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Brown pencilfish - Nannostomus eques

Brown pencilfish - Nannostomus eques

Scientific name: Nannostomus eques

Common name: Brown pencilfish

Family: Lebiasinidae

Usual size in fish tanks: 4 - 6 cm (1.57 - 2.36 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 6 - 7.8

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 4 - 14°N (71.43 - 250ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 23 - 29 °C (73.4 - 84.2°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: South America

Temperament to its own species: peaceful

Temperament toward other fish species: peaceful

Usual place in the tank: Top levels


South America; Brown pencilfish are found in the Amazonian Basins of Guyana and Colombia.


The expected life span for Nannostomus eques is 3-5 years.

Short description

Do not keep Nannostomus eques with over active tank mates as they are very timid. They will hide in the daylight hours and they should be kept in small groups to make them at ease. The brown pencilfish are found naturally in very slow moving waters and even floodplains, they can inhabit the smallest areas due to their small size so this should be replicated in the aquarium. The water flow should be kept very low and they do prefer densely planted aquariums, they will also appreciate floating plants at the water surface with dim lighting as well. They have the unusual trait of swimming to the surface at an angle, head first making them quirky to observe and this also adds to their popularity in this hobby. A dark substrate will bring out the best colouration in the fish and will also make for a great display against the foliage added to the aquarium. The brown pencilfish is also quite at home with blackwater conditions so the addition of leaf litter and blackwater extract is appropriate for their set up, the decomposing leaves will also provide a food source for the fish as decay takes place producing micro-organisms naturally.

Food and feeding

Brown pencilfish will accept quality flakes but relish treats of blood worms and brine shrimp. They will constantly graze on any algae present in the tank as well. Due to the small size of the mouths and stomachs that the brown pencilfish possess it is better to feed small meals twice daily rather than one large meal per day.


Males are slimmer and display a lot more colouration than the females.


Condition the parent fish on plenty of live or frozen foods for two weeks before adding them to the breeding tank. Raise the temperature to 29 degrees C and add plenty of plants to provide spawning sites. When spawning is complete, the parents should be removed or they will eat the eggs. These are not the easiest of pencilfish species to breed but it is possible if the breeding tanks are set up to meet all of their requirements. Always use an air driven sponge filter for ease of cleaning and preventing the fry from being sucked into the filtration system. They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves and only small batches at a time, broader leaved plants such as Anubias are ideal for the breeding project but like the other pencilfish species the parent fish may predate on the eggs so they should be removed once spawning is complete. The fry should hatch after 2-3 days and once free swimming they can be fed on infusoria or micro-worms.


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