Freshwater needlefish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 28, 2022

The freshwater needlefish is a very interesting and unique fish that is perfect for the more experienced fishkeeper.

This fish is not for everyone, and should only be kept by those who are willing to put in the time and effort to care for them properly.

In this guide, we will go over everything you need to know about freshwater needlefish care. From diet and tank mates, to breeding and common problems.

Species overview

The freshwater needlefish (Chitala ornata) is a freshwater fish that is found in many parts of Southeast Asia.

They prefer slow-moving water with a lot of vegetation, but they can also be found in fast-moving water and even brackish water.

Freshwater needlefish are carnivores and primarily eat smaller fish. In the wild, they have been known to reach lengths of up to 3 feet, but in aquariums, they are usually much smaller.

Due to their long, slender bodies and their hunting habits, freshwater needlefish are not recommended for most aquariums. They are best suited for experienced fishkeepers who have the time and patience to care for them properly.


Freshwater needlefish

The first thing you’ll notice about this fish is their needle-like mouth. This is where they get their name from. The mouth is filled with sharp teeth that they use to eat other fish (more on that in a bit).

The body of the needlefish is long, thin, and very hydrodynamic. This helps them swim quickly and easily through the water.

The dorsal fin is located towards the back of the body and is tall and thin. The anal fin is of a similar size and shape and is located just in front of the dorsal fin. Both of these fins are dark in color and can look almost black at times.

The caudal fin is forked and also dark in color. The pectoral fins are small and located towards the front of the body.

The needlefish is an overall silver color with a hint of blue. There are also some darker spots on their body that help them blend in with their surroundings.

These fish have large eyes that are silver in color with a black pupil.


The lifespan of freshwater needlefish is around 3-5 years on average, with some individual fish living up to 10 years in captivity.

Needlefish are a relatively delicate species, and their lifespan can be shortened by a number of different factors. Poor water quality, for example, is a major stressor that can lead to disease and premature death.

In order to give your needlefish the best chance at a long life, it’s important to provide them with a well-maintained tank and a nutritious diet.


These long and thin freshwater fish can grow to be up to 18 inches in length, but the average size is between 10 and 12 inches. They are a bit delicate fish, so it’s important to provide them with a spacious and clean aquarium.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for freshwater needlefish is 50 gallons. If you have a smaller tank, you might be able to get away with keeping just one fish but we don’t recommend it.

These fish are very active and need a lot of space to swim. If you want to keep more than one needlefish in the same tank, you’ll need to add an additional 50 gallons for each fish.

Water Parameters

The freshwater needlefish is a tropical fish that requires warm water to thrive. They’re a bit more delicate than some of the other species on this list, so it’s important to maintain stable water conditions.

This species is a bit more challenging to care for than some of the others on this list. They’re not as forgiving when it comes to water quality and can be sensitive to changes in their environment.

You’ll need to do regular water changes and keep a close eye on the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Any spikes in these levels can be harmful, and even fatal, to needlefish.

  • Water temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.8 to 7.6
  • Water hardness: 2 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

Needlefish are a unique species that have some specific requirements when it comes to their habitat.

The most important factor is the amount of open space that’s available to them. These fish are known for their ability to jump out of the water so a tank with a lid is a must.

On top of that, you need to make sure there aren’t any obstacles in their way. That means no plants, rocks, or decorations that they could potentially get tangled up in.

The substrate you choose is also important. Anything too small can be a choking hazard, so avoid sand or gravel that’s less than 1 cm in diameter. A smooth, sandy bottom is ideal.

As for plants, you can get away with adding some floating varieties. Just make sure they don’t have any long stems or leaves that the fish could get wrapped up in.

You can also include some driftwood or rocks as long as they’re big enough that the fish can’t swim through them.

Common Diseases

Needlefish are a rather hardy species, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick. The most common illness that affects this fish is ich, which is a parasites that can cause a lot of problems.

The main symptom of ich is white spots on the body of your fish. If you notice this, it’s important to take action immediately and begin treatment.

There are a number of other potential diseases that can affect needlefish, but they’re not as common. Things like fungal infections, bacterial infections, and parasites can all cause problems.

As with any other fish, the best way to prevent these diseases is to maintain a clean and stable tank. Needlefish are not particularly sensitive to water conditions, but keeping the tank clean will help to prevent any potential problems.

Behavior & Temperament

The freshwater needlefish is a skittish and jumpy fish. In the wild, these fish spend most of their time in open water hunting for small prey. This natural behavior is what leads to their constant movement and lack of ability to sit still for long periods of time.

This fish is not for everyone. It’s best suited for experienced aquarists who can provide them with a large tank and plenty of live food to hunt. If you’re not prepared to do either of those things, we recommend you choose a different fish.

Needlefish are not social creatures. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. These fish are known to be loners and will often hide away from their tank mates. If you’re keeping more than one needlefish, it’s best to give them plenty of space to avoid aggression.

Although they’re not the friendliest fish, they are entertaining to watch. Their constant movement and hunting behavior is a sight to behold. Just be sure you’re prepared to provide them with everything they need before you bring one home.

Tank Mates

When it comes to freshwater needlefish, there are a few things to consider. First, these fish are fast and agile. They’re known for their speed in open water and their ability to make quick turns.

This makes them great predators, which is something to keep in mind when choosing tank mates.

Secondly, they’re not the best swimmers in the world. In fact, they often get tangled in plants and other objects in the tank. This is important to consider because you don’t want to put them in a tank with fish that are nippy or aggressive.

Finally, they need a lot of open space to swim. A crowded tank is not ideal for this species.

With all of that in mind, here are some compatible tank mates for freshwater needlefish:

  • Danios
  • Tetras
  • Barbs
  • Rainbows
  • Gouramis
  • Loaches


The freshwater needlefish is a bit of an unusual fish. It’s not often seen in the aquarium trade, but it’s still a beautiful fish that can make a great addition to your tank.

If you’re interested in breeding this species, there are a few things you need to know.

First, you need to identify the males and females. Males are typically larger and have more colorful fins. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking at the anal fin. Males have a long, extended anal fin, while females have a shorter, rounded one.

Once you’ve identified the males and females, you need to set up a breeding tank. The tank should be at least 30 gallons and should have plenty of hiding places.

The water temperature should be between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.

When the tank is set up and the fish have had time to acclimate, you can start feeding them live foods. This will help to trigger spawning.

The female will lay her eggs in a plant or other piece of decor. The male will then fertilize them. Once the eggs are fertilized, the male will guard them.

After about a week, the eggs will hatch. The fry will be very small, so you need to be careful when feeding them. They can’t eat live foods right away. You need to start them off on infusoria and then move on to baby brine shrimp.

As they grow, you can gradually increase the size of the food you’re giving them.


The freshwater needlefish is a unique and interesting fish that is sure to add some excitement to your tank.

They are relatively easy to care for but do have some specific needs that you will need to be aware of.

Overall, we think they make a great addition to any freshwater tank and would recommend them to any fish owner looking to add something new and different to their aquarium.