The Striped Panchax Aplocheilus lineatus has always been a relatively popular killifish. In its natural form it is a striking fish reaching up 4 inches (10 cm) with an interesting color pattern. The body is bronze in color with some golden sparkly scales, and the back half is accented with dark vertical stripes. It is also known as the Malabar Killi, Piku, and Stribet Panchax.
The development of one of the most popular varieties, the Golden Wonder Killifish seen in the photo above, has really brought it into the spotlight. Now it is hard to find an aquarium store that doesn’t carry this species. There are other common variations as well that have distinctive tails. One variant has a tail that is all red and on another the tail is red with white outer lobes.
Killifish have the reputation of being difficult to maintain and are not recommended for beginners, but this generalization certainly does not apply to the Striped Panchax. It is a very hardy species and is easy to keep in the home aquarium. It is peaceful for its size and easy to breed too. A planted tank is an excellent way to showcase your specimens. They are especially pleasing when contrasted against a dark substrate in a well lit aquarium.
Though easy to take care of, the Striped Panchax Killifish have a bit of an aggressive side to them. They are predatory fish and will ruthlessly hunt and eat small fish, like neon tetras and zebra danios. They do well in a community tank with peaceful fish that are their size or larger.
The Striped Panchax Aplocheilus lineatus was described by Cuvier and Valenciennes in 1846. They are found throughout Peninsular India and Sri Lanka. Other common names they are known by are Striped Panchax Killifish, Malabar Killi, Piku, and Stribet Panchax. Gorgeous color form have been developed including the popular Golden Wonder Killifish.
The Striped Panchax Killifish inhabits streams and reservoirs in high altitudes, as well as rivers, plains, fields, swamps, and brackish water. These fish are normally found in slow moving water. In India these fish are introduced to different areas and used for mosquito control. It is on the IUCN Red List as least concern (LC).
This fish is known as a benthopelagic species. This means the Malabar Killi live and feed near the bottom (benthic) as well as in midwaters or near the surface (pelagic). They do not migrate as many of the fish in this region do. They feed on insect larvae, small aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and river worms.
Scientific Name: Aplocheilus lineatus
Social Grouping: Solitary
IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern - This fish has a wide distribution, and although there are some local declining populations due to introduced species, it is not considered threatened.
The Striped Panchax is a small fish that won't quite reach 4 inches (10 cm) in length, and has a life span in captivity of up to 4 years. Its body is slender and elongated with a slightly arched back. The dorsal fin is set far towards the back half of the body, and the scales are round. The head is flattened on top with a pointy snout and upturned mouth, they have no barbels.
The basic coloration is a coppery bronze with sparkling yellow-gold scales along the sides and extending onto the fins. Juveniles and females will have several broad dark vertical bars accenting the back half of the body ending at the base of the caudal fin.
One of the most popular varieties, the Golden Wonder Killifish (seen in the photo above) has really boosted this species popularity. Other common variants include some with distinctive tails, one that has an all red tail and another that has a red tail with white outer lobes.
Size of fish - inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
Lifespan: 4 years
Fish Keeping Difficulty
The Striped Panchax Killifish is very easy to care for in a home aquarium and extremely adaptable. Most Killifish are not for the beginner fish keeper, but the Striped Panchax is the exception to the rule. These fish are not picky about what they eat and can live in a variety of water conditions. Another great thing about this Killifish is they are easy to breed for the beginner fish keeper.
Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
Foods and Feeding
The Striped Panchax Killifish are primarily carnivores. In the wild they feed on insect larvae, small aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and river worms. In captivity they are good feeders and will eat flakes, small pellets, and freeze dried foods. They should occasionally be fed some fresh or frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms as well, to keep them looking their best.
Diet Type: Carnivore
Flake Food: Yes
Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally
Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Most of Diet
Meaty Food: All of Diet
Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day
This is a hardy fish that is easy to maintain. They do not get upset with condition changes as much as other Killifish. However they do deserve the same pristine water the other Killifish require. A high quality filter is recommended and bi-weekly water changes of at least 30%. These fish will normally not eat food that falls past them, so substrate cleaning is a must.
Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Water changes of 30% every other week.
This is a hardy species will spend most of their time near the top of the aquarium. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons with a tight fitting lid is recommended. Provide good filtration and do regular water changes. Their natural habitat ranges from streams to lakes to swamps and even into coastal brackish water environments. This means you can keep them in freshwater or a brackish tank. A brackish environment can be created by adding 2 - 3 teaspoons of salt for each 2 1/2 gallons of water.
As with many fish, the lampeyes will do best and are most effectively displayed in tanks which simulate their natural habitat. A dark substrate in a dimly lit aquarium will showcase this fish best. Because this fish stays at the top of the tank it is best to have bunches of floating plants for the fish to hide in. Tall planted plants will work as well.
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
Substrate Type: Small Gravel
Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0° C)
Range ph: 6.0-7.5
Hardness Range: 5 - 20 dGH
Water Movement: Weak
Water Region: Top - This species will spend most of their time near the top of the aquarium.
The Striped Panchax will usually leave other species alone unless they are small enough to be considered food. Adult Striped Panchax Killifish will quarrel amongst themselves so it is suggested that you keep only one or a group of at least four. They can also be kept with many other moderately peaceful varieties of freshwater or brackish water fish. They are an ideal tank mate to keep with gobies. Do not try to keep these fish with smaller fish like neon tetras and zebra danios, they will become food for the Malabar Killi.
Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - Quarrelsome with their own kind, unless in groups of 4 or more, and they can be paired for breeding.
Peaceful fish (): Monitor - Small tankmates are seen as food.
Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
Aggressive (): Threat
Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive - May eat tiny shrimp.
Sex: Sexual differences
The males will be larger, more colorful and their anal fin will be more pointed than that of the females.
Breeding / Reproduction
The spawning method of the Striped Panchax is basically the same as with other species of Aplocheilus, such as the Blue Panchax. A spawning pair can lay 50 to as many as 300 eggs daily and spawning may continue for several weeks. They lay their eggs in fine leafed plants or a clean spawning mop.
The plants or mop should be removed daily and replaced with new ones. The egg laden plants/mop should be placed in a tank containing clean water with the same quality parameters as the parent’s tank. The eggs will mature in 12 to 14 days.
After the eggs hatch, the fry will have an obvious egg sac on their bellies. Once this sac has been absorbed, feed the fry nauplii or powdered dry foods. Some of the fry will grow faster than others so there is the possibility of cannibalism. If you want to successfully raise as many of the fry as possible, you will have to sort them by size so this doesn’t happen. Pay close attention when feeding, as uneaten food can quickly foul the water.
Ease of Breeding: Easy
Striped Panchax are extremely hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. That being said there is no guarantee that you won't have to deal with health problems or disease. They are primarily susceptible to velvet and bacterial infections if good water quality is not maintained. Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.
A good thing about Striped Panchax is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Striped Panchax the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.
Striped Panchax Killifish are very resilient, but it is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.
The wild color versions of the Striped Panchax Killifish are occasionally available, but the Golden Wonder Killifish variety is very common. It is relatively inexpensive because it is being mass produced in Indonesia.
Cindy - 2010-05-04 I just got a killi and it eats like a pig! When it gets bigger, will it eat my zebra danios? They are only and inch to inches long full grown.
cindy - 2010-08-10 Well, it's 3 mos later now and my Killi is basically full-size. He has NOT eaten the Zebra Danios. I feed him well, though, and the Zebras were pretty much full-size when I got the Killi. They are about 1 1/2 inches and the Killi now 3 1/2.
cushtyken - 2010-08-14 I have 3, all about 3 inches in length, I have been trying to keep neons in my 80 gallon tank for almost 8 months without success, they just disappear? Today I watched one eating a whole neon, tonight they are flushed down the toilet! How can they be classed as a "peaceful fish" when they kill everything else ?
Editor's Note - 2010-08-15 They will usually leave other species alone unless they are small enough to be considered food.
kye turnbull - 2011-12-10 yes you were keeping them with the fish neons. but you cindy, are also doing that but there's less of a chance.
batch - 2012-01-30 Cindy, if you keep the Killis fed, they won't eat your Danios. When I've experimented with not feeding my Killis daily, they responded by eating Danios and Neon Tetras.
Cushtyken- You are irresponsible to your fish and the humans whose water supply you are potentially contaminating by flushing fish down the toilet. Flushing your fish for being a fish? Feed you killis, LEARN about your Killis, don't flush living fish.
jmt - 2012-02-21 Actually, I have a killi that killed a bushynose little cory that I had (it was about half the size of the killi). The little cory swam way too far up the tank near the killi and I don't know if the killi thought it was food or what but it attacked with lighting speed. It caught the cory by the tail since it was too large to fit in its mouth, shook it back and forth almost doglike and then released it. The little cory didn't make it. Species specific is best.
steban flores - 2012-11-30 Dear Cindy small fish are food for the killifish. Put 3 blue eyed gretudes very small fish.
Aaron - 2014-05-14 To the person that 'experimented with not feeding them daily' you should probably just get rid of your tank if your not going properly take care of the animals that reside in it. I have two of the common gold killies in a community tank with lots of other species. They are completely fine. I have a Cory that swims all over the place and he's never been attacked nor have any of the other smaller fish. Guess I must've gotten lucky and got two good ones 😃
jodi - 2016-05-29 This is all too true. We recently added 3 Golden Killifish, from the RECOMMENDATIONS of the salesgirl at Petco, and all of our neon tetras started disappearing. With No trace. VERY UPSETTING! We couldn't figure out what was going on in our tank because we had bought some other fish at the same time. Then I started noticing how aggressive they were with food and swimming and figured it must be them eating the others. Low and behold, I finally got on the web and found these posts first click and my suspicions have been confirmed. They are going back to the Pet store to their "Donation Tank" today!! Arrrrghhhh