Animals

Clown Featherback: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Clown Featherback Fact File
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A nocturnal tropical fish, the clown featherback (Chitala ornata) is best known for its long and knife-like body. The species is known by several names, including clown knifefish and spotted knifefish. The species is native to the freshwater habitats of a few countries of Southeast Asia like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The native range of clown knifefish covers the Mekong, Chao Phraya, and Mekong river basins. Also, the species has been introduced in the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. This freshwater fish has also been spotted in Palm Beach County and Broward County of Florida, the United States. The clown knifefish inhabits lakes, swamps, rivers, and aquariums.

These fish are either medium or large, and the average weight and length of the species is 11 lb (5 kg) and 10-39 in (25-100 cm) respectively. The species generally possesses a silvery gray knife-like body and a long anal fin. Unlike the Indian featherback (Chitala chitala), the species possesses ocellated spots and lacks faint strips on its back. It has also a flag-like dorsal fin and nasal tentacles above its toothed mouth but it has no ventral fins.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the clown knifefish as Least Concern. Also, the species is a famous cuisine found in numerous Southeast Asian countries.

For more relatable content, check out these green sunfish facts and Arctic char facts for kids.

Clown Featherback

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Crustaceans, feeder fish, blackworms, insects

What do they eat?

Carnivore

Average litter size?

2,000-10,000 eggs

How much do they weigh?

11 lb (5 kg)

How long are they?

10-39 in (25-100 cm)

How tall are they?

N/A

What do they look like?

Silvery gray

Skin Type

Scaleless

What are their main threats?

Hunting

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Lakes, swamps, rivers, aquariums

Locations

Southeast Asia and the United States

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Actinopterygii

Scientific Name

Chitala ornata

Family

Notopteridae

Genus

Chitala

Clown Featherback Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a clown featherback?

The clown featherback (Chitala ornata) is a carnivore fish and its diet mainly includes feeder fish, blackworms, and crustaceans such as ghost shrimp, crabs, and snails. The species is also known as the clown knifefish and the spotted knifefish.

What class of animal does a clown featherback belong to?

The clown knifefish belongs to the class of Actinopterygii, the family Notopteridae, and the Chitala genus. The family Notopteridae consists of around 10 bony-tongued fishes.

How many clown featherbacks are there in the world?

The exact population of Chiltala ornata fish is not known as of now but the species is widely distributed in several countries of Southeast Asia. Also, these fish are kept in aquariums.

Where does a clown featherback live?

The species is native to the freshwater habitats of a few countries in Southeast Asia like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The native range of the clown knifefish is in the Mekong, Chao Phraya, and Mekong river basins. Also, the species has been introduced in the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. This freshwater fish has also been spotted in Palm Beach County and Broward County of Florida, the United States.

What is a clown featherback's habitat?

The clown knifefish inhabits lakes, swamps, the backwaters of small and large rivers, and aquariums. Unlike adults, the juveniles dwell among aquatic plants and bogs. The clown knifefish is an exotic fish and one can find it and buy it in pet stores.

Who do clown featherbacks live with?

Juveniles are mainly found in groups or schools while adults live alone. Also, as an aquarium fish, this species is quite peaceful and will easily survive with other tank mates but it is important to never keep them with aggressive or smaller fish.

How long does a clown featherback live?

Clown knifefish generally live for around 10 years in the wild. It is said that the lifespan in the aquarium of these fish generally increases but is it determined by the amount of care provided in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

There is a lack of information regarding this fish's breeding in the wild, but it is known that captive breeding of this fish is possible if proper steps are taken. Chitara ornata fish generally reach sexual maturity when they reach three years of age.

For breeding, the most important thing to provide is a large tank of good quality. There must be flat stones on the tank's bottom and floating vegetation on the surface of the water. The water temperature should be around 78.8-82.4 F (26–28 C) and a pH level of 6-6.5 should be fine.

After spawning, female fish generally lay around 2,000-10,000 large yellowish eggs on the floating vegetation. Males guard or protect these eggs until they hatch, and they provide a flow of water by waving their tail fins. Once the juveniles hatch, they should be placed into a nursery tank immediately.

What is their conservation status?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed clown knifefish as Least Concern.

Clown Featherback Fun Facts

What do clown featherbacks look like?

The clown knifefish (Chitala ornata) generally possesses a silvery gray body and a long anal fin. Unlike the Indian featherback (Chitala chitala), the adult clown featherback fish possesses ocellated spots and lacks faint strips on its back. It has also a flag-like dorsal fin and nasal tentacles above its toothed mouth, but it has no ventral fins.

These rare clown featherback facts may make you love them.

How cute are they?

The clown knifefish (Chitala ornata) is one of the most beautiful and unique fish of Southeast Asia. The most fascinating thing about this freshwater fish is its scaleless knife-like body. The clown knifefish is totally different from other species, and these fish even sometimes start jumping in their aquarium tanks.

How do they communicate?

The clown knifefish (Chitala ornata) is nocturnal and generally remains active during the twilight hours. This fish generally communicates through several visual and tactile cues while some are able to darken their skins to communicate. Adult fish of this species are quite territorial in the wild and in an aquarium and are very protective of their range.

How big is a clown featherback?

This freshwater fish is either medium or large in size, and the average weight and length of the species are 11 lb (5 kg) and 10-39 in (25-100 cm) respectively. The adult specimen is twice the size of the fluke fish and the drum fish.

How fast can a clown featherback swim?

The exact speed of this freshwater fish is not known as of now but the adult specimen is known for its exceptional predatory skills. The fish either dwells in the middle or bottom layers of water and easily hunts on crustaceans and insects.  

How much does a clown featherback weigh?

The fish is quite large and it weighs around 11 lb (5 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names given to male and female clown featherback fish. Also, the length of the male fish is a bit longer compared to the female fish and the latter has a more rounded abdomen during the breeding season.

What would you call a baby clown featherback?

No particular name is given to a baby clown featherback fish, people generally call it either a juvenile or a young fish.

What do they eat?

The clown knifefish is a carnivore and its diet mainly includes insects, blackworms, and crustaceans such as shrimps and crabs.

Are they dangerous?

Generally, they are one of the most peaceful fish in the Southeast Asian region. But they can attack if someone tries to provoke or threaten them. Adult fish of this species tend to be quite territorial in the wild or an aquarium and also possess sharp teeth.

Would they make a good pet?

Clown knifefish are regarded as great aquarium fish and you can normally find a clown featherback for sale online or in some pet shops. A good clown featherback tank size is at least 500 L (110 gal) and the water temperature should be around 75-85 F (24-29 C). The optimal pH level is 6-6.5. When it comes to clown featherback care and feeding, the typical clown featherback eating habits mainly include insects and crustaceans, but also good quality frozen foods can be a good option. Other food options can be bloodworms, prawns, or earthworms. People often also place flat stones and floating plants in the tank, and don't forget to close the aquarium tank lid properly as they often jump! It is said that dim lighting in the aquarium may lessen jumping.

Did you know...

The clown knifefish is an invasive species in Florida.

Giant oarfish can reach a length of 56 ft (17 m).

How did the clown featherback get its name and what other names does it have?

The clown featherback fish gets its name from its narrow body, long anal fins, and ocellated spots. The species is also known as the clown knifefish and the spotted knifefish, and another common name of the species is clown night fish or the Vietnam clown featherback (for those found in Vietnam).

Is the clown featherback endangered?

No, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the species in the Least Concern category. In the wild, the major threat to the species is predation and hunting as it is a popular aquarium fish.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our rockfish facts and rainbow cichlid facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable clown fish coloring pages.

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