Some tips (should know) for Killifish keeping

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Killifish are origin from sub-tropical and tropical area (except for Australia). Known for their vivid color and exquisite pattern, Killifish have more than 1000 species all over the world. Believe that before reading this article, you have been fascinated by their beauty.

But Killifish’s life span is so short, most species can be alive only around one year, some species have longer life span – 2 to 3 years only. Some people think that keeping Killifish is frustrating. But I think that’s because they didn’t have taste of the beauty and the sense of achievement of it. You will accompany them all their whole life cycle, from egg to a new egg.

Is it difficult to care Killifish?

The answer is species dependent. There are many species fit for beginners. Like Lyretail panchax (Aphyosemion australe), Red-striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum), Norman’s lampeye (Aplocheilichthys normani), and so on.

Lyretail panchax is the most popular specie of Genus Aphyosemion, they like lay eggs between the little roots of dense waterweeds.

Lyretail panchax ; Photo by Vermeulen, F.

Red-striped Killifish loves peace and is not very sensitive to water quality, so you can keep them with other mild and same size species together. As long as there are enough waterweeds in your aquarium tank, they will reproduce natural without deliberate breed.

Red-striped Killifish  ; Photo by Hippocampus-Bildarchiv

Norman’s lampeye is one of the most popular Killifish species. Min size – about 1.4 inch and the “sparkling blue eyes” are their characteristics. Imagine that dozens of Norman’s lampeye swim around in droves, such a wonderful scene.

Norman’s lampeye ; Photo by Noren, M.

Some species need professional and experienced care.

Bluefin notho (Nothobranchius rachovii), the famous Killifish specie, is very sensitive to water quality change. Environmental requirement: Freshwater, pH range: 6.0 – 7.0, dH range: 4 – 6, Temp range: 68?- 75.2?.The male fish are aggressive, it’s better that place more waterweeds or driftwood in tank, to provide them places to hide.

Bluefin notho ; Photo by Michinobu Kobayashi

The care level of Picturatus killie (Simpsonichthys picturatus) is ‘Difficult’. They are extremely sensitive to water quality. It’s better that change 2/3 water every week, twice per week.

Simpsonichthys picturatus ; Photo by Valdesalici, S.

Due to the variety, the caring methods of each species are very different, but there are commonalities. If you fully understand the habitus of the species you choose, you will do more with less.

Equipment you need

Fish tank

The size of fish tank is depending on fish quantity and size. The average size of Killifish is about 1.5 to 2.4 inches. More water in tank, easier to keep water quality stable. I recommend the smallest size is 2.5 Gallon (for keeping less than 10 fish). Keeping more fish, please use bigger fish tank.

Sponge filter

For small aquarium tank, sponge filter is an efficient choice. Driven by air pump, filtering and increasing oxygen content at the same time.

Air pump

Combined with sponge filter into a filtration system. Filtration system works all the time to prevent fish infections.

Submersible water pump

Use to change water. Doing water change is an effective way to stabilize water quality.

Heater and thermometer

Keep the water in a specific temperature range. Most Killifish require water temperature between 72? to 75?except for Genus Nothobranchius, they require higher temperature, the range is 78.8? to 82.4?.

Breed tank with a peat moss substrate

For annual Killifish to lay eggs.

About water change

As I said above, water change can keep the water quality stable. Without this, the Killifish will easy to be infected. I recommend that change 1/3 to 1/2 water at least once per week, specific frequency depends on species. It’s better that add peat or water conditioner before changing water to prevent water quality sudden change.

About water pH and dH (hardness)

Different species Killifish require different pH balance and water hardness. If you plan to keep more than one specie in a tank, it is very important that understand the water requirement. Most Killies like living in faintly acid soft water. But a part of Genus Nothobranchius species require alkalescent hard water according to their habitat environment. So, I recommend that in proportion 0.1% to 0.2% add artificial seawater into your aquarium tank.

About tank Landscaping

To prevent changing water hardness and infections, please don’t cover floor with gravel. Instead, you can put peat in it or keep it be bare. I recommend that plant waterweeds and place driftwood in your Killies tank.

There are four advantages:

  1. Create a near nature environment for Killifish to lay eggs.
  2. Create some places to hide.
  3. Increase oxygen content of water.
  4. Beautify your tank.

About disease

The major disease that may occurs in Killifish is Velvet disease. This disease is caused by Oodinium, a genus of parasitic dinoflagellates.


  • yellow to light brown ‘velvet’ shown over fins and body
  • the fish may collide the hard objects
  • dyspnea
  • clamping of the fins
  • etc.

Usually, water quality instability and deterioration will cause this disease. So it is very important to keep water quality stable.

Where to buy Killifish

Because of the short lifespan, the regular aquarium shop may not sell Killifish. You need to find a Killifish specialty store or online shop to buy. Or you also can buy them from breeders and hobbyists or at auctions.

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2 thoughts on “Some tips (should know) for Killifish keeping

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