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Family: Chilodontidae

Common Names: Spotted Headstander, Marble Headstander

Origin and Habitat: Widespread in South America: Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Peru. Occurs in slow-moving rivers and streams.

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful and quiet, it should not be kept with very active fish as it will usually withdraw and not eat. This is really the only species among the headstanders that is suitable for the average aquarium; most other species such as those in the family Anostomidae grow too large and are less than peaceful, and many will eat plants.

Spotted Headstander Diet

Primarily herbivore, it requires vegetable foods such as common algae, algae and spirulina wafers; chopped boiled spinach and green lettuce may be taken. One settled in the aquarium, it will learn to eat from sinking tablets and pellets along with bottom fish. Rarely if ever will it feed from the surface.


Can attain 3.5 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Ideal water parameters for Spotted Headstander

Soft (hardness less than 10 dGH) acidic (pH below 7.0) water, temperature 24-28C/75-82F. Must have plants including floating plants and pieces of bogwood. Very sensitive to fluctuating water parameters and quality, which can bring on disease and death.


An interesting species well suited to an established mature aquarium of soft, acidic water containing peaceful fish. It does not eat aquarium plants, but spends the entire day grazing the plant leaves and wood for algae and particles of food. This species constantly swims in a vertical head-down posture, made possible by the positioning of the swim bladder posteriorly.

The fish are found in shoals and should be acquired in groups of five or more, though single specimens often settle in well. When first acquired, they should be quarantined in a smallish tank, and for several weeks. This is not because of any abnormal health issues, but solely to ensure they are eating prepared foods. They will eat from the substrate, not the surface, so sinking foods are required and it is easier to slightly overfeed them in a small QT; in the main tank they mght well be too nervous to look for food and starve.

There must be heavy plant growth for security as well as grazing, and pieces of sunken wood. Floating plant cover is necessary to shade the aquarium; the fish is sensitive to bright light and may refuse to eat.

The dorsal fin of the male is slightly longer than the female's, and the female is thicker in the body. Spawning is possible but difficult.

This species was described and named by Muller & Troschel in 1844. Hoedemann (1969) reported that several variants of pattern occur depending upon the origin. Two different patterns are illustrated in the accompanying photos.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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