The CommonHatchet Fish Gasteropelecus sternicla is a most unusually shaped fish. Its body looks like the head of a hatchet, thus the common name “hatchetfish.” The term Gasteropelecus actually means “hatchet-shaped belly.”
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The Common Hatchet Fish Gasteropelecus sternicla is a most unusually shaped fish. Its body looks like the head of a hatchet, thus the common name “hatchetfish.” The term Gasteropelecus actually means “hatchet-shaped belly.”
The hatchetfishes of the family Gasteropelecidae leap from the water and fly through the air, flapping their large pectoral fins, to catch flying insects. They are generally accepted as being the only true “flying fish.” A number of fish can leap out of the water, but only these freshwater hatchetfish actually use their pectoral fins to aid their flight.
The Common Hatchetfish is also called the River Hatchetfish as well as Silver Hatchetfish. The name Silver Hatchetfish, however, is somewhat of a misnomer for this fish as a couple of other species are also known by this common name. In the same genera is the Silver Hatchetfish Gasteropelecus levis and another species of Silver Hatchetfish, Thoracocharax securis, which is also called the Greater Hatchetfish.
These hatchetfish are all very similar in appearance, but they do differ in size. In the wild, both the Gasteropelecusspecies are smaller, with the Common Hatchetfish reaching about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and G. levis reaching about 1 inch (3.5 cm). The Greater Hatchetfish grows much larger, getting up to 3 1/2″ (9.1 cm), a full inch longer than the Common Hatchetfish. The Greater Hatchetfish also differs slightly in looks because it doesn’t have the pronounced black horizontal line often seen on the Common Hatchetfish. The confusion is somewhat alleviated for the hobbyist because the Common Hatchetfish is the one most commonly sold as the Silver Hatchetfish.
Species of freshwater hatchetfish can fly a distance of more than 4 feet. Once they are in the air, they will move their pectoral fins like a bird’s wings. The ability for the freshwater hatchetfish to fly is really astounding, but it is somewhat of a problem in the aquarium. The tank needs a tight fitting lid to keep these fish from leaping out of the tank to their demise.
Common Hatchetfish are very peaceful, even timid fish, so they make good community tankmates. This fish likes to hang at the surface of the water and will appreciate some floating plants. However, as its mouth is situated on top of its body and it eats at the surface, be sure to also provide some clear areas as well to help it feed. The Common Hatchetfish must be kept in a well-maintained aquarium as it is prone to ich.
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