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Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

The Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus) is a rare species of found in the Amazon River basin near Santarém, Brazil; specifically in Lake Mapiri and it’s tributaries.

Along with two other new species, Nannostomus britskii and Nannostomus nitidus (which DNA analysis suggests is synonymous with Nannostomus limatus), the Elegant Pencilfish was first described from a collection of preserved specimens found in the Sao Paulo museum by Stanley H. Weitzman in 1978.

Needless to say, the Elegant Pencilfish is extremely rare in the aquarium trade and is usually found in mixed shipments with other species.

Like other Pencilfish species, Nannostomus limatus typically frequents small rivers, sluggish tributaries, slow moving streams, and swampy areas that have an abundance of aquatic vegetation, submerged bogwood, and leaf litter.

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish are a small, elongated species that has one prominent dark horizontal stripe along the body from the mouth, through the eye, to the base of the caudal fin, and another lighter yellow/gold colored line above.

The top portion of the body is covered with relatively large darker brown outlined scales with dark, lined spots.   The undersides are a lighter to reddish color (in males) with a splash of red on the base of the caudal and anal fins.   They possess no adipose fin.   Adult males are always more intensely colored and a bit smaller than females.

The Elegant Pencilfish is a shoaling species that is best kept with at least 8 to 10 of their own kind in a nano-aquarium type setup.   In a community tank environment, the can be housed with like sized loricariid catfishes, peaceful characids, dwarf cichlids, and the smaller callichthyids.

Nannostomus limatus do well in a densely planted aquarium of at least 15 gallon capacity, with a dark sand or fine gravel substrate, some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting, some driftwood or bogwood for the fish to hide among, and some dried Indian Almond Leaves or other leaf litter to promote the growth of microbe colonies.

During decomposition, the dried Indian Almond leaves produce tannins and other beneficial chemicals as well as establishing a secondary food source as the leaves decay.   Nannostomus limatus prefer clean, aged, slow moving water in their aquarium making frequent water changes a  necessity.   Power heads and filtration systems with heavy water flows should be avoided.

To date, breeding has never been reported in an aquarium environment.

Elegant Pencilfish are micro predators and in their natural environment feed on small invertebrates, minute worms, larvae of chironomids, etc.   In an aquarium environment they do well on a diet of live, frozen, or freeze dried Daphnia, baby brine shrimp, microworms, tubifex, or bloodworms.

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus) are almost never available in tropical fish keeping shops but may occasionally be acquired online from importers when discovered in mixed shipments.

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)







Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-82° F, GH <3, pH 4.5-6.8
Max. Size: 1.5″
Color Form: Silver, Black, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Nano- tank
Origin: Brazil, Lake Mapiri
Family: Lebiasinidae
Lifespan: Unknown
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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