Clown featherback, Chitala ornata

The clown featherback (Chitala ornata) is a species of tropical fish native to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Its distribution is in the Mekong, Chao Phraya and Meklong river basins. It has also been introduced to Palm Beach County, Florida, United States.

The clown featherback is often confused with the clown knifefish (Chitala chitala). The featherback grows to 39 inches in length, about ten inches longer than the knifefish and is more frequently found in aquariums.

Another difference between the two, is the featherback has five to ten ocellated (eye-like) black spots with a white ring that decrease in size as they grow. Juveniles lack spots but, have stripes instead. The long anal fin allows the fish to move forward as well as backward.

They feed on any fish that will fit into its mouth. They will school near logs and plants for safety from predators. As the featherback matures, it becomes more territorial and begins to swim alone. They can survive in stagnant water with very little oxygen.

In captivity the featherback can be fed small live fish, ghost shrimp and black worms. They also can adapt to beef heart and commercial food pellets. The will feed mainly when there is no light, because they are a nocturnal fish.

Image Caption: Clown featherback (Chitala ornata). Credit: Mistvan/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)