Maximum size : 20 cm

Striped Headstander - Anostomus anostomus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

Table of contents


Striped Headstanders (Anostomus anostomus) are a captivating and distinctive fish species sought after by dedicated aquarists. Native to South America, these elongated Characins are renowned for their striking appearance, characterized by a unique headstand-like posture. In the aquarium, Striped Headstanders can provide an intriguing focal point due to their intriguing behaviours and remarkable physical traits. This species' active and social nature, combined with their preference for large groups, makes them an ideal choice for enthusiasts looking to create dynamic and visually engaging aquatic environments. Upon introducing Striped Headstanders into your aquarium, you may notice that they tend to be quite shy at first. However, with the proper setup, including plenty of space, hiding places, and plants, these fish will quickly acclimate and lose their shyness.

In their natural habitat, Striped Headstanders display gregarious behaviour. However, when housed in small groups within an aquarium, these fish can exhibit quarrelsome tendencies. To mitigate potential conflicts and promote a harmonious environment, it is advisable to maintain either a single specimen or a substantial group comprising a minimum of 8 individuals. This approach helps distribute any aggressive interactions across the shoal, preventing a single fish from bearing the continuous brunt of hostilities. 

When considering tankmates for Striped Headstanders, it is essential to select compatible species. Suitable companions may include medium to large-sized peaceful Cichlids, medium-sized Characins, as well as peaceful Catfish and Plecos. Exercise caution when introducing smaller fish, as they may fall prey to the Striped Headstanders, while long-finned species could be susceptible to fin-nipping behaviour. Careful consideration of tankmates ensures a harmonious coexistence in the aquarium setting.

Striped Headstanders are a species that can grow to a moderate size and, as such, necessitate an ample aquarium space measuring a minimum of 4 feet in length, 18 inches in width, and 18 inches in depth. It is advisable to provide juveniles with spacious accommodations from the outset to prevent stunting and related health issues, as they exhibit rapid growth during their early stages. To replicate their natural habitat, a mature aquarium with a substrate of fine sand or smooth gravel is recommended, alongside the inclusion of sturdy pieces of driftwood and an open swimming area along the front of the tank.

While live plants are not obligatory, they can enhance the aesthetic appeal of the aquarium. When selecting plant species, it is crucial to opt for robust varieties such as Anubias spp. and Java Fern, which can be securely attached to the decor since Striped Headstanders have a propensity to consume plants. Equally important is the implementation of potent filtration and a high level of oxygenation, potentially achieved through the use of spray-bar returns positioned above the waterline and additional powerheads.

Given the species' habitat preferences, maintaining superior water quality is paramount, necessitating frequent partial water changes to minimize nitrogenous waste accumulation. A secure, tightly fitted lid is indispensable, as Striped Headstanders are known for their jumping behaviour.

Striped Headstanders have a distinctive shape, with an elongated body resembling a pike, an upward-pointing mouth, and a small, tapered head. They typically spend most of their time in a "head-down" position. Striped Headstanders have three dark, horizontal bands along their body, with a pale pink stripe separating each bar. Their dorsal fins are red, and their tail fins gradually lose their solid red arc shape until they become transparent at the end. The pelvic and anal fins also have transparent areas with red striping. Overall, Striped Headstanders make a fascinating addition to any aquarium with their unique appearance and peaceful nature.

Striped Headstander Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Striped Headstanders can be a challenging task, particularly during their early stages of development. However, as these fish mature, certain characteristics become more apparent. Typically, mature female Striped Headstanders grow slightly larger than their male counterparts and develop fuller bodies, facilitating easier differentiation between the two genders.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameAnostomus anostomus
Year Described1758
Other NamesStriped Anostomus, Anostomus Cigar Fish
Max Size20 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle
Best kept asGroups 8+
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
ReproductionEgg Depositor
LifespanUp to 5 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.0 - 7.5
GH 3 - 18
Ideal Temperature
73 - 82
22 - 27

Natural Habitat

Striped Headstanders can be found thriving in the freshwater ecosystems of the Amazon and Orinoco river systems across a vast expanse of northern South America. Specifically, these fish are native to Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia, Guyana, and Peru. In their natural habitat, Striped Headstanders prefer to inhabit shallow, rocky areas of fast-moving streams and rivers where the algae are plentiful, creating an ideal environment for these magnificent fish to explore and thrive. Yet, whether in the wild or within the confines of a carefully crafted aquarium, these stunning fish never fail to capture the imagination of those lucky enough to observe them.


Striped Headstanders are known to be spawning fish that reproduce by dropping their eggs after pairing near the water's surface. In their natural habitat, distinct pairs of Striped Headstanders will often breed in densely vegetated areas, with males typically remaining near the nesting site. While breeding Striped Headstanders in captivity can be challenging, it has been accomplished commercially in both South America and Asia, although specific data on the process is currently unavailable. Successful spawning remains relatively rare in a home aquarium setting, and no established methods have been conclusively proven effective.

Some reports suggest that the fish's diet may play a crucial role in initiating spawning. For those seeking to breed Striped Headstanders in captivity, it is advisable to separate males from females and condition them with ample live food. In addition, a large spawning tank with a sandy substrate, a few algae-covered stones, roots, and peat filtration to enhance acidity will also be required.

After introducing the male and female fish to the prepared tank, gradually increasing the temperature by a few degrees and creating a darkened environment by covering the top with a towel can help trigger spawning. Once pairing occurs just below the water's surface, three to five eggs will be dropped. Removing the parents from the tank after the eggs have been laid is crucial, as they will often consume them if given the opportunity. Newly hatched fry should then be fed a diet of baby brine shrimp, algae, and Cyclops to facilitate growth and development.

Diet & feeding

The Striped Headstander is an omnivorous species that feeds on a variety of aquatic plants, algae, detritus, insects, and small invertebrates in its natural habitat. This captivating fish will eagerly consume all types of live, fresh, and flake foods in a well-maintained aquarium to ensure a healthy and balanced diet. To provide optimal nutrition for your Striped Headstander, it is recommended to offer high-quality flake food on a daily basis, supplemented with a spirulina-based fish food or algae wafer.

For an occasional treat, live or frozen fare such as bloodworm or brine shrimp can also be provided. This species also enjoys other forms of vegetable matter, including crushed lettuce leaves, chickweed, spinach leaves, and watercress. However, aquarium plants may be at risk of nibbling if there is insufficient algae growth in the tank. For best results, feed these captivating fish multiple times throughout the day, ensuring only what can be consumed within three minutes is offered at each feeding.

Frequently asked questions

Striped Headstanders are not fussy when it comes to feeding time. They will eat anything from flakes to vegetables to live and frozen foods. As long as you keep their diet balanced and do not overfeed them, there should be no problems.

Yes, the Striped Headstander is a shoaling fish that you should keep together in groups of 6 or more individuals. However, you will require a very large tank for that many fish. If you were to keep them in smaller groups, you would find a lot of aggressive behaviour, so if you cannot buy or don't have a huge aquarium, you should only keep one of these species.

Striped Headstanders can grow to the maximum of 20 cm in length; however, most aquarists that own these fish say they usually only grow to around 16 cm on average.

The Striped Headstander can be found widely throughout South America, specifically in Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela, where they inhabit the rocky waters of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.

The ideal tankmates for Striped Headstanders could include medium to large-sized peaceful Cichlids, medium-sized Characins, Catfish, medium to large-sized Barbs and Loaches. Unfortunately, small fish will be eaten, and they will nip long-finned species, so make sure you choose their tankmates with care.

The striped Headstander will only become aggressive if kept with more aggressive species or housed in cramp conditions. If kept with the correct tankmates, then these fish are relatively peaceful.

Other Headstanders of interest