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ZEBRA KNIFEFISH (Gymnotus pedanopterus)

ZEBRA KNIFEFISH (Gymnotus pedanopterus)

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The Zebra Knifefish Gymnotus pedanopterus is an incredibly beautiful species of knifefish. It is considered to be very rare and commands a high price when available. This is a more recently recognized fish, described by Mago-Leccia in 1994. The few that have been imported seemed to be hardy and easy to keep.

The Gymnotus genus is a species rich group of electric knifefish. One of the distinguishing characteristics of these fish is the anal fin, which reaches to the very tip of the tail. They also have poor vision, so to accommodate the poor eyesight they have an organ that produces an electric field that will detect objects and movements around it. This helps with navigating and hunting, and it also uses this unique electrical field as a way to communicate with other knife fish.

For years the Banded knifefish G. carapo was the only described species in this group. It was describe by Linnaeus over two centuries ago in 1758. After that time no other species were distinguished until 1994, and then with only 9 species being described. As species were imported, they were usually simply called the Banded Knifefish.

Today, due to dedicated efforts of the Brazilian ichtyologists Ricardo Campos-da-Paz and Flora Fernandes-Matioli, and the Colombian ichthyologist Javier Maldonado-Ocampo, there are currently 32 described species. Fortunately for the aquarist, the absolutely stunning Zebra Knifefish is one of these more recently recognized species. .

Still not much is known about this striking species. Their close relative, the Banded knifefish G. carapo, is a very aggressive fish. So based on that behavior, this species will probably be best kept singly. If you want to try to put them in a community tank, make sure it is large enough to avoid territorial issues. Any other fish needs to be about the same size as the Zebra Knifefish to make sure they do not become food.

The Zebra Knifefish is suggested for aquarists with some fish keeping experience rather than beginner fish keepers. They are very expensive because of their rarity in the fish trade. Their need for pristine waters and the lack of in-depth information about them makes them a challenge. Like most Knife fish they are shy and wild caught so it is sometimes difficult to get them to eat and make it through the first 30 days. Wild caught knifefish often carry parasites as well.


  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish – inches: 11.0 inches (27.94 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg C)
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