Maximum size : 4 cm

Golden Pencilfish - Nannostomus beckfordi : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Golden Pencilfish (Nannostomus beckfordi) are a stunning and peaceful species that thrive in biotope aquariums with their own kind. These fish are captivating and elegantly adorned species of fish that capture the attention of aquarists and enthusiasts alike. These pencilfish are renowned for their intricate colouration and distinctively elongated body shape. Although they are compatible with similarly sized fish in community tanks, they prefer to avoid larger or more aggressive tankmates. 

In terms of husbandry, Golden Pencilfish exhibits a preference for a meticulously arranged aquarium adorned with lush vegetation and an abundance of concealed retreats. They find solace in subdued illumination and thrive in well-maintained water conditions. Within the confines of a tank, the Golden Pencilfish tend to gracefully navigate the upper and middle water layers. The inclusion of floating plants on the water's surface, such as water lettuce, establishes a reassuring environment, fostering the fish's comfort and security.

Among the selection of tank flora, both Vallisneria gigantea and common Vallisneria stand as suitable choices. These plants, with their densely growing leaves, offer a haven of security where the fish may even choose to lay their eggs. To ensure a harmonious balance, a portion of the tank should remain open for the fish to traverse freely.

Concerning the bottom substrate, the fish's disposition towards it is relatively unconcerned, though it does tend to present a more aesthetically pleasing aspect against a black backdrop that accentuates the fish's colouring. Vigilant attention to water quality is imperative; thus, adhering to a routine of weekly water changes of up to 15 per cent is an essential practice. Notably, Golden Pencilfish exhibits a preference for gentle water flow, and it is advisable to secure the aquarium with a well-fitting lid to mitigate any risk of the fish leaping out.

The Golden Pencilfish presents an elongated body adorned in a resplendent gold hue, accentuated by a central silvery band traversing its flanks. A vibrant orangy-red band gracefully spans horizontally along the length of their bodies, originating at the head and extending towards the tail. Complementing this ornate arrangement, a contrasting blackish band resides below the aforementioned marking, juxtaposed against a creamy-white underbelly. These discerning fish exhibit a distinctive black spot adorning the lower portion of their gill covers, harmonizing with their striking red caudal fin.

Golden Pencilfish Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing male and female Golden Pencilfish is a relatively easy task. Males exhibit a more vibrant and intense colouration, in addition to possessing an enlarged, well-developed anal fin utilized during courtship and spawning. Their anal fin is also curved towards the back. Females, on the other hand, have a straight anal fin, and a rounder body shape and are less colourful than males.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameNannostomus beckfordi
Year Described1872
Other NamesBeckford' s Pencilfish, Brown Pencilfish
OriginsGuyana , Suriname , Brazil , Venezuela
Max Size4 cm
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 6+
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
LifespanUp to 5 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 5.5 - 8.0
GH 5 - 19
TDS 18 - 268
Ideal Temperature
69 - 80
20 - 26

Natural Habitat

Golden Pencilfish is a fascinating fish species originating from the lush rivers and swampy areas of South America. Their natural habitats are often dense with aquatic vegetation, submerged bogwood and branches, and an abundance of leaf litter. You can find them in small, slow-moving rivers, swampy areas, and sluggish tributaries of the Amazon drainage in Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana, and Guyana. In the wild, Golden Pencilfish are known to be shy and prefer to stay hidden in the vegetation.

 Orinoco - Venezuela
Venezuela Flag


Golden Pencilfish are fascinating egg scatterers that require some effort to breed. While they don't take care of their young, the adult fish will spawn naturally in a well-established aquarium, and some fry may survive. However, if you want to increase your chances of successfully breeding these fish, conditioning a large group with plenty of live food is recommended.

To encourage spawning, select a pair or a group containing one or two males and several females, and place them in a small breeding tank with mature water and plenty of fine-leaved plants, plastic grass matting, or spawning mops. You can also use marbles or pebbles to line the bottom of a bare tank to prevent the parents from getting to the eggs.

Maintain a dimly lit tank with neutral to slightly acidic water, and keep the temperature at the high end of their range. Add a small sponge air filter for circulation, and spawning should occur naturally. After spawning, remove the parents from the breeding tank and introduce Paramecium or green water to feed the fry. About three days later, the fry should become free-swimming and can be fed finely crushed flake food, microworms, or newly hatched brine shrimp once they are big enough.

Diet & feeding

Golden Pencilfish are not known to be selective eaters and will readily consume various types of food. While high-quality flake food is suitable as a staple diet, it is essential to supplement their diet with live or frozen food to ensure their nutritional needs are being met. Offering them foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, grindal worms, and tubifex will provide them with essential proteins and nutrients for optimal health and vitality.

Other Pencilfish of interest