Clown Knifefish: Notopterus chitala
Very distinct, flat, silvery fish with long anal fin that gives the knifefish its common name; tiny dorsal fin and 5-10 black spots ringed with white distinguish it from all other fish in Florida; juveniles possess dark vertical bands instead of spots; long anal fin equally allows for forward and backward movements.
Currently only found in Lakes Osborne, Ida, and their associated canals in southeast Florida. Native to tropical Asia--Indochina and Thailand.
Lakes, swamps, and river backwaters; young fish occur in schools among aquatic plants and submerged roots; adults tend to be loaners commonly found near shore in areas with overhanging vegetation or docks; utilizes air to survive in warm, stagnant waters with little oxygen.
Spawning Habitats: Reportedly spawning takes place in spring when females each lay thousands of eggs on the substrate or piece of wood; male cares for the eggs by fanning them with his tail, keeping them aerated and silt-free; later male reportedly protects hatched fry.
Feeding Habits: Feeds on a variety of prey including small fish, insects, and grass shrimp.
Age and Growth
Largest specimen documented in Florida was a 31-inch specimen weighing just under 10 pounds.
Limited, but its unique appearance and jumping skills make for an exciting catch.
Bony, but commercially important in native range; flesh minced, made into balls, and cooked with curry.
Image Credit: Diane Peebles