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Halfbeak Fish (Hemiramphidae) Overview & Care Guide

They are unique marine, freshwater, and brackish water fish with amazing appearance and behavior. With tens of species inhabiting a spectrum of natural environments, the options are endless. With the fact that you can now keep Halfbeak fish in your aquarium, nothing can hold you back.

This species generally belong to Hemiramphidae which inhabit the upper region of water. They’re largely found in warm waters around the world but have gained popularity among aquarists for their unique jaw structure where the lower jaw overcomes the upper massively in length.

Species Overview

Level of CareMedium
AppearanceAppears with a unique jaw configuration. The lower jaw is fixed and longer than the upper jaws that move along with the skull.
Size3 inches or smaller
Tank Size20-gallon or larger
Tank EnvironmentFresh and brackish water with plants
Tank MatesKept with the same species Freshwater species can live with peaceful species of similar size

They cover a diverse range of species. However, the aquaria attractions are the ones inhabiting the freshwater and brackish water. They’re generally peaceful community fish.


They can be largely found in the semi-brackish water environment in Eastern Asian countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Malaysia. They’re also found in other regions as well with hundreds of species covered in the category.


The unique jaw configuration is a special appearance of them, But they may have a variety of coloration, patterns, size, and even behavior. However, you can differentiate between male and female fish.

Depending on the species Halfbeak females have rounded dorsal and anal fins while males have theirs long and pointed. The exact characteristics depend on the particular species.

Male celebes halfbeak eating

Behavior & Temperament

They are generally active schooling species so they should be kept in schools. They’re a good jumper that requires the aquarium covered with a tight fit cover. They usually inhabit the epipelagic region of water or we can say that they’re generally the upper-dweller.

They can live well in a community aquarium with other peaceful species of similar size. Halfbeak is a carnivore that can appreciate live foods, frozen foods, and freeze-dried foods.


Species may vary in size but they can grow between 5 cm to 7cm long in captivity. You can differentiate the sex easily because the female is typically bigger than the male counterparts for the same species.


You can find the fish in different colorations from adorable tan to sparkling silver. With an extensive range of species, you can find Halfbeak fish that suits your taste. Commonly, these species have different shades of silver, blue, and green.

Generally speaking, males have bolder or sharper coloration and colorful fins than their female counterparts. Both of them have pampering bright green eyes that look sharp even though the fish is considerably small. That’s an endlessly enjoyable showcase in your aquarium.


They generally have slender and long bodies even though some species are shorter and rounder. You can find the dorsal fin, anal fin, and tail fin are distally placed. They usually have a larger dorsal fin while the anal fin is smaller but hosts the gonopodium for reproduction.

Tank Setup & Care

Regardless of the particular species, They should be kept in groups in the species tank or community tank. Peaceful fish of similar size can be their best tank mates.

Tank Size

Since Halfbeaks may only grow up to 3 inches, a 20-gallon tank is enough. It’s better to choose a longer than taller aquarium to keep Halfbeaks. Since you may keep a small group or make a community tank, a larger aquarium would be better.

Halfbeaks may explore the upper part of the aquarium so a taller measurement isn’t necessary. The longer tank provides a longer track for these to swim around in the tank. Maintain a proportional water volume to keep them viewable throughout time.

Water Conditions

It’s very important to resemble water conditions in the halfbeaks’ natural environment. You must keep the pH values at 6.8 – 7.5 while maintaining the warmer water temperature of 75- 79 F. Manage the hardness level of 8 – 12 KH in the tank throughout time.


Since halfbeaks are the upper-dwellers, they may spend most of their time exploring the upper part of the tank. Again, they can jump out of uncovered tanks so you better use the tight lid and floating plants as well. The preferable decorations include pieces of driftwoods, caves, and rocks.

The brackish tank conditions could be tricky, especially for beginner aquarists but you can use that configuration. You can also research further about the specific requirements for particular halfbeak species you want to keep in the species and community tank.

The brackish condition is somewhere between freshwater and marine exposure. Halfbeaks inhibit the areas from acidic peat to salty water. At this point, you can straightforwardly choose the species that tend to the freshwater rather than the marine habitat.

When setting up the tank, be sure to provide more swimming space. You can set a consistent, shallow water current with your pump. Even though they’re tropical species, too high temperatures aren’t recommended. Good aeration should be promoted as halfbeaks are generally sensitive to low oxygen levels.

The actual water conditions should follow the natural habitats of halfbeak species. Don’t get a brackish water setup if your halfbeak fish are straight or tend to be freshwater species. That’s why keeping multiple halfbeak species with different water requirements isn’t recommended.

There are, of course, some halfbeak species that can tolerate and thrive in a wider variety of water conditions. These include some members of the genus Dermogenys including Dermogenys sumatrana, Dermogenys colletti, Dermogenys siamensis, and Dermogenys pusilla.

General Rules

As a general guide, the captivity-kept can thrive in slightly acidic, up to moderately hard water. Most species can live well in slightly brackish water conditions. While they have some adaptability, Halfbeaks are generally sensitive to changes in water conditions.

Conditioning your tank is more important than other tasks before transferring the specimens into your aquarium. You need to properly acclimate them to keep them alive in the tank.

It’s best practice to research this species you want to keep and comprehend all the aquaria requirements. We suggest you consult with the experts or the seller particularly about tank setup.

Group of halfbeaks

Halfbeak Fish Tank Mates

They are peaceful fish that can coexist with other peaceful fish of similar sizes. Of course, don’t put Halfbeaks with aggressive large fish that can prey on them. There are some condition requirements you should follow for each Halfbeak species when choosing tank mates for them.

While the ones with brackish requirements are rather difficult, the freshwater Halfbeaks have a range of tank mate candidates you can choose from. These include glassfish, mollies, bumblebees, some tetras, and some gouramis. As long as they share similar size and water requirements, they can get along well in the community tank.

Halfbeaks shouldn’t be kept together with large fish species. They’d likely compete for food, especially if they share a similar diet. Generally speaking, you can keep a small school of Halfbeaks with other peace species of similar size.

It’s advisable to decorate the community aquarium with plants, rocks, caves, and pieces of driftwood where Halfbeaks and their mates can thrive and explore the tank environment. Floating plants and the tight lid cover are other elements you should put in your tank when keeping Halfbeaks.

Food & Diet

These species are generally carnivorous that would love to eat a variety of small fish, crustaceans, and insects in their natural habitats. You can accommodate their nutrient intakes by feeding them with flakes, pellets, or those carnivorous granules. Adequate food supply is very important but overfeeding isn’t a good idea as uneaten remains would decay and contaminate the water.

Varied diets are the best approach to feeding Halfbeaks. Enrich their diets with fresh and frozen foods like bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimps, and so forth. In a species tank, feed them twice a day each with a portion that they can finish within 2-3 minutes.

Breeding Guidelines

These species are all egg-layers and external fertilizers. Female Halfbeaks would lay their eggs first and then males fertilize them. They tend to spawn over the aquaria plants you’ve set and lay considerably large eggs(compared to their size). Depending on the species, you’d likely need to set up a breeding tank to promote and accommodate spawning in shallow water conditions.

The water conditions shouldn’t only be shallow but also slightly acidic and soft. After fertilization, the eggs would enter a gestation period of 6 – 10 weeks and hatch into fry. You can start feeding these 3/4-inch juveniles with infusoria or live foods that fit into their mouth.