Marbled headstander Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 2, 2022

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

This fish is characterized by its unique marbled pattern and its habit of “standing” on its head.

The marbled headstander is a peaceful fish that is relatively easy to care for. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for this fish.

In this guide, we will go over everything you need to know about marbled headstander care.

Species overview

The marbled headstander (scientific name: Acestrorhynchus falcatus) is a freshwater fish that’s native to the Amazon Basin in South America.

They inhabit slow-moving rivers and streams that are heavily vegetated. This is something to keep in mind when recreating their natural habitat in an aquarium.

The marbled headstander is a relatively peaceful fish, but they can be territorial toward their own species. They are also known to be fin nippers, so it’s important to keep an eye on them if they’re in a tank with other fish.

These fish are a popular choice for aquariums because of their unique appearance. They get their name from their habit of “headstanding,” which is when they rest on their pectoral fins instead of their belly.


Marbled headstander

The marbled headstander is an eel-like freshwater fish that is easily recognizable by its unique coloration and head shape.

Their bodies are long and thin with a light brown or beige base color. This is then covered in black spots that are arranged in a marbled or mottled pattern.

The spots on their body can come in a few different shapes but they’re usually oval or round.

This marbled pattern is what gives this fish its name and is one of the most striking things about its appearance.

Another thing that makes the marbled headstander stand out is the shape of their head. These fish have a very wide and flat head that comes to a point at the nose.

This head shape is thought to help them better blend in with the sandy bottoms of rivers and streams.

The marbled headstander also has a very long and thin body. Their dorsal and anal fins are both very long and begin about halfway back on their body.

They have a forked caudal fin that is slightly taller than their dorsal and anal fins.

The marbled headstander is a nocturnal fish that is most active at night. This is why they’re often called “sleeper gobies”.


Marbled headstanders have a lifespan of between 5 and 10 years. They are a fairly long-lived fish and can provide years of enjoyment for their owners.

As with any fish, there are a number of factors that can impact their lifespan. Poor water quality, for example, can shorten their life significantly.

Proper care and husbandry are the best way to ensure that your fish lives a long and healthy life.


The maximum size for a marbled headstander is about 2.5 inches. These fish are relatively small, so they don’t need a lot of space to swim.


Tank Size

Marbled headstanders are a schooling fish, meaning they do best when kept in groups. The recommended minimum tank size for a school of marbled headstanders is 50 gallons.

We recommend going with a larger tank if you can. A 75-gallon tank would be ideal but if you don’t have the space for that a 50-gallon tank will do. Just know that you might have to limit the number of fish you have if you go with a smaller tank.

Water Parameters

Marbled headstanders are a freshwater fish that come from the Amazon Basin. This river is known for being murky and having a lot of sediment. The water is also quite warm, sitting around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

With that in mind, here are a few water parameters you should maintain for your marbled headstanders.

  • Water Temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Levels: 5.5 to 7.0
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up an aquarium for Marbled Headstanders there are a few key things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, these fish come from slow-moving waters in the wild. This means that you don’t need to have a ton of filtration or aeration in their tank. A simple filter should suffice (something like an internal filter or a sponge filter).

As for the substrate, these fish don’t really have any preferences. Gravel, sand, or even a bare-bottom tank will work just fine.

When it comes to plants, you can go with whatever you want. These fish aren’t known to nibble on vegetation so you don’t need to worry about that.

One decoration that we recommend you include in their tank is some driftwood. This will provide them with a place to hide and feel more secure. It can also help with the water quality since driftwood is known to release beneficial chemicals into the water.

Common Diseases

The marbled headstander is a hardy fish that doesn’t succumb to disease very easily. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to all illnesses.

The most common disease that these fish experience is ich. This is a very contagious illness that can quickly spread through an entire tank.

The most obvious symptom 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 act fast.

There are a number of different treatments for ich, but the most effective ones usually involve raising the temperature of the water and adding salt.

Of course, the best way to prevent your fish from getting sick is to maintain a clean and stable tank. This will create an environment that is less conducive to disease and will help your fish stay healthy.

Behavior & Temperament

Marbled headstanders are peaceful fish that spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. They are relatively shy fish and may not be seen often since they like to hide.

They are known to be good jumpers, so it is important to have a lid on the tank.

When they are out and about, they like to eat small insects, worms, and crustaceans.

Marbled headstanders are not an aggressive fish, but they may nip at the fins of other fish if they feel threatened.

Tank Mates

The marbled headstander is a relatively peaceful fish. It’s not aggressive and can get along with most tank mates.

This species is also native to the Amazon Basin. As a result, it’s used to living in warm water with high humidity.

These fish are also bottom dwellers. They tend to stick to their own territory and don’t venture throughout the entire tank.

This is good news for you because it means you can add fish that occupy different parts of the water column.

Some compatible tank mates for marbled headstanders include:

  • Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Platies
  • Swordtails
  • Corydoras
  • Plecos


Marbled headstanders are not an easy fish to breed in captivity. They’re very particular about their spawning environment and can be quite picky when it comes to mates.

First things first: you need to identify a male and female. This can be tricky because they look very similar. The best way to tell them apart is by looking at their fins. Males have longer and more pointed fins.

Once you have your pair, it’s time to set up the breeding tank. It should be at least 30 gallons and filled with soft, acidic water. Make sure the temperature is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add some live plants and a few pieces of driftwood. The plants are important because the female will lay her eggs on them. The driftwood is important because the male will use it to build a nest.

When everything is set up, it’s time to introduce your fish. If everything goes according to plan, the male will start building a nest and the female will lay her eggs.

Once the eggs have been laid, the male will guard them diligently. He will fan them with his fins to keep them oxygenated and clean the area around them.

The eggs will hatch in about two weeks. At that point, you can remove the adults and start feeding the fry. They will need to be fed small live foods at first, but you can eventually switch to baby brine shrimp and crushed-up flake food.


The Marbled Headstander is a unique and interesting fish that is sure to add some excitement to your tank. They’re not the easiest fish to care for, but they’re definitely worth the effort.

These fish are social creatures, so we recommend keeping them in groups. They’re also very active, so make sure you have plenty of space for them to swim around.

Overall, we think the Marbled Headstander is a great fish for experienced aquarium owners. If you’re up for the challenge, we say go for it!