Max Size: 3cm

Barred Pencilfish (Nannostomus espei)

Barred Pencilfish are a peaceful, good looking and somewhat shy species that are sought after in the aquarium hobby, although they are usually quite expensive to buy. However, this pencilfish is unsuitable for the general community aquarium due to its small size and timid nature.

Ideally, you should maintain these fish in a species only aquarium or in an aquarium with small peaceful non-aggressive fish such as Characids and smaller Catfish. These Pencilfish also make an ideal dither fish for Apistogrammas.

Though sociable by nature, Barred Pencilfish are a shoaling species rather than schooling; therefore, they should be kept in a group of at least ten individuals. Keeping these fish in more significant numbers will allow them to show more natural behaviour and will also help reduce aggression between individuals. For example, it's not uncommon to see nipped fins within a group; however, this behaviour does not usually spread to tankmates.

Ideally, it would be best if you kept Barred Pencilfish in a heavily-planted aquarium with a dark substrate and lots of hiding places to provide broken lines of sight. Floating plants are a valuable addition to help subdue the light, as is dried leaf litter and driftwood branches. These fish enjoy a slow current, so using an air-powered sponge filter would be best to provide gentle filtration.

Barred Pencilfish require stable water conditions; therefore, you should never add them to a biologically immature aquarium.

Barred Pencilfish have golden bodies that display a pattern consisting of five wide, comma-like blotches on each flank. These fish also possess an adipose fin that many pencilfish do not. Like all pencilfish, they have a small mouth that always seems open. In addition, the anal fin has a relatively short base; however, a majority of males have an enlarged, well-developed anal fin that they use in courting and spawning.

Quick Facts
Scientific NameNannostomus espei
Other NamesEspe's Pencilfish, Four-barred Pencilfish, Banded Pencilfish
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 10+
Lifespan3 - 5 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH5.0 - 7.0
GH4 - 10
TDS18 - 90
71 - 82℉
21.7 - 27.8℃

Photos of the Barred Pencilfish

Barred Pencilfish
Barred Pencilfish
Barred Pencilfish
Barred Pencilfish

Natural Habitat

Barred Pencilfish are only found in the Mazaruni River System in Guyana in South America. They inhabit densely vegetated small rivers, blackwater tributaries, and swampy areas where there is a lot of overhanging vegetation that produces substantial leaf litter, submerged logs, and woody branches. Chemicals and humic acids released by the decaying organic material typically stains the water brown, which creates a low pH and negligible mineral content.

What to feed the Barred Pencilfish

Barred Pencilfish are not fussy eaters and will accept most foods offered. In the home aquarium, you can feed them high quality dried food such as crushed flakes and granules, but you should also provide them with daily portions of live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods such as brine shrimp, Moina, daphnia, grindal worms and tubifex.

How to sex the Barred Pencilfish

It is relatively straightforward to differentiate between male and female Barred Pencilfish. Males are usually slightly slimmer and more colourful than females. In contrast, females have rounded bodies, and the gold colour is much duller than that of males.

How to breed the Barred Pencilfish

It is possible to breed Barred Pencilfish, but it can be challenging for the lesser experienced hobbyist.

Barred Pencilfish are egg scatterers that do not care for their young. Adults in an established aquarium can often spawn without any intervention, and in a heavily planted tank, some fry may appear and survive.

If you would like to increase the yield of fry, you should condition a large group with plenty of live foods. Then, once the fish have been prepared, select a single pair or a group containing one or two males and several females.

It would be better to place them in a separate small breeding tank with mature water and plenty of fine-leaved plants; plastic grass matting or spawning mops can also be used and work quite well. Alternatively, you can cover the bottom of a bare tank with pebbles or marbles that will allow the eggs to fall to the bottom but prevent the parents from getting to them.

It would be best if you kept the tank dimly lit, the water neutral to slightly acidic, and the temperature at the high end of their range. Provide a small sponge air filter into the tank for circulation, and spawning should begin.

Once these fish are ready to spawn, they will swim next to each other, and the male will bump the female's abdomen, and the eggs will be fertilised. The female will drop a few eggs at a time, which will fall into the plants or the substrate until she has run out of eggs.

After spawning occurs, you should remove the parents from the breeding tank as they are known to be voracious egg eaters if given the opportunity.

The eggs will hatch around 36 to 72 hours later, which is when you can introduce Paramecium or green water into the tank, then about three days later, the fry should become free-swimming. After that, it would be best to feed the fry finely crushed flake food, microworms, or newly hatched brine shrimp when they are big enough.

Other Pencilfish of interest

Coral Red Pencilfish(Nannostomus mortenthaleri)
Dwarf Pencilfish(Nannostomus marginatus)
Golden Pencilfish(Nannostomus beckfordi)
Hockeystick Pencilfish(Nannostomus eques)
Purple Pencilfish(Nannostomus rubrocaudatus)
Three Lined Pencilfish(Nannostomus trifasciatus)
View all Pencilfish
Date Added: 02/02/2022 13:05:44 - Updated: 02/02/2022 15:56:10