Last updated

Freshwater hatchetfish
Blackwinged hatchetfish
( Carnegiella marthae )
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Suborder: Characoidei
Superfamily: Characoidea
Family: Gasteropelecidae

See text

The freshwater hatchetfish are a family, Gasteropelecidae, of ray-finned fish from South and Central America. The common hatchetfish is the most popular member among fish keeping hobbyists. The family includes three genera: Carnegiella (four species), Gasteropelecus (three species), and Thoracocharax (two species).


Distribution and habitat

Freshwater hatchetfish originate from Panama and South America (though they are absent from Chile). They tend to be an upper-level fish, often swimming directly below the surface of the water, biding their time patiently.


When fully grown, freshwater hatchetfish range in size from 1 inch up to 2 1/2 inches. One exception is the Giant Hatchetfish Thoracocharax securis which can grow up to 3 1/2 inches. The smallest being the Dwarf Hatchetfish Carnegiella schereri which only grows to about 1 inch. [1]


The most obvious trait of the freshwater hatchetfish is their enormously enlarged sternal region. This is accompanied by large pectoral fins and "extraordinarily powerful" associated muscles which account for up to one-quarter of their total body weight. "Quick beats of the pectoral fins" allow hatchetfish to "lift themselves half out of the water and glide along the surface ... Some species can even leave the water for short stretches" [2] Because of this ability to fly and tendency to jump, aquaria used to keep hatchetfish should have a tightly sealed cover to prevent these fish from escaping.


The genera in this family are:

Related Research Articles

Bowfin Bony fish related to gars in the infraclass Holostei

Bowfin are bony fish related to gars in the infraclass Holostei. Common names include mudfish, mud pike, dogfish, griddle, grinnel, swamp trout, and choupique. They are regarded as taxonomic relicts, being the sole surviving species of the order Amiiformes, which dates from the Jurassic to the Eocene, persisting to the present. Although bowfin are highly evolved, they are often referred to as "primitive fish" because they have retained some morphological characteristics of their early ancestors.

Gar Family of fishes

Gars are members of the Lepisosteiformes, an ancient holosteian order of ray-finned fish; fossils from this order are known from the Late Jurassic onwards. The family Lepisosteidae includes seven living species of fish in two genera that inhabit fresh, brackish, and occasionally marine, waters of eastern North America, Central America and the Caribbean islands. Gars have elongated bodies that are heavily armored with ganoid scales, and fronted by similarly elongated jaws filled with long, sharp teeth. Gars are sometimes referred to as "garpike", but are not closely related to pike, which are in the fish family Esocidae. All of the gars are relatively large fish, but the alligator gar is the largest – the alligator gar often grows to a length of over 2 m (6.5 ft) and a weight of over 45 kg (100 lb), and specimens of up to 3 m (9.8 ft) in length have been reported. Unusually, their vascularised swim bladders can function as lungs, and most gars surface periodically to take a gulp of air. Gar flesh is edible and the hard skin and scales of gars are used by humans, but gar eggs are highly toxic.

Arowana Family of fish

Arowanas are freshwater bony fish of the family Osteoglossidae, also known as bony tongues. In this family of fish, the head is bony and the elongated body is covered by large, heavy scales, with a mosaic pattern of canals. The dorsal and anal fins have soft rays and are long based, while the pectoral and ventral fins are small. The name "bonytongues" is derived from a toothed bone on the floor of the mouth, the "tongue", equipped with teeth that bite against teeth on the roof of the mouth. The arowana is a facultative air breather and can obtain oxygen from air by sucking it into its swim bladder, which is lined with capillaries like lung tissue.

Marine hatchetfish

Marine hatchetfishes or deep-sea hatchetfishes are small deep-sea mesopelagic ray-finned fish of the stomiiform subfamily Sternoptychinae. They should not be confused with the freshwater hatchetfishes, which are not particularly closely related Teleostei in the characiform family Gasteropelecidae.


The bluegill is a species of freshwater fish sometimes referred to as "bream", "brim", "sunny", or "copper nose". It is a member of the sunfish family Centrarchidae of the order Perciformes. It is native to North America and lives in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. It is commonly found east of the Rockies. It usually hides around and inside old tree stumps and other underwater structures. It can live in either deep or very shallow water, and will often move from one to the other depending on the time of day or season. Bluegills also like to find shelter among aquatic plants and in the shade of trees along banks.

Tinfoil barb

The tinfoil barb is a tropical Southeast Asian freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae. This species was originally described as Barbus schwanenfeldii by Pieter Bleeker in 1853, and has also been placed in the genera Barbodes and Puntius. The specific epithet is frequently misspelled schwanefeldii.

Sternoptychidae Family of fishes

The marine hatchetfishes or deep-sea hatchetfishes as well as the related bottlelights, pearlsides and constellationfishes are small deep-sea ray-finned fish of the stomiiform family Sternoptychidae. They are not closely related to and should not be confused with the freshwater hatchetfishes, which are teleosts in the characiform family Gasteropelecidae. The Sternoptychidae have 10 genera and about 70 species altogether.

Common hatchetfish

The common hatchetfish or river hatchetfish is a tropical fish belonging to the freshwater hatchetfish family (Gasteropelecidae). Originating in South America in the Peruvian and middle Amazon, the Guianas and Venezuela, it grows to about 2.5 inches (6.5 cm). The fish gets its name from its relatively large protruding belly which resembles a hatchet. Hatchetfish will often jump out of the water when alarmed, propelled by their large, winglike pectoral fins. They also jump to catch small aerial insects.

Marbled hatchetfish

The marbled hatchetfish is a small, normally 3.5 cm (1.4 in) in length, freshwater ray-finned fish native to South America. Hatchet shaped, it presents a gold line extending from its eye to its caudal fin while the area below has a brown and cream colored marble-like pattern.


Barreleyes, also known as spook fish, are small deep-sea argentiniform fish comprising the family Opisthoproctidae found in tropical-to-temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

The silver hatchetfish is a member of the genus Gasteropelecus in the family Gasteropelecidae. It is a relatively small fish that is often kept in aquariums. It is compressed laterally, with black and gold lines running along its side.

Freshwater butterflyfish

The freshwater butterflyfish or African butterflyfish, Pantodon buchholzi, is the only species in the family Pantodontidae within the order Osteoglossiformes. It is not closely related to saltwater butterflyfishes.

Frogfish Family of fishes

Frogfishes are any member of the anglerfish family Antennariidae, of the order Lophiiformes. Antennariids are known as anglerfish in Australia, where the term "frogfish" refers to members of the unrelated family Batrachoididae. Frogfishes are found in almost all tropical and subtropical oceans and seas around the world, the primary exception being the Mediterranean Sea.

Banded corydoras Species of fish

The banded corydoras or bearded catfish is a subtropical freshwater fish belonging to the subfamily Corydoradinae of the family Callichthyidae. It originates in coastal drainages in South America from Rio de Janeiro to Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Emerald catfish Species of fish

The emerald catfish is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the Corydoradinae sub-family of the family Callichthyidae native to the Amazon Basin in South America. It has traditionally been known as Brochis splendens. The fish has appeared on a stamp in Brazil.

Black-winged hatchetfish

The black-winged hatchetfish is a freshwater ray-finned fish native to South America.

<i>Thoracocharax</i> Genus of fishes

Thoracocharax is a genus of freshwater hatchetfishes found in the Amazon, Orinoco and Paraná basins in South America. These fish live just under the surface of the water.

Noturus flavus, the stonecat, is a North American freshwater catfish of the family Ictaluridae. The common name is due to its habit of hiding near or under stones in fast-moving water.

<i>Triportheus</i> Genus of fishes

Triportheus is a genus of characiform fishes from South America, including Trinidad, ranging from the Rio de la Plata basin to the basins of the Orinoco and Magdalena. Some are migratory.

Carnegiella schereri, a species of freshwater hatchetfish, is native to the Amazon Basin in Peru and Brazil. It is often sold for the aquarium hobby under the name silver hatchetfish, dwarf hatchetfish, or Scherer's hatchetfish, and grows to about 2.6 centimeters.


  2. Frey, Hans (1961). Illustrated Dictionary of Tropical Fishes. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications Inc. pp. 354–5. ISBN   0-87666-157-6.

Further reading