Can aba-aba-knife fish live with tankmates?

In this blog we will discuss a very unique yet elegant knife fish called as aba aba knife fish.This blog will give all the information related to their tank mates and their behavior too.This will surely help someone who is interested in owning this fish and planning to keep them with tank mates.


In this blog

  • Can aba-aba-knife fish live with tankmates?
  • Key specifications of aba aba knife fish
  • General feature of aba aba knife fish
  • Water parameters for aba aba knife fish
  • Ideal tank size for aba aba knife fish
  • Bala sharks as aba tank mate
  • Endlicheri bichirs as aba tank mate
  • Lapradei bichirs as aba tank mate
  • Can we keep different  knife fish together in similar aquariums?
  • For how long should fish keepers isolate aggressive fish?
  • Summary 
  • Frequently asked questions 
  • References

Can aba-aba-knife fish live with tankmates?

Aba aba are solitary fish and aquarium companions are not recommended for them.This fish is extremely aggressive & its strong teeth can cause serious injuries to its aquarium companions.

They might also end up eating their companions.It’s pretty peaceful when young, but as they mature, it becomes more aggressive and chews on everything nearby.

They can be kept with Bala sharks,Endlicheri bichirs,Lapradei bichirs. If you have the right tank companion, there will be no problem.

If the injuries to the aquarium companion are too serious, you should separate them immediately.However, if the injuries of the affected fish are minor, do not remove them from the aquarium.

Aba aba is a very aggressive fish,they may accept tank companions, but they may eventually kill all of them.

They will kill everything inside the aquarium including heaters, plumbing and other tank decorations depending upon their aggression level.

Key specifications of aba aba knife fish

Scientific nameFamily Other namesGymnarchus niloticusGymnarchidaefreshwater rat-tail, frankfish,african knifefish
HabitatLife span Wild West Africa4-14 years
Diet Carnivore and predatory
Size Huge i.e  65.8 inches or 167.01 cm in length
Minimum tank size 300 gal or 1,136 L
Compatibility Best kept alone
Temperament Experience levelVery aggressive and predatoryExpert in handling knife fish

General feature of aba aba knife fish

  • Largest among knife fish, about 5 1/2 feet or 167 cm long and weigh up to 40 pounds or 18.5 kg.
  • The fin used for locomotion is on its back instead of its belly.
  • They have an electricity producing organ that runs through most of its body and is used for navigation and finding food.

Right water parameters for aba aba knife fish

  • Degree of water hardness: 10-25 d,Moderately hardy
  • Aquarium water temperature: 74.0-82.0° F or 23.3-27.8° C.
  • Aquarium water pH: 6.8 – 7.5
  • Ammonia level: 0ppm
  • Nitrite level:0ppm
  • Nitrate level: <30ppm

Ideal tank size for aba aba knife fish

  • Recommended aquarium size: 300 gallons
  • They are very huge in size and would thrive well in bigger and spacious aquariums.
  • Smaller and overcrowded aquariums will make them more aggressive.
  • Make sure they are getting great swimming space to explore their aquarium.

Bala sharks as aba tank mate

Bala sharks have silvery body with black margins on their dorsal, caudal, anal, and pelvic fins.Their big eyes help them to find their prey in their natural habitat.

They can grow up to 35 cm or 14 inches in length.The bala shark is found in the Malay peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.

Bala sharks water parameter

  • Aquarium water pH range should be between 6.0 to 8.0.
  • The preferable degree of water hardness is soft to medium i.e 5.0–12.0 dGH.
  • Aquarium water temperature range should be between 22–28C or 72–82F. 

Bala shark tank size

  • A 125 gallon tank is required for a group of adult bala sharks, & since they are active swimmers, longer tanks are recommended.

Bala shark feeding habits

In their natural habitat, bala sharks are omnivorous and feed on insects, larvae, algae, plant parts, and small crustaceans.

When kept in a tank, they tend to eat almost any fish food, including both live and dried flakes.They are voracious eaters and accept a variety of food.

  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp 
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Tubifex worms.

Bala shark behavior

Bala sharks are quite active naturally, but sometimes they tend to hide in their preferred roots and aquatic plants as their favorite hiding spots.

In aquariums, these fish behave as if they are scared by their tank mates but in reality they don’t get scared by anything, they just pretend.

They are not aggressive species and get along really well with many freshwater fish species.

Endlicheri bichirs as aba tank mate

P. endlicheri endlicheri, an incredibly strong nocturnal species with very poor eyesight, relies on its excellent sense of smell to search for food. 

In the aquarium, you can see them dashing towards the surface of the aquariums.If their skin remains moist, they can remain away from the water almost indefinitely.

They are found in the Nile river, the Chad basin, the Niger river, the Volta river, and the Bandama river of Africa.

Endlicheri bichirs water parameter

  • Aquarium water temperature: 74F-82F.
  • Water pH levels: 6.2-7.8.
  • Degree of water hardness: Soft
  • KH (potassium hydride): 5-20 dKH.

Endlicheri bichirs tank size

Minimum recommended aquarium capacity:Juveniles or young ones can easily be housed in a small aquarium of 20 gallons, but for grown adults at least 6 feet x 2.5 feet / 180 cm x 75 cm aquarium is required. Depth is not as important as floor area.

Endlicheri bichirs feeding habits

P. endlicheri endlicheri is essentially meat-eating and usually does not accept dry foods in the tank, but some of them are known to consume pellet food too. The most suitable option is fresh foods or frozen foods such as prawns, earthworms, mussels, lancetfish etc.

Endlicheri bichirs behavior

Predatory fish with moderate aggressive temperament. These fish are living on the bottom and will spend most of their time near the bottom of the aquarium.

They’re night animals, and they prefer to feed at night. They have poor eyesight and rely mainly on their senses to navigate their food. 

Lapradei bichirs as aba tank mate

Polypterus bichir lapradei is a subspecies of freshwater fish in the family Polypteridae. P. bichir lapradei is benthic, primitive and popular with experienced fishkeepers.

They use a coordinated web of fins for locomotion. Its pectoral fins are used for general navigation.They are found in various slow-moving shallow water habitats in much of lowland tropical West Africa.

Lapradei bichirs water parameter

  • They prefer softer waters.
  • Aquarium water temperature 72-82°F
  • Aquarium water pH-Neutral pH (between 6.5-7.5)
  • KH: 5 – 20 dKH

Lapradei bichir tank size

  • These are fairly large and powerful fish and can be housed in large aquariums
  • Minimum aquarium size: 125 gallons for adults.

Lapradei bichir feeding habits

A meat eater that needs a protein-rich diet to maintain health. Living, frozen, dry blood worms, weather loaches, ox heart, nightcrawler, and shrimp  are favorable to improve their health.

Lapradei bichir behavior

These fish are aggressive and naturally predators and any species smaller than them could be a snack to them.They might even get picked by other bigger big species too.

Can we keep different  knife fish together in similar aquariums?

Knife fish are not aggressive against other tank companions such as peaceful cichlids, but can be very aggressive if they share a small space with the same or similar species or their own kind.

If you choose to keep these fish together, you should allow at least 80 gallons per fish.Its a big no to keep aba aba knife fish with anyone as they are very aggressive and dangerous too.

For how long should fish keepers isolate aggressive fish?

Keeping the aggressive fish species isolated for at least a week or two, the longer the isolation, the better.This gives everyone else the opportunity to reorganize their hierarchy, become more dominant, settle in an aquarium and gain confidence.


One of the most unique species of knifefish, the Aba Aba is found in many parts of Africa and lives in shallow, slow moving waters.Use special organs to detect weak currents created by other fish. 

In tanks, they tend to be very aggressive and often attack tank companions at night.

Fish aggression is a common issue that many fishkeepers face. Some fish tend to be quite aggressive against their aquarium companions. If left unattended, they can destroy the entire aquarium.

It is best to house highly aggressive fish alone or only in aquariums with other fish of its kind and bala sharks fall in this category.

They are best kept in a solitary aquarium because of their aggressive behavior and sabotaging behavior.

If you are planning to get aba aba knife fish then do a thorough research about their tank size ,tank companions and other parameters too.

They rarely get along with other fish species,very few of them can co-exist with them in the same aquarium because of their aggressive and destructive behavior.

So,if you are keeping them with the above listed tank companions then I would suggest you monitor them daily.

If you see them chasing,destroying or hurting their tank mates then remove the tank mates immediately and put them in another aquarium without delay.

Make sure to quarantine new tank mates before adding them to the tank to avoid various infections.

It’s a fact that most aggressive fish species cannot live with other fish species in an aquarium without fighting,so it’s very important to choose the tank mates wisely for your aquatic friend. 

Frequently asked questions on aba aba knife fish tankmates

Are aba aba knife fish easily available?

Due to their huge size and more space requirement,they are not easily available.They can be bought via air cargo if required.

What is the lifespan of aba aba knife fish?

The lifespan of aba aba knife fish is between 4-14 years with proper care.

Do aba aba knife fish destroy tank equipment and decorations?

Yes,aba aba knife fish are known to destroy tank decors and other tank equipment, especially aquarium heaters,so it’s very important to use heavy equipment in their tanks to avoid such situations.