A school of the small Lampeye Killifish in a well lit environment is a beauty to behold!

The Lampeye Killifish Aplocheilichthys kingii is a small species, reaching only about 1 1/2 inches (3.5 cm) in length. At first glance they may not appear to be a worthwhile candidate for your aquarium as they need to be displayed properly. Put them in a tank with good lighting and you’ll quickly see why they are popular. True to their name, the eyes of the Lampeye Killifish will shine and the iridescence of their bodies will appear.

Lampeye Killifish are schooling fish so they will not do well unless you have 4 or more. As with any schooling fish, the more the merrier so get as many as you can afford. A school of these shining little beauties is a stunning sight. It’s easy to see why the Killifish in the genus of Aplocheilichthys are called lampeyes. Many of these species do not show much color except in their eyes, which glow brightly under good lighting.

Brightly glowing eyes is a common characteristic of all the Aplocheilichthys species. Consequently the common names this fish is known by, Lampeye Killifish and Lampeye Killi, are also used in a general sense for other species. Don’t confuse this species with others, especially its close relative the Norman’s Lampeye Aplocheilichthys Normani. This Kilifish is also known as the Sobat Lampeye because it is found in Sobat in central Africa.

Scientific Classification


Lampeye Killifish – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Intermediate
Aquarium Hardiness:Moderately hardy
Minimum Tank Size:20 gal (76 L)
Size of fish – inches1.4 inches (3.51 cm)
Temperature:75.0 to 84.0° F (23.9 to 28.9&deg C)

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Lampeye Killifish Aplocheilichthys kingii was described by Boulenger in 1913. Their natural range in Africa includes Sobat, Wadi Halfa and White Nile drainage systems in central Sudan, the Lake Chad area, Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria. They are listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC), due to a wide distribution and no imminent threats. Other common names they are known by are Sobat Lampeye, Lampeye Killi, and African Lampeye.

The Sobat Lampeye is a small perennial killifish that inhabits pools, swamps, shallow waters and drainage ditches in the wild. These fish feed on insect larvae, small aquatic insects, and small invertebrates including daphnia.

  • Scientific Name: Aplocheilichthys kingii
  • Social Grouping: Groups – Normally they occur in very large schools.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – This fish has a wide distribution with no known major widespread threats.


The Lampeye Killifish is a small fish that won’t quite reach 1 1/2 inches (3.5 cm) in length, and has a life span in captivity of up to 3 years. Its body is slender and elongated, the dorsal fin is set towards the back half of the body, 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 creamy to light brown coloration that will appear iridescent with good lighting. True to their name, the eyes of the Lampeye Killifish will also shine in good light. A males fins may be slightly more pointed than a females.

  • Size of fish – inches: 1.4 inches (3.51 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3 years

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Lampeye Killifish is moderately hardy, but clean water is a must. This 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 similar in size, also peaceful, and won’t pester your Lampeye Killi. To stay healthy they need a diet of small live foods, supplemented with fresh or frozen meaty foods. They will do best in groups of 4 or more of their own kind.

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

Foods and Feeding

Lampeye Killifish are primarily carnivores. In the wild they feed on insect larvae, small aquatic insects, and small invertebrates including daphnia. In captivity they will eat dried foods but will do best if fed smaller sized fresh or frozen foods such as baby brine shrimp or daphnia.

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

Aquarium Care

The Banded Lampeye is a moderately hardy but they do need to be kept in clean water. Aquarium care is fairly simple as long as you are using an effective filter. These fish will do best with bi-weekly water changes of at least 30%.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Water changes of 30% every other week.

Aquarium Setup

This Lampeye Killi is a species that will swim in the middle of the tank. Even though they are small, a tank size of at least 20 gallons is recommended and clean water is a must. Though they can be kept in a community setting, like all Killifish they will also do well when kept in a species tank. 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 well lit aquarium will showcase this fish best. As they are a bit shy plants will provide hiding places, but leave some open space for swimming.

When startled these fish will dart right out of the tank so it is best to have a tight fitting hood. Because these little guys are easily startled it is good to have your lights on a timer with moonlights turning on before the tank light turns off. To avoid startling the fish in the morning, make sure not to have tank turn on when room is too dark.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 84.0° F (23.9 to 28.9&deg C)
  • Range ph: 6.5-7.0
  • Hardness Range: 4 – 8 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle – This is a species that will swim near the middle of the tank.

Social Behaviors

Lampeye Killifish are very peaceful that will do best with other small, peaceful fish. They are schooling fish so they will not do well unless you have 4 or more of their own kind. As with any schooling fish, the more the merrier so get as many as you can afford.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Needs to be in groups of 4 or more.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive – They may eat very tiny shrimp.
    • Plants: Safe

Sexual differences

They are very difficult to sex. Males may have fins that are slightly more pointed.

Breeding / Reproduction

There are reports of this species being spawned in the aquarium but no details are available. If you would like to try to breed the Lampeye Killi, try methods that have worked with other species of Aplocheilichthys.

Aplocheilichthys 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.

After the spawn, the spawning mop or plants should be removed or the eggs will be eaten. The eggs will mature in 2 to 4 weeks. 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

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 Sobat 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 will is more likely to acquire disease.

Lampeye 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 Lampeye Killifish, Aplocheilichthys kingii is rarely available. However other similar species of lampeyes are being bred in Indonesia so if you can’t get these, you may be able to find something similar. This species is also called the Sobat Lampeye and Lampeye Killi.



Featured Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock