Stuff That’s Awesome #2: Black Ghost Knife Fish

Stuff that’s awesome is a series of posts where I describe something awesome in 600 words or less. The subject of posts can be absolutely anything- the only inclusion criteria is that I feel the subject does not get the recognition its level of awesome would suggest. The aim of the series is simply to promote awesomeness and hopefully brighten a few people’s days by making them aware of a few more things in the world that are just plain cool.


First of all, BLACK GHOST KNIFE FISH instantly wins the award for having the coolest name for anything, ever. It’s like the guys who named it just pulled cool, tough-guy words out of a hat and then stuck “fish” on the end. It sounds like a code name in a 007 knock-off. Or the subtitle to a videogame about Special Forces. Call of Duty: Black Ghost Knife Fish.

I first became aware of the aquarium kingpin that is BLACK GHOST KNIFE FISH when I had to take one of my favourite tropical fish back to the store because it was fighting with one of the others. Not a problem I ever envisioned having when deciding to keep fish, and perhaps a story for another time. My 13 year old self was rather downcast about losing one of my favourite fish and the shop owner was trying to suggest a replacement. When he first said “BLACK GHOST KNIFE FISH?” to me I thought he was taking the piss. But then he beckoned me over to the corner of the shop… and there it was. The fish all other fish aspire to be.


BLACK GHOST KNIFE FISH or apteronotus albifrons are truly bizarre creatures. More closely resembling an eel than a fish, they have a long, slender body with a single oscillating fin stretching the entire length of their underside. This alien looking fish can reach sizes of up to 50cm, but smaller varieties more suited to home aquariums also exist. It is truly a sight to behold as it floats in place in the tank, ventral fin rippling ever so slightly as if in some unseen breeze.

This South American river-dweller got its name because natives believed that the spirits of the dead took up residence inside them upon death. If I end up as one of these absolute lads when I die then I’d say things are going pretty well.

But DARK SHADOW GUN FISH is more than just a badass name. This thing has moves. You may have read that fish cannot swim backwards. SILENT SPECTRE SABRE FISH does not care about your paltry facts. It can swim backwards. This bad boy has omni-directional moving capabilities thanks to its flowing, undulating swimming style. It can swim vertically. It can swim on any axis it bloody well pleases, and what the heck are you gonna do about it?


NIGHT PHANTOM ARROW FISH is also a master of gymnastics. The one I had in my tank, Agent Cassie (don’t ask), would swim in all kinds of ridiculous positions. Sometimes she would hang in the water, head facing upwards, tail down towards the bottom of the tank, moving around at right angles to the position of her body, just because it looked awesome. Sometimes she would just lay draped along the floor of the tank, because why bother swimming when you’re so damn cool?

You know what else? TWILIGHT SILENT STRIKE FISH X is freaking electric. As in, it can generate electrical pulses using its awesome body and use them for communicating and detecting things in its environment. What an absolute boss!


I just found out there’s also a BROWN GHOST KNIFE FISH, which is marginally less cool, making it officially the second coolest fish around. But let’s get back to the BLACK variety. What are you waiting for? If you own an aquarium, get yourself an UMBRAL CIPHER BAZOOKA FISH and then stare at it, trapped in the throes of an existential crisis, faced with the grim knowledge that you will never be as awesome as this fish.


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