The colors on the Banded Lampeye Killifish are subtle,… yet they are still beautiful!

The Banded Lampeye Aplocheilichthys spilauchen has a very subtle but attractive coloration. A planted tank is an excellent way to showcase your specimens. They are especially pleasing when contrasted against a dark substrate in a dimly lit aquarium. With their bright red eyes, you can see why these fish are included in the lampeye group of killifish.

This fish is also known as the Banded Lampeye Killifish and the African Lampeye. Certain killifish genera are grouped under the common name “lampeye”. This is because all of these fish all have a unique brilliant spot on the eye. Brightly glowing eyes is a common characteristic of this killi, as well as all the Aplocheilichthys species.

The Banded Lampeye is a lively but peaceful schooling fish. It can be a great addition to any community tank. They live in the mouths of rivers in Western Africa so they will do well with non-aggressive brackish water fish. They can also do fine in a planted freshwater tank with peaceful tank mates. Some of the best tank mates for this African Lampeye are peaceful goby species.

Like most brackish water fish, the Banded Lampeyes are best kept by fish keepers with aquarium experience. Having a good knowledge of changing water types to provide the best environment as the fish ages, or to breed this species, will help the aquarist get the most out of these amazing little guys.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cyprinodontiformes
  • Family: Poeciliidae
  • Genus: Aplocheilichthys
  • Species: spilauchen
Banded Lampeye – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 79.0 to 89.0° F (26.1 to 31.7&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Banded Lampeye Killifish was described by Duméril in 1861. They are found in Africa, generally inhabiting brackish waters. In Western Africa they are found in coastal waters from Cameroon to Angola and then range from Angola to newly recorded Kwanza River. They also range from the mouth of the Senegal River in Senegambia to Nigeria.

The Banded Lampeye Killifish normally inhabit river mouths, lagoons, mangove swamps, and brackish coastal swamps. Occasionally these fish will go into fresh or marine waters, but this is a rarity. This fish is known as a benthopelagic species. This means they 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: Aplocheilichthys spilauchen
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – This fish has a wide distribution with no known major widespread threats.


The  Banded Lampeye Killifish is a small fish, generally reaching up to about 2.75 inches (7 cm) in length with a lifespan of 3 to 5 years. Its body is rather cylinder in shape with short rounded fins, and the scales are round. The head is flattened on top and the mouth is at the tip, they have no barbels. They have a subdued cream to light brown coloration with an iridescent silvery blue along the center of the body, strongest on the back half. The Male will have silvery blue cross stripes on the base of the tail and more intensely colored fins than the female.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm) – Average size is 2.75 inches (7 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years – These fish have a life span of 3 – 5 years in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The African Lampeye is adapted to an estuarine environment. This means they cope with daily changes in things like salinity, temperature, and pH. Although the Banded Lampeye can be hardy, it is not an easy fish to keep. They are often sold as a freshwater fish but are really more suited to brackish waters. They will tolerate lower salt conditions but seem to thrive in brackish water. As with most brackish fish that are kept in freshwater, this can affect them over the long term and they will not usually breed successfully in freshwater.

This Lampeye is a rather shy fish and can be intimidated easily by other tank mates. So take care in picking the other fish for the tank, add other species that are also peaceful and won’t pester your Banded Lampeye. To stay healthy they need a diet heavy in live foods, supplemented with fresh or frozen meaty foods.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

Banded Lampeye Killifish are primarily carnivores. In the wild they feed on insect larvae, small aquatic insects, small crustaceans, and river worms. In captivity they will eat most smaller sized aquarium foods but they will look their best if fed mostly live or fresh frozen foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

The Banded Lampeye is a fairly hardy because they are adapted to survive in such varied environments in the wild.. But they do need to be kept in clean water. Provide good filtration and do regular water changes. Weekly water changes of 30% are recommended.

  • Water Changes: Weekly – Water changes of 30% once a week.

Aquarium Setup

The Banded Lampeye  is a species that will swim in all parts of the tank. Since their maximum size is less than 3 inches, they will do well in a 10 gallon tank as long as the water is kept clean. The mouths of the rivers they originate from have freshwater mingling with the sea so their natural water conditions range from fresh to brackish. You can keep them in freshwater, but a brackish environment is preferable and can be created by adding 2 – 3 teaspoons of salt for each 2 1/2 gallons of water. If you plan on attempting to breed them, brackish water is suggested. Provide good filtration and do regular water changes.

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. As they are a bit shy dense vegetation along the back and sides will provide hiding places. Leave open swimming space in the middle.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Temperature: 79.0 to 89.0° F (26.1 to 31.7&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 77.0° F
  • Range ph: 7.5-8.5
  • Hardness Range: 12 – 20 dGH
  • Brackish: Yes
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All – This is a species that will swim in all parts of the tank.

Social Behaviors

Banded Lampeye Killifish are very peaceful. They are great for a community tank with other peaceful fish of similar size. They are an ideal tank mate to keep with gobies. Like all Killifish, they can also do well when kept in a species tank with a school of their own kind.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Mature males have a more highly arched back than females. They are also more colorful, especially in the fins, and they have silvery cross stripes on the base of their tails.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Banded Lampeye is more difficult to breed and is not as prolific as other members of its family. They are egg layers that scatters their eggs over fine leaved plants in the wild. They produce eggs that will adhere to the plants. In a tank, the use of a spawning mop will serve the same purpose.

These fish can spawn in a species tank or in a breeding tank. A breeding tank for these fish needs to be brackish with a low water level, about 6 inches, and good aeration. It can be set up with a sponge filer and a spawning mop or feathery plants. The water should be soft (5° dGH), slightly acid (Ph 6.5) and the temperature between 77 – 80° F (25 – 27° C).

The plants/mop should be removed daily and replaced with new ones, or the eggs will be eaten. 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 15 days. The newly hatched fry should be fed infusoria, a liquid fry food, or newly hatched baby brine. Pay close attention when feeding, as foods if uneaten can quickly foul the water. The fry will require clean water to survive.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Banded Lampeye Killifish are hardy fish, 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 Banded Lampeye 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 Banded Lampeye 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 is more likely to acquire disease.

Banded Lampeye 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 Banded Lampeye Killifish are occasionally available.