Black Ghost Knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons): Ultimate Care Guide – With a scary appearance, it turns out that this freshwater fish is not what it seems. They are even shy and are only active at night.
You might think these dark-looking fish are ferocious predators, but they are not. Even they tend to be peaceful-tempered and may be a bit aggressive towards other fish, but that’s okay for community tanks.
If you want to have one for your fish tank, the black ghost knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons) can be a great addition to your fish tank. But before that, you should first read this black ghost knifefish care guide.
Black ghost knifefish is a hardy fish to survive. Therefore, this fish began to be bred all over the world due to the high demand. In addition, their breeding is also quite easy, so you can easily find these fish at the nearest fish shop.
They come from the waters of the Amazon River in South America. This river is famous for its diverse flora and fauna, and may not be fully explored.
They spend their lives in calm to moderate waters throughout Brazil, Venezuela, and the region crossed by the Amazon River.
There are several types of knifefish around the world, but the most popular and in demand is this black ghost knifefish.
In addition, what makes this fish ideal for beginners is that it is easy to care for. Especially for those who live in the tropics, this knife fish does not need an aquarium heater to increase the water temperature. However, if you live in a sub-tropical or cooler area, then you still need an aquarium heater to keep the water temperature ideal for black ghost fish.
If you look at the black ghost’s body structure, they will look like knives. That’s why they are called knife fish. In some places, they are called “feathers” because that is what they look like.
The way they swim is quite unique, unlike other fish. They relied on the fins under their belly (anal fin) to go, with the help of two (right and left) pectoral fins near the head.
You will need hiding places such as rocks, tree branches, plants, or crevices if you want to keep them. They can’t see, therefore they hate intense light or sun.
They can swim down fish tanks or search for food by electrolocation. This ability is navigation to replace the function of the eye.
One thing that is very unfortunate, you can not see these fish show off in the fish tank all day, because they are nocturnal animals. If you want to see them active, then you have to turn off the aquarium lights first. They will start hunting for food in the dark.
So, if you want to have a fish character that always “shows off” all day long like goldfish, then stop your desire to keep black ghost knife fish.
Black Ghost Knifefish Appearance and Characters
Although black ghosts are peaceful fish against other types, they can be aggressive towards their kind. So, if you want to keep more than one, you need more attention.
They are also nocturnal animals, meaning they are active at night. Because of their poor vision, they detect the environment or as navigation using electrolocation. Some aquatic creatures also have this ability, such as the electric eel.
In addition, the black ghost is equipped with low-voltage electricity. This ability helps them in finding food. But don’t worry, this electric power will not weaken other fish.
As we explained earlier, if you want to care for a black ghost in a fish tank, then you need hiding places. This fish has a shy nature, especially if the fish tank is exposed to hi-light
Besides being shy, they also don’t like groups, they will tend to be alone rather than socializing with other fish.
In appearance, the black ghost has a scary appearance as its name implies. The body is dominated by a black base color, with a white stripe on the tail.
Black ghost body shapes elongated like a knife, therefore they are also often called knife fish. Besides being like a knife, they also look like feathers, so they are also known as feather fish.
They have 2 side pectoral fins and an anal fin that extends along the bottom of their belly. That’s what makes the black ghost has a unique swimming style.
To determine their gender, the female body is smaller than the male, and the female has a color that is not as bright as the male’s.
If you take good care of the black ghost knifefish, they can live for the next 15 years. But most of them only last up to 10 years in the tank. A fairly long life span for small fish.
Black Ghost Knifefish Care Guide
Let’s talk about the black ghost knifefish care guide in detail!
A black ghost is not a fish that can grow big, maybe only up to 11 inches for an adult fish. It’s also rarely seen by people who have it. Probably they are only 5-8 inches in size which is the most common.
Therefore, you do not need a bigger fish tank size. But the bigger the fish tank, the better for the fish to live.
The recommended minimum tank size for black ghost is 120 gallons. We do not recommend that you keep fish in the fishbowl!
You need to know, some types of fish do not tolerate a small fish tank. They will be more easily stressed and infected with the disease. So, if you want to keep any type of fish, you should consider a bigger tank. In the wild, they can swim freely without a limiting glass screen. Think about imitating their natural environment as much as possible.
In the tank, you can use a sand substrate as a base, complete with rocks and roots for fish to hide. A good hiding place is one that is able to block direct light from hitting the fish.
If it is difficult to get natural rocks or twigs, you can use aquarium accessories that are commonly sold in stores, such as artificial caves or houses. Accessories, apart from making the black ghost knifefish comfortable, it will also beautify your fish tank scene.
To meet the need for oxygen in the water, you need an aquarium aerator or air pump. Aeration plays an important role in the survival of the black ghost knifefish in the tank.
Black ghost is not fish that can survive without aeration, unlike bettas and others. For that, make sure that there is enough oxygen in the water so that the fish stay healthy and comfortable.
You need to pay attention to the amount of oxygen and the size of the fish tank. If you have a big fish tank, you may need a more powerful pump or more aquarium aerator.
Make sure to put oxygen in the right place. Try not to have dead spots, so that oxygen is evenly distributed in the tank.
Since black ghosts don’t like strong currents (like where they live), you can set the pump to deliver a quieter current. Most air pumps or aquarium aerators provide a switch for setting the power.
In addition to the aerator, you may need an aquarium light (optional). But if you have a community tank, it sounds like you really need one, considering the light requirements for other types of fish.
If you use an aquarium light, do not turn on the light for 24 hours. For example, you can turn it on for 6-8 hours a day, then turn it off. Give these nocturnal animals a chance to swim freely in the tank without fear of light.
The aquarium light also functions as a time marker. When you turn off the light, the black ghost will assume that it’s their time to hunt.
Related: Archerfish Care Guide for Beginners
When it comes to the ideal water parameters for black ghost, this fish does not need crystal clean water, but you still need to maintain good water quality.
You have to realize, water for fish is like air for humans. So, you must prioritize this for fish health and comfort.
Basically, black ghost is strong enough to survive in all kinds of water conditions, as long as the water parameters are not too swing and last a long time.
Water parameters for black ghost:
- Water temperature: 73 °F to 82 °F
- pH: 6.0 to 8.0
- Water hardness: 5-19 dGH
Be careful with aquarium salt or any other form of salinity addition. They are freshwater fish, not brackish water which has higher salinity levels. Even so, you still need aquarium salt for disease prevention. But, use less.
Just like other fish care in the aquarium, keeping a black ghost also needs to do regular water changes. As a rule of thumb, you can empty 20 to 30% of the tank’s water volume, then change it with fresh, pre-settled water. Don’t forget to add aquarium salt after changing the water.
You need to pay attention, don’t do water changes too often with large volumes. That will make the water parameters swing, and stress the fish. You can do a 100% water change only in an emergency. If there is no problem, you should only change 20 to 30% of the water at most.
Emergency conditions we mean such as:
- Fish tank is too dirty (dirty in every way)
- Cloudy water
- There is a disease in most fish
- The water smells too fishy
- The massive buildup of foam on the surface of the water
- Fish keep dying for unknown reasons
If you see some emergency conditions as above on your tank, you can do a 100% water change. This applies to all types of pet fish.
Related: GloFish: Ultimate Care Guide
Feeding Black Ghost Knifefish
Talking about how to care for black ghost knifefish, it’s incomplete if you don’t talk about feeding.
Black ghost is a carnivorous fish, so it needs animal protein intake for their growth and development.
You can give two types of feed for black ghosts, natural and artificial. Natural food such as insect larvae, artemia, silkworms, frozen brine shrimp, and blood worms. While your artificial feed can give him flakes, pellets, or dried worms.
If you want to give natural feed, make sure it is clean, sterile, and disease-free. Food from nature is often infected with bad bacteria that are harmful to fish. So, make sure you buy it at a trusted fish shop.
While the artificial feed is more secure in terms of hygiene and health. In addition, they also add other important nutrients that are useful for fish. However, you need to pay attention to the amount of protein in it. The higher the protein, the more expensive the price.
However, to make the black ghost feel at home, then you need to provide both types of food. For example, you can give natural feed every 2 days, the rest give artificial feed.
Many people believe that giving only one type of feed can stress fish. Therefore, a variety of diets is necessary for the mental health of fish.
Feeding you can do two to three times a day. Prioritize feeding more at night, because black ghosts are active at night or when it’s dark. But sometimes, they will come out fighting for food even though you haven’t turned off the lights. This can happen when the black ghost has been living in the tank for a long time.
Another tip for feeding black ghost knifefish. You can feed separately if you have a community tank. When the light is on, you can feed other fish. When the food runs out, you can turn off the light and feed it again to the black ghost. Usually, they will quickly come out of hiding to find food.
So, if you are new to caring for black ghost knifefish, don’t worry if they don’t eat what you give them right away. They are just waiting for the right time, which is dark.
Black Ghost Knifefish Tank Mates
In Black Ghost Knifefish care, you also need to pay attention to tank mates for them. This needs to be a concern so that there are no clashes in your tank.
As we mentioned earlier, black ghosts don’t get along with fellow knifefish. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be together. You can keep more than one knifefish in a tank, as long as you put them in the tank at the same time. And they are the same size.
If you put fish at different times (even if they are the same size), there is a chance that seniority will occur in the fish tank. The new fish will be bullied by the older fish. This is unlikely to happen unless the new fish is much bigger than the old one.
That seniority action can cause fish to become stressed. Just imagine if humans are bullied all the time, they will be stressed too.
You should know, one of the causes of fish death is stress. Therefore, you should pay more attention to this!
In general, you can mix black ghosts with other types. Except, predators, and bigger cichlids.
Fish such as goldfish, comets, guppies, tetras, plecos, mollies, angelfish, peaceful cichlids, and other fish with peaceful temperaments are suitable as tank mates for black ghosts.
That’s all what you need to know about the black ghost knifefish care guide. By getting to know these fish better, you’ll know what you need to do to make them happy!