Clown Knifefish:

Notopterus chitala

Clown Knifefish


Very distinct, flat, silvery fish with long anal fin that gives the knifefish its common name; tiny dorsal fin and 5-10 black spots ringed with white distinguish it from all other fish in Florida; juveniles possess dark vertical bands instead of spots; long anal fin equally allows for forward and backward movements.


Currently only found in Lakes Osborne, Lake Ida, and their associated canals in southeast Florida. Native to tropical Asia–Indochina and Thailand.


Lakes, swamps, and river backwaters; young fish occur in schools among aquatic plants and submerged roots; adults tend to be loaners commonly found near shore in areas with overhanging vegetation or docks; utilizes air to survive in warm, stagnant waters with little oxygen.


Spawning Habitats: Reportedly spawning takes place in spring when females each lay thousands of eggs on the substrate or piece of wood; male cares for the eggs by fanning them with his tail, keeping them aerated and silt-free; later male reportedly protects hatched fry.

Feeding Habits: Feeds on a variety of prey including small fish, insects, and grass shrimp.

Age and Growth

Largest specimen documented in Florida was a 31-inch specimen weighing just under 10 pounds.

Sporting Quality

Limited, but its unique appearance and jumping skills make for an exciting catch.


Bony, but commercially important in native range; flesh minced, made into balls, and cooked with curry.

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