This large clown knifefish was caught in a South Florida canal in 2015 and is featured in the final plate for this species in the new freshwater fish book. Florida Museum photo by Zachary Randall
The clown knifefish, Chitala ornata, is native to Indochina, but has been found in South Florida starting in the 1990s. It is established in Palm Beach and possibly Broward counties, Florida, so it has been identified as an invasive species to Florida. Many clown knifefish in South Florida died during the unusually cold winter weather of 2010 and 2011, but the species now appears to be expanding its range.
The clown knifefish is a popular aquarium fish, but can grow to over three feet long. It is also a popular food fish in its native range, so it’s unclear which route brought it to Florida’s waterways.
This freshwater fish is nocturnal and known to eat any live prey (usually other fish) that it can fit in its mouth. Here in Florida it prefers canals, reservoirs or ponds with little to no current and some vegetation or debris to hide in.
Fishes in the Fresh Waters of Florida
This is just one species featured in the new comprehensive book “Fishes in the Fresh Waters of Florida“. Learn more about how the book’s photography was achieved, and why our biologists focused on photographing live fish:
Robert Robins, collection manager of the Florida Museum ichthyology collection, and biologist Kenneth Krysko went looking for the clown knifefish in known habitats in South Florida.
Here in Florida, clown knifefish prefer canals, reservoirs or ponds with little to no current and some vegetation or debris to hide in.
The biologists compiling the book on the freshwater fish of Florida decided to photograph live fish to more accurately depict what people would find in Florida’s waterways.
Biologist Kenneth Krysko caught one of these invasive clown knifefish in a South Florida canal.
Although clown knifefish are popular aquarium fish, they can grow to over 3 feet long, which might cause people to release them into local waterways. This large specimen was caught by biologist Kenneth Krysko in South Florida.
This large clown knifefish was caught in a South Florida canal in 2015 and is featured in the final plate for this species in the new freshwater fish book.