Amazon leaffish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 28, 2022

The Amazon leaffish is a freshwater fish that is native to the Amazon basin.

This fish is unique in both its appearance and its behavior. It is a nocturnal fish that hides during the day and comes out to feed at night.

The Amazon leaffish is also a very slow-moving fish, which makes it an easy target for predators.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Amazon leaffish care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

Amazon leaffish (scientific name: Niphargus kotlani) are native to South America and can be found in various river basins throughout the Amazon rainforest.

They are a burrowing species of fish that spends the majority of its time hidden away in the mud at the bottom of these rivers. When it feels threatened, it will quickly dart back into its burrow for safety.

Amazon leaffish are very difficult to keep in captivity and are not recommended for beginner aquarium hobbyists. They are very sensitive to changes in water quality and require a very specific diet that can be hard to replicate in an aquarium setting.

Despite these challenges, Amazon leaffish are a very popular fish among experienced aquarium hobbyists due to their unique appearance and behavior.


Amazon leaffish

The first thing you’ll notice about this fish is their unique shape. As their name suggests, these fish have a very leaf-like appearance. They are very thin and have a unique “forked” tail fin.

The body of the Amazon leaffish is a brown or olive color. This color can vary quite a bit depending on the specific fish and their habitat.

You’ll also notice that there are a series of dark spots that run along their body. These spots are larger near the head and get smaller as they go down the fish.

The fins on this fish are also quite unique. The dorsal fin is very tall and thin. It starts about halfway back on the body and extends all the way to the tail.

The caudal and anal fins are also tall and thin. They are much shorter than the dorsal fin however.

The pectoral fins are very small in comparison to the rest of the fins on this fish. They are located near the head and are used for steering more than anything else.

Amazon leaffish have large eyes that are very close to the top of their head. This gives them very good vision and helps them to avoid predators.


In the wild, the Amazon leaffish lifespan is only about 2 years. This is due to the fact that they have a lot of predators and they’re also constantly on the lookout for food.

In captivity, however, they can live up to 5 years if they’re well cared for. The main thing you need to do is provide them with a good diet and a stress-free environment.


The average size of an Amazon leaffish is between 4 and 6 inches.


Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for Amazon leaffish is 30 gallons. If you’re looking for a freshwater fish that can fit in an average-sized tank, this is not the fish for you.

If you want to keep two Amazon leaffish in the same tank you’ll want to add at least another 30 gallons to that minimum number if you want them to thrive.

Another reason why you need to provide enough space is for the sake of enrichment and comfort. These fish like to roam and will often run gentle but steady laps around your tank. Giving them a little bit of extra space can go a long way in making sure they can comfortably turn around in the tank.

Water Parameters

The Amazon leaffish can live in a wide range of water conditions, making it a good choice for the beginner fish keeper.

While it’s possible to keep this species in water that’s outside the ideal range, it’s not recommended. The fish will be under more stress, and that can lead to health problems down the road.

To give your fish the best chance at a long and healthy life, stick to the following parameters as closely as possible.

  • Water temperature: 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.8
  • Water hardness: 2 to 20 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 2-12 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

Amazon leaffish are native to slow moving waters in the Amazon basin. This means that when setting up their tank you’ll want to try and recreate these conditions as best as you can.

The first thing you’ll want to do is add a layer of soft substrate to the bottom of the tank. These fish like to burrow and a softer substrate will be more comfortable for them.

Next, you’ll want to add some plants and driftwood to the inside of their habitat. These fish like to have plenty of places to hide so don’t be afraid to go overboard with this.

Java moss, hornwort, and water wisteria are all great plant choices. As for driftwood, anything that’s dense and won’t float to the surface will work great.

You can also add some rocks to their tank if you want. Just make sure that they’re not too sharp or jagged since these fish are known to swim into things from time to time.

Common Diseases

The Amazon leaffish is a very hardy and disease-resistant fish. They’re not immune to sickness, of course, but it’s quite rare for them to fall ill.

The most common disease that affects this species is ich. This is a very common freshwater parasite that can affect any fish, no matter how big or small.

The most obvious sign of ich is the presence of white spots on the body, fins, and gills of your fish. If you notice this, it’s important to take action immediately.

Ich is very contagious and can quickly spread to other fish in your tank. There are plenty of ich treatment options available, so consult your vet or a fish expert to figure out the best course of action.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is any cuts or scrapes on the body of your fish. These can easily become infected, so it’s important to keep the tank clean and monitor your fish closely.

As long as you take good care of your Amazon leaffish and keep a close eye on them, they should be healthy and happy for many years to come.

Behavior & Temperament

The amazon leaffish is a shy creature that spends most of its time hiding in plants. Because of this, it’s important to have a lot of vegetation in their tank.

This fish is a loner and does not like to be around other fish. It is important to only have one amazon leaffish per tank because they can be very territorial.

The amazon leaffish is a nocturnal creature so it is important to provide hiding places for them to sleep during the day.

This fish is not aggressive and is not known to attack other fish.

Tank Mates

As their name suggests, Amazon leaffish are native to the Amazon river basin. This is a tropical region, so the water is warm and has a high level of dissolved minerals.

The Amazon leaffish is a peaceful community fish that does well with other species. In fact, they’re often used as dither fish to help shy fish feel more comfortable in the open.

Some compatible tank mates for Amazon leaffish include:

  • Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Platies
  • Swordtails
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Plecostomus
  • Otocinclus catfish


Amazon leaffish don’t typically breed in captivity. If you’re interested in breeding them, your best bet is to find a wild caught female and male.

The female should be gravid, or carrying eggs. You can tell by looking for a distended abdomen. The male will also have some physical changes. His fins will be longer and he’ll be more brightly colored.

Once you’ve found a pair, put them in a breeding tank. The tank should be at least 20 gallons and have plenty of hiding places. You can use plants, caves, and driftwood.

The water should be soft and acidic. Aim for a pH of 6.0 and a hardness of 2-4 dGH. The temperature should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

When everything is set up, add the female first. Give her a few days to adjust to the new environment. Then, add the male.

Spawning usually happens at night. The female will lay her eggs on a plant leaf or piece of driftwood. The male will fertilize them.

After spawning, the adults should be removed. The eggs will hatch in 5-7 days.

The fry are delicate, so they need to be in a well-filtered tank. You can feed them baby brine shrimp or microworms. As they grow, you can start to add larger live foods.


The Amazon leaffish is a beautiful and popular freshwater fish. They’re relatively easy to care for but there are a few things you’ll need to know to keep them healthy and happy.

In general, we think they make great additions to community tanks. They’re peaceful and get along well with other fish.

However, they can be a little shy so we recommend giving them some hiding places. We also recommend keeping them in groups of at least 3 since they’re social fish.

Overall, the Amazon leaffish is a great fish for beginning and experienced aquarists alike. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!