Tetra Tales #3 The Other Hatchetfish (Triportheus species)

By Anthony P. Kroeger 

TFCB September, 2015

When we think of hatchetfish, we think of marble or silver hatchets. But there is another family of hatchetfish: the Triportheus. They are sometimes called slender hatchetfish.

There are several species of Triportheus. Care for each is basically the same. I will go over basics first then briefly touch on three particular species.

The basics: Triportheus come from Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela. Most grow 4-1/2” to 6” in length. Triportheus are schooling fish and should be kept in schools of 4 to 6. They are  very active, constantly swimming end to end of their tank. Give them room; at least a 55 gallon aquarium. Always keep their aquarium fully covered—they are excellent jumpers.

Triportheus need clean, well-oxygenated water. I keep mine in moderately hard, neutral pH, temperature 72-80º. I use air stones and power heads to provide enough circulation and oxygen, and change 20% of the their tank water twice weekly. Always add fresh water that is warmer than the tank water the fish are in. they are sensitive to chill and catch ick easily. That said, they are very hardy once acclimated. Just don’t chill them. Triportheus eat any food offered. They are peaceful with fish half their size.

To my knowledge, they have not spawned often in the aquarium, if at all.

Most Triportheus have large silver or yellow metallic scales with black high lights on the fins. Three particular species:

Yellow hatchetfish (T. albus) is native to Brazil and grow to 4-1/2”. It has a yellow body, white belly and black edge to the caudal fin.

Pictus hatchetfish (T. pictus) is native to Brazil and grows to 6-1/2”. It has a metallic green upper body and white belly.

Black-wing hatchetfish (T. rotundatus) is bative to Guyana/Venezuela and grows to 6”. It has a golden tan upper body and white belly. A black stripe starts at the base of the anal fin, runs its entire length up and through the center of the caudal fin into its upper lobe. The pectoral fins are black and the eyes gold and black.

All Triportheus are elongated fish. They do have an extended belly keel, as do marble hatchets, but the distention is not nearly as pronounced.

All Triportheus appear only sporadically in the trade. Most importers do not stock them even though they are regularly offered for sale. If available, they are a moderately priced fish, but usually you really have to look long and hard to find some. If you do find some, give them a try. This other hatchetfish has a lot to offer, too!


Until next time, Tony