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Maximum size : 3 cm

Barred Pencilfish - Nannostomus espei : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Barred Pencilfish (Nannostomus espei) is an exquisite and sought-after species admired for its peaceful demeanour and captivating appearance. Although these stunning fish often come with a higher price tag, their allure and charm make them a coveted addition to any aquarium collection. However, it is important to consider the unique requirements of these Pencilfish, as they may not be suitable for a general community aquarium due to their small size and timid nature.

For an optimal living environment, it is recommended to house Barred Pencilfish in a dedicated aquarium that either features only their species or includes small, peaceful, and non-aggressive tankmates such as Characids and smaller Catfish. These Pencilfish also serve as excellent dither fish, enhancing the natural behaviour of Apistogrammas. Being a shoaling species rather than schooling, it is essential to maintain them in a group of at least ten individuals. A more significant number of fish fosters the manifestation of their inherent social behaviour and helps minimize aggression within the group. While occasional fin-nipping may occur within the shoal, such behaviour is typically contained within the group and does not extend to other tankmates.

Creating an environment conducive to their well-being involves an aquarium adorned with ample vegetation, a dark substrate, and numerous hiding spots to provide broken lines of sight. Floating plants prove invaluable in diffusing light, while the inclusion of dried leaf litter and driftwood branches adds an authentic touch. In addition, barred Pencilfish appreciates a gentle current, making an air-powered sponge filter an ideal choice for ensuring adequate filtration while maintaining water flow.

To maintain optimal health, it is imperative to ensure stable water conditions and avoid introducing Barred Pencilfish into biologically immature aquariums. These fish require an environment that has reached a state of biological stability, safeguarding their well-being.

Admire the intricate beauty of the Barred Pencilfish, characterized by distinctive comma-like blotches gracing each flank. Noteworthy among pencilfish, they possess adipose fins, a feature not commonly observed in their counterparts. In addition, these slender fish exhibit a perpetually open small mouth, and the males often display an enlarged and well-developed anal fin utilized during courtship and spawning.

Barred Pencilfish Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Barred Pencilfish s a relatively straightforward task. Males typically exhibit a slightly slimmer physique and showcase more vibrant and captivating colouration compared to their female counterparts. The rich hues and intricate patterns that adorn the males set them apart, displaying a dazzling spectacle. In contrast, females possess more rounded bodies, and their gold colouration appears notably subdued in comparison to the glorious brilliance observed in males. By carefully observing these distinct physical characteristics, aquarists can confidently discern between male and female Barred Pencilfish within their aquatic habitats.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameNannostomus espei
Year Described1956
Other NamesEspe's Pencilfish, Four-barred Pencilfish, Banded Pencilfish
Max Size3 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 10+
LifespanUp to 5 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH5.0 - 7.0
GH4 - 10
TDS18 - 90
71 - 82
21 - 27

Natural habitat

The Barred Pencilfish exclusively resides within the enchanting waters of the Mazaruni River System, gracefully traversing the landscape of Guyana in South America. These remarkable fish find solace in the gentle embrace of densely vegetated small rivers, blackwater tributaries, and the serene expanses of swampy areas. Such habitats are characterized by an abundance of overhanging vegetation, contributing to the substantial accumulation of leaf litter, submerged logs, and woody branches.

Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of these aquatic ecosystems, where the interplay of nature's elements paints a breathtaking tableau. The decaying organic material within these habitats releases a symphony of chemicals and humic acids, imparting a distinctive brown hue to the surrounding waters. This natural phenomenon not only tints the water but also influences its chemical composition. As a result, the pH levels remain low, while mineral content becomes negligible, creating an environment that harmonizes with the unique needs of the Barred Pencilfish.

How to breed the Barred Pencilfish

Breeding Barred Pencilfish presents a rewarding yet challenging endeavour, particularly for hobbyists who possess a lesser degree of experience. Unfortunately, these egg scatterers do not exhibit parental care towards their young. In established aquariums, adult Barred Pencilfish may spawn naturally without intervention, and in heavily planted tanks, a few fry might emerge and survive. However, for those seeking to maximize fry yield, a conditioning process involving a large group and abundant live foods is recommended.

To proceed with breeding, selecting a single pair or a group consisting of one or two males and several females is advisable. Placing them in a separate small breeding tank that features mature water and an abundance of fine-leaved plants, along with the option of utilizing plastic grass matting or spawning mops, provides suitable spawning environments. Alternatively, covering the bottom of a bare tank with pebbles or marbles allows the eggs to descend while preventing parental access. Dimly lighting the tank, maintaining a neutral to a slightly acidic water condition, and setting the temperature at the higher end of the species' range are crucial considerations. The incorporation of a small sponge air filter ensures proper water circulation, fostering the initiation of spawning activities.

Once the Barred Pencilfish is ready to spawn, they will swim in close proximity, with the male gently bumping the female's abdomen to fertilize the eggs. The female will release eggs in small batches, descending into the plants or substrate until her supply is depleted. After spawning, promptly removing the parents from the breeding tank becomes necessary, as they have a tendency to exhibit voracious egg-eating behaviour if given the opportunity.

Approximately 36 to 72 hours following fertilization, the eggs will hatch, heralding the next stage of the breeding process. Introducing Paramecium or green water into the tank at this point provides suitable nourishment. Around three days later, the fry will become free-swimming, signifying their increased independence. It is recommended to provide finely crushed flake food, microworms, or newly hatched brine shrimp as appropriate food sources for the growing fry, adjusting the size of the food to accommodate their development.

Diet & feeding

Barred Pencilfish demonstrate an accommodating and versatile appetite, readily accepting various food options. In the confines of the home aquarium, offering them high-quality dried foods, including crushed flakes and granules, which serve as nourishing staples, is suitable. However, to enhance their dietary variety and promote optimal health, it is essential to incorporate daily portions of live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods into their feeding regimen.

A diverse selection of nutritious options can be provided, such as brine shrimp, Moina, daphnia, grindal worms, and tubifex. These offerings supply vital proteins and essential nutrients that contribute to the overall well-being of the Barred Pencilfish. By presenting a balanced diet encompassing both dried and live/frozen foods, aquarists can ensure the nutritional requirements of these captivating fish are met, fostering their vitality and longevity within the aquarium environment.

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