Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Apteronotus albifrons

Black ghost knifefish

Black ghost knifefish, Apteronotus albifronsBlack ghost knifefish, Apteronotus albifrons
Photos by Andy Rapson


Greek, apteros = without wings (in this cases, fins).
Greek, noton = back.

Refers to the lack of a dorsal fin.

General Notes:

Black ghost knifefish are mildly electrogenic with lots of receptors around its head. This fish probably uses a weak electric field surrounding it in-order to navigate and to find food. Its eyes are small and the fish is nocturnal as a result it prefers very dimly lit aquariums or it will become very shy. Not really suitable for the average community tank. Black ghost knife fish are quite shy and they dislike bright lighting. Their tank should be dimly lit and there should be caves for them to hide in, (pieces of pipe of the right diameter are readily accepted for this). Black ghost knifefish are generally quite peaceful with suitable tank mates but they are territorial with there own kind so they should be kept either singly or in groups with or with out other fish.


Wild black ghost knifefish are are  micro-predators of insect larvae. In captivity they will accept meaty foods such as prawns, lance fish, blood worms, earth worms and other live or frozen food.


There are no reliable external differences between the sexes.


There are one or two reports of black ghost knifefish breeding in captivity but few details are available.

Wild status

The status of wild populations is unknown and hasn't been evaluated.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 5 - 19
Temperature: 23 - 28°C (74 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 50cm (20in)
Min tank size: 675 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Black ghost knifefish, Apteronotus albifrons

Origin: South America: Venezuela to Paraguay and Paraná rivers. Also in the Amazon Basin of Peru

Habitat: Occurs in rapidly flowing waters of creeks with a sandy bottom


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gymnotiformes
Family: Apteronotidae
Genus: Apteronotus
Species: A. albifrons (Linnaeus, 1766)

Common name:
Black ghost knifefish

Gymnotus albifrons,
Sternarchus albifrons,
Apteronotus passan,
Sternarchus lacepedii,
Sternarchus maximilliani