Max Size: 6.5cm

Common Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla)

The Common Hatchetfish spend most of their time swimming on the top level of an aquarium, where they hunt for food. This species is best kept in groups of five or more. Despite being peaceful towards other fish species, these fish are often bickering among themselves. Because Hatchetfish are susceptible to ich, they are not recommended for beginners as they are nervous and shy.

Despite their relatively small size, these fish resemble hatchets due to their protruding belly.

The Common Hatchetfish is a deep-bodied fish with white or silvery bodies. These fish have a prominent, black horizontal line running through the centre of their body and a mouth situated close to the top of the head for feeding at the surface.

Their large, winglike pectoral fins propel hatchetfish out of the water when startled. A tight-fitting lid on the aquarium is also recommended since they jump to catch small flying insects.


Common hatchetfish
Common hatchetfish
Common hatchetfish
Common hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Common Hatchetfish
Quick Facts
Scientific NameGasteropelecus sternicla
Year Described1758
Other NamesRiver Hatchetfish
OriginsGuyana, Peru, Suriname
Aquarium LevelTop
DifficultyIntermediate - Advanced
Best kept asGroups 6+
Lifespan2 - 5 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH6.0 - 7.0
GH2 - 15
TDS18 -215
73 - 81℉
22.8 - 27.2℃


In the home aquarium, the Common Hatchetfish will readily accept most good quality dried foods such as granules, flakes and sinking pellets. These modern food products have been developed to provide all adequate nutrition to maintain your fish's health and dietary requirements.

Providing additional foodstuffs such as live, frozen, and freeze-dried meals such as bloodworm, daphnia, and tubifex once or twice a week will provide additional benefits to your fish's health and well-being but is not a must for this fish.

It should be noted that bloodworms should only be given as an occasional treat and should not be used as the staple diet as they are difficult for fish to digest and can potentially cause blockages.

This fish is an omnivore in the wild, meaning it will consume some vegetable matter. Although most modern fish foods take this into account and include them in their products, you can still supplement your fish's diet with blanched vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and zucchini. Ensure you do not overfeed your fish and remove any leftovers the following day.

Sexual Dimorphism

It is challenging to differentiate males and females, but if viewed from above, the females are very slightly larger and noticeably rounder-bodied than males, especially when carrying eggs.

Other Hatchetfish of interest

Marbled Hatchetfish(Carnegiella strigata)
Spotfin Hatchetfish(Thoracocharax stellatus)
Date Added: 21/10/2020 - Updated: 20/09/2022 14:38:39