If you are on the lookout for a popular exotic species, the Halfbeak fish (also known as spipefish) is exactly what you want.

This South Asian native is found in fish tanks around the world.

In this article, we’ll find out what makes it such a favorite among the community. We’ll also tell you everything that you need to know about its care and maintenance.

Taxonomy: What’s Their Scientific Name?

Quick stats:

Listed tank sizes are the minimum
Size: Females up to 2.8 inches (7 cm), males smaller.
Tank: 30″ twenty gallon long (75 Litre). Long is better than tall.
Strata: Top
PH: 7.0 to 8.0
Hardness: Medium hard to hard, dH range: 6 – 18°
Temperature: 70 to 86°F (21 to 30°C)

Classification:

Order: Beloniformes
Suborder: Cyprinodontoidei
Family: Hemirhamphidae
Sub Family: Zenarchopterinae
Genera: Dermogenys

For many fish owners, scientific classification is a subject of interest.

To satiate the nerds (don’t worry, we’re one of you), here goes nothing:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Beloniformes
  • Family: Zenarchopteridae
  • Genus: Dermogenys
  • Species: D. pusilla

With this important bit out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

Natural Habitat: are they really exotic?

Halfbeaks are found both in fresh and salt water. The Dermogenys pusilla, however, usually resides in slow or stagnant freshwater reservoirs. This includes rivers, ponds, lakes and even flooded fields.

These long beak fish can also be found in semi-brackish conditions such as mangroves. As far as geographical distribution is concerned, they can be found in Eastern Asian countries such as Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, to name a few.

Physical Attributes (Hint: They are Lovely to Look at)

Halfbeak fish have quite a distinct appearance due to their slender body. Here’s a detailed breakdown of their physical attributes.

– Color

With colors ranging from glittering silver to a pleasant tan and all the way to a sedate brown, you can certainly find a Halfbeak that matches your taste. Most are silver with a dash of green or blue. Females are paler as compared to males who are darker and have colorful fins. Their bright green eyes also have the ability to mesmerize you for hours on end.

– Size

While there is some variation, males, on average, are smaller than their female counterparts. The former usually measure somewhere around 5.5 centimeters while the latter can grow upto 7 centimeters long.

– Shape

These long beak fish have long and slender bodies with distally placed fins. The three fins (dorsal, anal and tail) are placed near the start of the tail. The anterior area of the small anal fin serves as the gonopodium and plays a key role in reproduction. The dorsal fin is considerably larger.

In Halfbeak males, the dorsal and anal fins are long and pointed. However, in fries and Halfbeak females, they are rounded. The beaks, which give them their name, are a curious feature. They consist of a long beak for the lower jaw and a short, triangular extension of the upper jaw. The lower ‘half’ beak is fixed while the upper beak moves with the skull.

Halfbeak Fish Care: is it Difficult?

Not the bravest or hardiest of fishes out there, Halfbeak fishes need a bit of caring for. You can’t just stuff them away in any old fish bowl. For the newbies in the fishkeeping world; not all fishes behave like the docile goldfish in old cartoons! The most important thing, of course, is the fish tank or aquarium that little miss fishy is going to reside in.

– Jumping Fish (Take Cover!)

Halfbeaks are known to jump about quite a lot (they are related to flying fishes, after all). You don’t want to return home to find it flopping about in the living room, do you? The solution for that is to add a sturdy cover to the aquarium.

– Length>Height

Another important rule is to prefer tank length over tank height. Their elongated and smooth body shape is built for living in open water; the tank length can help with that.

– Decor? Nothing too Fancy

As this species prefers to swim close to the surface, adding some floating vegetation can help make it feel more at home.

– Preferred Water Conditions

The Dermogenys pusilla is a freshwater fish and like all freshwater fishes, it is very sensitive to changes in its environment. The most important point is to ensure small but frequent changes of water so that the overall water quality does not change.

Here’s a breakdown of the water condition markers that you should maintain:

  • pH: 6.5-8.0 (alkaline)
  • Temperature: 24-28°C
  • Hardness: 10-20°H

– Diet

As they live near the water surface, most of their diet comes from organisms living in the area. The fruit fly (Drosophila) is an old favorite. Bloodworms, crustacean eggs and brine shrimp can also work just as well. However, dry foods can be more of an acquired taste and take a bit of getting used to. Some fish enthusiasts add a bit of algae to their Halfbeaks’ diet based on the fact that the fish are omnivores in their natural habitat.

Temperament: how do they behave?

The Halfbeak fishes can be an excitable bunch. They are easily stressed (especially when new) and can be triggered even by the switching on of a light. When stressed and rushing around the tank, they are liable to injuring their beaks. While minor damage heals within a few weeks, significant injury results in almost certain death.

This particular variety of Halfbeaks is a little more aggressive than its milder marine cousins. Males can be found putting on a show of strength by holding others with the beaks interlocked. Usually, these episodes are harmless. Nevertheless, they aren’t called the wrestling Halfbeaks for nothing.

Tank Mates (That They Can Live With)

Halfbeak fishes are generally a peaceful bunch. They can coexist with other species of similar size, temperament and condition requirements. Birds of a feather flock together (and so do fish!). If you maintain freshwater conditions in your aquarium, bumblebees, mollies and glassfish can turn out to be the perfect choices.

Some other suitable choices include Tetras and Gouramis. Putting Halfbeaks in with a larger species often doesn’t work. They are outcompeted for food and can even die of starvation.

Breeding: Is it Difficult?

Like other livebearers, breeding Halfbeaks can be a little difficult.

– Sexual Dimorphism

This particular long-beaked fish exhibits sexual dimorphism. In layman terms, that means that the male and female fish have a different appearance. In the case of Halfbeaks, the female is larger than the male. The much smaller males have an anal fin that serves as their sexual organ (andropodium) used for copulation.

– Reproduction

Halfbeaks can be oviparous (egg-laying), viviparous (bearing live progeny) or ovoviviparous (producing eggs that hatch within the mother’s body). This particular platinum Halfbeak is viviparous and that is where the problem lies. As mentioned above, achieving successful reproduction can be a bit of a chore with these buggers.

While inducing breeding itself is easy, the real difficulty lies in achieving successful live birth and avoiding miscarriages. Many of the fries are still-born. This is attributed to a variety of factors including poor conditions, nerves (something these fishes are known for) and even a lack of Vitamin D. Proper conditions and adequate nutrition significantly improve the chances of successful reproduction.

– Importance of Water Temperature

Temperature is an important factor that affects the length of the gestation period that can vary from 3 to 6 weeks.

– Caring for the Young

Once the mother has given birth to many little fish with a beak, you should separate them from the adults since adult Halfbeaks can eat their fry. The fry, however, are usually easy to keep and can be brought up on a steady diet of shrimp nauplii and powdered, dry foods.

Important Stats to Remember

Before we move on to the pros and cons of this fish along with our final verdict on it, we’d like to list down some important stats and figures that prospective owners would want to keep in mind.

Here they are:

  • Size: Females (7 cm), males (5.5 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 60cm x 37.5cm x 30cm (71 liters)
  • PH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 10-20°H
  • Temperature: 24 to 28°C

Pros and Cons

In this section, we’ll summarize both the upsides and downsides of having the Halfbeak as an in-house guest.

– Pros

They are as follows:

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Easy to feed
  • Easy to keep, once adjusted
  • Generally peaceful in the presence of other species

– Cons

Here they are:

  • Their long aquarium requires considerable space
  • Difficult to breed
  • Require strict control of water conditions
  • Easily stressed

Verdict

If you are someone who has a bit of experience with fishkeeping and you just love this little wrestler, then the Halfbeak fish will be a great option for you. However, if you are someone who finds doing anything other than feeding the fish once a day a chore, you’d be better off steering clear of this one.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve tried covering everything there is about Halfbeak fishes and their care.

Here’s a quick roundup of what we explained:

  • Halfbeak fish are found in Eastern Asian countries such as Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia
  • They have a short, slender body with a beak and are found in a variety of colors
  • Halfbeaks are not very hardy and would need water conditions to be maintained at:
    – pH: 6.5-8.0 (alkaline)
    – Temperature: 24-28°C
    – Hardness: 10-20°H
  • They can be easily frightened and the males may fight with each other
  • Breeding Halfbeaks is a bit difficult since they are viviparous ie. they give birth to live fry
  • We’d recommend getting Halfbeaks if you have some experience with fishkeeping and can keep up with its requirements

The Halfbeak fish is a small and peaceful species that needs a bit of extra care and love. For someone who doesn’t mind going the extra mile for this unusual beauty, go for it.

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