The Aba Knife Fish

(Gymnarchus niloticus)

Aba Knife Fish

The Aba Knife Fish  is unusual even for a knife type fish. It is one of the largest knife fish reaching up to 5 1/2 feet (167 cm) long (167 cm) and weighing 40 pounds (18.5 kg). Unlike most in this group, the fin that is used for locomotion is on its back instead of its belly. Other common names it is known by include Aba Aba Knifefish, Aba Khife, Aba, Freshwater Rat-tail, Frankfish, and generically as an African knifefish.

The Aba has an electricity producing organ that runs through most of its body. Unlike the Electric Eel, this organ does not generate enough voltage to stun its prey so it is most likely used for navigation and finding food. But like the Electric Eel it is the only species in its genus, and it too uses its electrical field for a variety of things. It helps the Aba Knife identifying objects in the water, including food, and gives it spatial orientation. Males use an electric ‘stereotyped’ communication to court females.

The large size of the Aba Aba Knifefish demands a very large tank, 300 gallons or more, or even an indoor pond. Because it can be very aggressive it does best by itself. I know of one importer that accidentally put a large Aba in a holding tank with a large Discus and in no time at all, the Discus had a big “U” shaped chunk missing from its forehead. It appeared that this chunk had been surgically removed which shows just how sharp an Aba’s teeth are.

This fish can be considered dangerous because a big specimen could easily remove a careless person’s finger! If after all you’ve just been told, if you still think you are prepared to handle one of these fish, don’t buy the tiny ones that still show their yolk sack because they are very weak at this size. The minimum size to buy is about 3 inches and bigger than this is better.

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