The needle fish, also known as Xenentodon cancila, can be explained as a long thin fish with a length up to 16 inches. It seems more like a stick and swims near the surface; hence its name, stick fish. It is a shallow water fish that you can commonly see in tropical waters.

If you have decided to have them in your house tank as a fishkeeping hobby, here is a guide article to understand its stats and care.

Let’s have a look at some of the quick stats of this fish.

Quick Stats

Scientific names Xenentodon cancila
Common names Needle Nose Gar, Freshwater garfish, Silver Needle Fish
Distribution Southeast Asia: from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India eastward towards the Mekong
Fish Size Up to 16 inches
Care Level Medium care level, requires an elongated shallow tank, having a good cover as well as high quality of water
Aquarium Temperature Can range from 71 to 82 F
Temperament Semi-aggressive, Nonviolent, and extremely nervous.
Aquarium conditions pH ranges from 6.5 to 7.5, dH ranges from 6 – 20
Aquarium Size 55 gallons long tank is recommended

Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Beloniformes
Family Belonidae
Genus Xenentodon
Species Cancila

Know the Facts and Stats About Needle fish

The saltwater needle fish is the right choice for a fish keeper who likes appealing, colorful thin fishes in the aquarium. They are easy to care for, so these are a decent option for a new fish keeper. However, needle fish possess a pretty nervous temperament and require a big tank.

You must be surprised to know that these fish can live from three to five years in captivity. But with proper care, the needle fish lifespan can extend up to eight years.

These are recognized as fish with sharp teeth in long, thin, and slender jaws in the mouth. So needle fish can cut you when provoked. Also, this fish with pointy nose is famous as the Pointed nose fish of the sea.

The Xenentodon cancila body is silvery-green from the upper part and getting lighter towards its bottom. There appears a dark straight band going along its edges — near to the tail, dorsal and the anal fins are located at the back along the body. Male members of this species will often possess black-edged anal and dorsal fins.

Here are some basic facts to know about the needle fish:

  • Body shape thin, long body and slender jaws having sharp teeth
  • Color: silvery green colored upper part getting lighter towards its bottom, a dark straight band along its edges. black-edged anal and dorsal fins in males
  • Lifespan: eight years

Breeding Needle Fish in a Tank

You can breed the needle fish in tanks. They reproduce in dawn with female fish leaving a small number of eggs daily on plants for several days. A sticky thread adheres the egg to plants. The eggs will hatch in 10 days having the offspring being nearly half an inch in size and eat little live foods. It can be grown on freshly hatched newborn livebearers and brine shrimp.

The tank planted for needle fish breeding should be about 75 gallons, with the water having pH ranging from 7-7.5, dH ranging from 12-15, and the breeding temperature of 79 F. These long skinny fish with thin bodies and capability for rapid gusts of speed require an aquarium with a minimum of 4 feet of length and 1-2 feet depth.

So all they need is:

  • Tank size: 75 gallons
  • Needle fish’s breeding temperature: 79 F
  • Conditions of water: pH ranges from 7 to 7.5, dH ranges from 12 to15
  • Easiness of breeding: difficult

Compatibility with Tank Mates

They are more compatible living in social groups in the wild and do considerably well in the aquarium atmosphere when they are retained with three or more than three mates. Fish keepers with enormous aquariums, such as more than 220 gallons, can effectively retain six or more needle fish groups.

Tankmates ought to comprise other fish species considered too big to be taken as food. Bigger ray-finned fish, Catfish, most Cichlids, and other fish species of the same size having semi-aggressive to aggressive temperament naturally create compatible tank mates for a small group of needle fish.

They are considered aggressive feeders that will contest with other tankmates when they become part of the aquarium.

Following are some facts to keep in mind regarding compatibility with teammates while setting up an aquarium for needle fish:

  • Behavior: Semi-aggressive, nervous
  • Compatibility:
    – does considerably well in the aquarium atmosphere when they are retained with three or more than three mates
    – aggressive feeders that, when adjusted to the aquarium, will contest with other tank mates to get food

Care Guide for Needle Fish

Due to needle fish’s size, they require a tank with a bigger size and surface area. An excellent-quality filter is essential for these fish. But the output should be minimal enough in the tank so that it does not cause strong currents.

Such types of fish can endure a salinity of less than 1.002; anything greater will result in health problems. A water change of 25-30 percent ought to be done every week. Besides, care is to be done while washing the tank. Their sharp teeth can cause painful and nasty bites.

– Aquarium Setup

Needle fish live at the top area of the aquarium; therefore, the surface area is considered as highly significant compared to the depth for these fishes. The length of the tank must be no less than 48 inches. Though a tank of 55 gallons is suggested, a shorter one with similar surface sizes will also be okay. A durable filter must be utilized as they are fed live foodstuffs.

For protecting the needle fish from hurting its mouth on the glass, there must be floating plants or other plants all along the walls of the tank. To avoid damaging their mouth, avoid having too many hard decors. Needle fish favors subdued illumination; thus, moderate lighting is considered ideal.

These fish possess the capability to jump outside the tank when disturbed; therefore, a tight-fitting cover is necessary. Leaving a few inches from the cover to the water surface will assist in preventing jumping. Rapid lighting changes should also be avoided so that the fish do not jump out of the open area.

Following points must be kept in mind before setting up your tank:

  • Minimum size of tank: 55 gallons – The length of tank should be minimum 48 inches.
  • Appropriate for nano tank: No
  • Lighting of tank: submissive light
  • Temperature level: ranges from 71 to 82 F
  • Temperature suitable for breeding: 79 F
  • pH level: 7 to 7.5
  • Hardness range: 5 to 20 dGH
  • Type of substrate: Small Gravel
  • Salinity: Occasionally a freshwater aquarium is considered as good, though if adding salt then maintain the salinity should not be more than 1.002
  • Water movement: weak
  • Water Area: upper surface area as needle fish swim near or at the water surface.

– Aquarium Diet

Primarily, needle fish are considered as flesh-eaters, a predator that in the wild mostly consumes frogs and fish yet will also consume crustaceans and insects. While keeping them in the aquarium you can feed them crickets, live shrimp, fish, as well as tadpoles.

They can also be trained to consume defrosted or frozen fish or shrimp. In case they are fed with live foods, it is necessary to be careful and isolate the feeder fish for a minimum of seven days because they can cause disease in your tank.

For feeding, you must remember:

  • Diet: Flesh eater, Carnivore
  • Pellet/Tablet: No
  • Flake Food: No
  • Live foods such as shrimps, fishes, or worms: All
  • Meat Food: can consume live shrimp, fish, crustaceans, and insects
  • Feeding Regularity: every week

Common Fish Diseases

The major problem faced by most of the fish keepers is that the needle fish gets its beak injured when it gets disturbed or by smashing on the walls of the tank, hard décor material, or the upper part due to its high speed. Besides, just like other fish, the needle fish are subjected to skin flukes, parasitic infestations caused by protozoa or worms, and bacterial infections.

Whatever is added in the tank has the chance to bring disease to your aquarium. Not merely other fish but also floating plants, substrate, or materials added for decorations can bring bacteria. It is necessary to take much care and ensure proper cleaning or isolating whatever you add to create a tank with a balanced environment.

Now, you must keep in mind a few points about the fish diseases possible in the aquarium:

  • Diseases: subjected to skin flukes, parasitic infestations caused by protozoa or worms, etc., bacterial infections (general), ichthyobodo infection, as well as bacterial disease.
  • Prevention: ensure proper cleaning or isolating whatever that you add for creating a tank

Conclusion

In this article, we discussed the facts, stats, and care about the attractive needle fish that has a semi- aggressive temperament yet can be an exciting option for your aquarium.

We have talked about a comprehensive guide about the habitat, life expectancy, aquarium setup, food and care, and breeding attitude of these Xenentodon cancilas.

Let us review the key points discoursed in detail above for you to comprehend what you should know prior to setting up your tank:

  • They require a big tank and show a somewhat nervous behavior
  • Silvery green colored along the upper part getting lighter towards its bottom.
  • They reproduce in the dawn time with female fish leaving a small quantity of eggs on plants every day for several days
  • A sticky thread adheres the egg to plants
  • The eggs are hatched in 10 days having the offspring being nearly half an inch in size and prepared to eat little live foods
  • More compatible living in social groups in the wild and does considerably well in the aquarium atmosphere when they are retained with three or more than three mates
  • Aggressive feeders that when get adjusted to the aquarium will contest with other tank mates to get food
  • Lives at the top area of the aquarium
  • Occasionally a freshwater aquarium is considered as good, though if adding salt then maintain the salinity should not be more than 1.002, with preferred tank temperature for the needle fish is 71 to 82 F
  • The length of the tank must be no less than 48 inches, a tank of 55 gallons is suggested
  • Other aquarium environments required are water with pH 7 to 7.5, and submissive lighting
  • Needle fish can have a lifespan up to 8 years with good care and can have 16 inches size
  • Primarily, needle fish are considered as flesh-eaters, consumes frogs and fish yet will also consume crustaceans and insects
  • It is necessary to be careful and isolate the feeder fish for a minimum of one week because they can cause diseases in your tank
  • Susceptible to skin flukes, parasitic infestations caused by protozoa or worms, etc., and bacterial infections (general), ichthyobodo infection, as well as bacterial diseases
  • Diseases can be prevented by proper cleaning or isolating whatever that you add for creating a tank

If you are a learner in the fish-keeping business, we have discussed every essential information for keeping the interesting needle fish in your aquarium. These Xenentodon cancila can be an excellent choice in your aquarium. So get this from a fish store or any online store and keep in mind the above information to set up your tank.

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