The Humphead Glassfish is an odd looking fish that has become an instant success story!
The Humphead Glassfish Parambassis pulcinella is an exciting addition to the aquarium hobby. If you are looking for something unusual, but with a bit of size and lots of character, a school of these beauties could be just the ticket. This glassfish can reach up to almost 4 inches (10 cm). Like the name implies this glassfish has a large hump on its head and a semi-transparent body.
This glassfish is a relative newcomer to the aquarium hobby. The Humphead Glassfish wasn’t scientifically described until 2003. They are freshwater Asiatic glassfish in the Chandidae family (previously Ambassidae). It differs a bit from other glassfish species because its body is not quite as transparent, but it does have the divided dorsal fin and the lateral line that extends to the tail fin. It is also known as the Humphead Perchlet and Humphead Glass Perchlet,
It is unusual for a fish of this size to remain hidden from the science community for so long but somehow this beauty did. There are many “new” species coming from their homeland of Myanmar, and this may be due in part to the past political climate of that country. Only recently has science had relatively free access to the waters of Myanmar (formerly Burma).
The Humphead Glassfish, like other glassfish species, are surprisingly hardy and adaptable. But unlike some glassfish that need a brackish water environment, Humpheads are strictly freshwater fish. These fish are fairly easy to care for and make a most intriguing curiosity for a freshwater community tank. They are generally peaceful with other tank mates, but are a boisterous and energetic at feeding time, and they will eat smaller fish. They have a surprising large mouth and will readily snack on a guppy or danio sized companion. They can be kept singly, but if kept in a school males will get scrappy with each other for dominance, so there must be at least 8 or more fish.
Until they become established Humphead Perchlets can be a little fussy about foods. Live and frozen meaty foods offered initially can help them adjust. They like a well planted aquarium. It should be at least 20 gallons for one, more if you want to keep a school. Make sure the water has a fairly strong movement to reflect their fast native waters, and is well oxygenated. Like with other glassfish, artificiallly dyed specimens of this amazing fish do show up in the market. Dyed specimens should be avoided as this process is cruel to the fish and usually it will shorten their life span.
- For information on keeping freshwater fish, see: Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care
Humphead Glassfish – Quick Aquarium Care
|Aquarist Experience Level:
|Minimum Tank Size:
|20 gal (76 L)
|Size of fish – inches
|3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
|74.0 to 81.0° F (23.3 to 27.2° C)
Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Humphead Glassfish Parambassis pulcinella was described by Kottelat in 2003. The Humphead Glassfish or Humphead Perchlet are found in Asia, from the Ataran River basin in Myanmar (formerly Burma). They may also occur in other headwaters of the same basin in Thailand as some collected specimens are believed to have come from the Salween river on the Myanmar-Thai border. The Humphead Glassfish is not listed on the IUCN Red List. Other common names they are known by are Humphead Perchlet and Humphead Glass Perchlet.
These fish are found in groups, inhabiting the clear waters of shallow, fast-flowing streams. They are able to hold firm in currents that are flowing around rocks and feed on smaller live animals as they pass by. Although their diet is not yet confirmed, it is assumed they are opportunistic eaters, feeding on small fish, shrimps, and aquatic insect larvae.
- Scientific Name: Parambassis pulcinella
- Social Grouping: Groups
- IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed
The silvery Humphead Glassfish is a deep-bodied, laterally compressed species. Its remarkable characteristic is a spectacular nuchal hump, similar to that found in many of the large South American cichlids. However it’s not quite the same as a cichlids hump, rather it looks more like a thin, bulbous continuation of the dorsal fin. The actual hump is formed from an extension of its spine and is scaleless. Both males and females will have a hump, but the male’s will be larger.
The Humphead is similar in appearance to other glassfish species. But It differs a bit because its body is not as transparent and the backbone and swim bladder are not visible. Like other species however, it does have the divided dorsal fin and a lateral line that extends to the tail fin. It also has the ctenoid scales, they are tough with a toothlike margin.
The body is a silvery white color with a sheen that gives it a golden cast. The scales on the upper body can reflect flecks of blues and greens. There are grayish areas on the face and fins and the dorsal and anal fins have a grayish or black edging along with some small speckling.
- Size of fish – inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm) – It grows grows larger in the aquarium, reaching only 3.1 inches (8 cm) in the wild.
- Lifespan: – Little is known about their true lifespan as of yet, but other glassfish species can live 3 to 8 years.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
The Humphead Glassfish is an easy fish to care for and is a good choice for an intermediate fish keeper. As with any wild caught fish the first 30 days can be a challenging as they acclimate, but these fish are very adaptable and normally great eaters. Until they become established Humphead Perchlets can be a little fussy about foods. Live and frozen meaty foods offered initially can help them adjust.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
Foods and Feeding
The Humphead Glassfish are carnivores. They are predatory fish that in the wild presumably feeds on small fish, shrimps, and aquatic insect larvae. In captivity they initially may not readily accepting prepared aquarium foods unless it simulates live prey. But this is easily accomplished by streaming frozen foods, like brine shrimp and bloodworms, in the filter stream to simulate movement. Once they have settled in, they will eat most fresh, frozen, or dried aquarium foods. They will do best if fed live or frozen food such as earthworms, river shrimp, bloodworms, blackworms, and brine shrimp. Flakes and pellets may also be offered occasionally.
- 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
These fish enjoy pristine waters, so a strong filter and weekly water changes are needed. These fish do not do well in high nitrates and prefer it to below 20 mg/L. Their tank should be cleaned weekly and have about a 30% water change done.
- Water Changes: Weekly – Do about a 30% water change weekly.
The Humphead Glassfish will swim in most parts of the aquarium. They will need at least a 20 gallon aquarium, more if you want to keep a school. It needs to have good water movement and plenty of aeration. These fish enjoy highly oxygenated water so make sure to have sources that will produce the needed oxygen. An undergravel filter operated with powerheads does a great job of keeping the entire tank oxygenated and provides good water movement. Humphead will do best in a well planted tanks. Plants with twisted roots work best and provide areas to hide. Any type of gravel you prefer will work.
- Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
- Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
- Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
- Temperature: 74.0 to 81.0° F (23.3 to 27.2° C)
- Range ph: 7.0-7.5
- Hardness Range: 8 – 15 dGH
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Moderate
- Water Region: All – They will swim in most parts of the aquarium.
The Humphead Glassfish is a good community fish, but any fish small enough to fit in the Humphead’s mouth should be monitored. Fish such as small tetras, guppies, neons, and danios can quickly become snacks. Other species should not be bothered, but they will sometimes quarrel among themselves. Males will tend to be aggressive towards each other fighting for the dominant position. It is recommended that you keep a group of 8 or 10 to reduce tensions, or alternatively keep 3 or 4 in a species tank with only one being male.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Peaceful
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Males tend to be aggressive towards each other.
- Peaceful fish (): Safe – They will eat smaller fish.
- Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive – Small sized shrimps like Cherry Shrimp and Amano Shrimp may be eaten.
- Plants: Safe
Males have a prominent hump on their foreheads. Females may also have a hump but it will be noticeably smaller than the males.
Breeding / Reproduction
The Humphead Glassfish has not yet been bred in captivity. The breeding behavior of this species is not yet known. Presumably they spawn similar to other Parambassis species where pelagic eggs are scattered and there is no brood care.
- Ease of Breeding: Unknown – Fish has not been in circulation enough to know yet.
With Humphead Glassfish; 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. 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. Humphead Glassfish are very resilient once established in a tank.
A good thing about the Humphead Glassfish 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 Humphead Glassfish 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.
Humphead Glassfish are fairly hardy fish, but are subject to the same diseases as other tropical fish. Because they are relatively new to the industry, little is known about specific common diseases and issues. There have been Humphead’s on the market that have dye injected into they. This can cause health and lifespan issues. One of the most common freshwater fish ailments is ich. 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 Humphead Glassfish or Humphead Perchlet are commonly available at present, but will usually command a high price. Availability may vary, depending on the political climate in Myanmar and their relationship with the rest of the world.
Featured Image Credit: Nantawat Chotsuwan, Shutterstock