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.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cyprinodontiformes
  • Family: Aplocheilidae
  • Genus: Aplocheilus
  • Species: lineatus
Striped Panchax – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.9 inches (10.01 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

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

Aquarium Care

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.

Aquarium Setup

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&deg C)
  • Range ph: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 5 – 20 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes
  • Water Movement: Weak
  • Water Region: Top – This species will spend most of their time near the top of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

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.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • 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
    • Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive – May eat tiny shrimp.
    • Plants: Safe

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

Fish Diseases

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.