated body with an arched back. Like other members of its family the caudal and anal fin are joined to make one long continuous fin along the underside. It also has a small dorsal fin. The fish pictured above is an albino form, so it does not have the normal marbled patterning.

The Reticulate knifefish is a fish with an attitude and requires special attention when selecting tank mates. Its large eyes and cavernous mouth are indicative of its predatory nature. It may bully other tank mates and will definitely snack on any that will fit in its mouth. When young these fish can be kept in groups, but as they age they become very territorial and aggressive to their own kind and any other fish around them. They are particularly aggressive towards other knifefish, and become intolerant of others of its same genus. Experienced fish keepers report success keeping them with an Arowana Osteoglossum bicirrhosum that is similar in size. There are however, reports of the Reticulated Knifefish attacking an Arowana tankmate.

Reticulate knifefish can develop into a stunningly patterned fish as an adult, but due to its potential size and aggressive nature, it is recommended for a more experienced fishkeeper. Not only do they require a very large aquarium, but they can be hard to get adjusted to a new tank. Being nocturnal they need places to retreat during the day as well as open areas for swimming. Once acclimated, they are very hardy fish.