Silver Hatchetfish

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Gasteropelecus sternicla - (Linnaeus, 1758)
Silver Hatchetfish

A top-of-the-tank denizen that adds movement to any aquarium, but must be fed at the surface zone.


The Common Hatchetfish has a fascinating anatomy with an upturned mouth designed for capturing low-flying insects or insect larvae at the surface of the water. Modified pectoral fins allow the fish to become briefly airborne, appearing to “fly” across the surface of the water.

Other common name(s):

  • Common Hatchetfish

Native range:

Habitat: In the wild, this fish is found in fast-moving streams with lots of vegetation, a biotope that should be closely mimicked in the aquarium. Include floating plants, such as duckweed and water sprite, but make sure to leave plenty of open areas at the surface.

Maximum length: 6.5 cm (3 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 76 L (20 gal)

Water: Freshwater 22 °C (72 °F) - 26 °C (79 °F)

General swimming level: Top.


Carnivore. It feeds only at or near the surface and must be fed accordingly. Offer high-protein floating prepared foods as well as a diet of small frozen or live foods, such as brine shrimp and Daphnia. Hatchetfishes will starve if not fed properly.

Aquarium Compatibility

A peaceful surface dweller, this is a schooling species that does best when kept in groups of at least three. It is somewhat skittish, so keep it with peaceful community fishes that occupy lower tank levels.


Egg scatterer among plants. Females are typically larger than males. Difficult to spawn and rear the young.


Keep their tank tightly covered, with no gaps for them to sail through.

Reference: 101 Best Tropical Fishes
Image credit: JJ
Text credit: KW