Chitala ornata
(Gray 1831)
Family Notopteridae

Lateral view of three clown knifefish
The clown knifefish shown above were collected in 2015. The bottommost two are now specimens in the Florida Museum’s ichthyology collection. Top: UF 237959 Bottom: UF 235846 Florida Museum photo by Zachary Randall

The clown knifefish is oblong, and has a small dorsal fin inserted near the center of its back that is confluent with its small caudal fin. It can be found in canals, reservoirs and ponds in clear to dark water. Clown knifefishes prefer sand or rocky substrate with little to no current, and are often found in vegetation and woody debris. The clown knifefish is a member of the featherfin knifefish family.

Status & distribution

  • Status — Non-indigenous freshwater
  • Florida Distribution — Western and North Central and Peninsula drainages
  • River Drainages — Perdido River, Escambia River, Blackwater River, Yellow River, Choctawhatchee River, Apalachicola River, Ochlockonee River, minor Gulf tributaries, Suwannee River, Tampa Bay, the Myakka or Peace River, Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee River, the Everglades, Indian River, St. John’s River and St. Mary’s River
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Similar Species

  • Distinct in Florida