Peppermint Pikehead Fish 101: The Ultimate Care Guide

Peppermint Pikehead Fish, also known as the Spotted Pikehead or Striped Snakehead, is a species of freshwater fish that is native to Southeast Asia. 

These fish got their name due to the distinctive peppermint-like stripes that run down their bodies. This unique characteristic sets them apart from other fish and makes them standout species in any aquarium. 

In this guide, I’ll explore everything you need to know about keeping and caring for these cuties, from their habitat and feeding requirements to their breeding habits and common diseases. 

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Summary

Common NamesPeppermint Pikehead Fish, Spotted Pikehead
Scientific NameLuciocephalus vittatus
OriginSoutheast Asia
HabitatStreams, rivers, and ponds
ColorGreen and silver with peppermint-colored stripes
SizeUp to 20 inches (50 cm)
LifespanUp to 10 years
pH Level6.5 – 7.5
Water Temperature72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C)
Water HardnessSoft to moderately hard (5-15 dH)
Water TypeFreshwater
Minimum Tank Size50 gallons
Community TankYes, with compatible fish
Care LevelModerate
CompatibilityLarge and robust fish, avoid small or timid fish

Peppermint Pikehead Fish History

The Peppermint Pikehead (Crocodile) Fish, Luciocephalus aura or False Gharial, is a species of freshwater fish that is native to Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. 

It is a member of the family Channidae, which includes other predatory fish such as snakeheads.

In fact, the natural history of these guys in the wild is not well documented. 

However, many scientists said that the fish inhabits slow-moving streams and rivers with dense vegetation and sandy or muddy bottoms. 

In the aquarium trade, the Peppermint Crocodile Fish has become a popular species due to its slender, elongated body shape, long snout, and sharp teeth make it an intriguing fish to observe. 

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Behavior

The Peppermint Pikehead Fish’s most striking behavior is its hunting technique. 

It is famous for lying in wait for its prey to swim by, and then ambush them with lightning-fast strikes. 

This predatory behavior is fascinating to observe in the aquarium, as they display impressive speed and agility when hunting.

Another interesting behavior is its territoriality. 

In the wild, it establishes and defends territories against other fish species. 

In the aquarium, they may also exhibit aggressive behavior towards other fish, particularly those of similar size and appearance. 

Therefore, you should keep them in a large enough tank with appropriate hiding places and plenty of swimming space to prevent conflicts.

This fish is also a very shy species that prefers to spend most of its time hiding among plants or other structures in the aquarium. 

What Are the Features of Peppermint Pikehead Fish?

1. Appearance

The body of the Peppermint Pikehead Fish is slender and elongated, with a long snout and sharp teeth. 

Its overall coloration is typically greenish-brown with a series of dark stripes on the sides, which are more prominent in younger individuals. 

Its fins are also an important feature, providing the fish with both stability and the ability to move quickly through the water. 

The dorsal and anal fins are elongated and located towards the back of the fish, which gives them the ability to make quick and sudden turns while swimming.

These cuties have red or orange highlights on their fins, which is what inspired breeders to name them “Peppermint.” 

But still, the coloration of this fish can vary depending on the individual, the conditions it is kept in, and its mood.

2. Body Size

The Peppermint Crocodile Fish (Luciocephalus aura), can grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) in length, which makes it a relatively large species. 

Anyways, the females tend to be slightly larger than the males.

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Lifespan

Peppermint Pikehead Fish can live up to 10 years with proper care as long as they get a balanced and varied diet and good water quality.

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Life Cycle

1. Egg Stage

During this stage, the female fish lays hundreds of eggs in a shallow nest, which is dug out by the male fish.

Then the male fertilizes the and leaves them to develop on their own.

The eggs take around 4 to 5 days to hatch, depending on the water temperature. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge and enter the next stage of the life cycle.

2. Larval Stage

Now, the newly hatched larvae are very tiny and require special care.

For the first few weeks, you should feed them a diet of live food, such as brine shrimp or rotifers.

During this stage, you should also do your best to maintain proper water quality and temperature, as larvae are highly vulnerable to diseases. 

Once the larvae have grown to a certain size, they enter the Juvenile Stage of the life cycle.

3. Juvenile Stage

This time, the fish begin to develop their distinctive striped pattern and elongated body shape. 

They grow rapidly during this stage and require a protein-rich diet to support their growth.

Therefore, you should feed them small live foods such as bloodworms or daphnia to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. 

However, ensure not to overfeed the fish, as this can lead to poor water quality and health issues.

4. Adult Stage

During this stage, the fish have reached their full size and are fully matured. 

Adult Peppermint Pikehead Fish are usually active and exhibit interesting behaviors, such as digging in the substrate, hiding in caves, and occasionally jumping out of the water. 

They may also become territorial and aggressive towards other fish, so it is important to keep them in a species-only tank or with other large, robust fish.

Is Peppermint Pikehead Fish Hardy?

Peppermint Pikehead Fish are hardy fish. They are able to adapt to a range of different water conditions and are generally easy to care for.

 However, you should still provide them with a suitable environment and proper care to ensure their health and well-being.

How to Care for Peppermint Pikehead Fish?

a.Water Requirements

1. Water Quality

Although Peppermint Pikehead Fish is a hardy species, they still can be sensitive to poor water quality, so regular monitoring and maintenance of water parameters are crucial.

Typically, you should perform partial water changes of 10-20% every 1-2 weeks. 

However, the frequency may vary depending on the tank size, the number of fish, and the filtration system.

For example, a larger tank with fewer fish and a robust filtration system may require less frequent water changes compared to a smaller tank with more fish and a less efficient filtration system.

Similarly, the type of fish in the tank can also affect the frequency of water changes. 

For instance, some fish produce more waste than others, which can impact the water quality. 

If the tank contains fish that are messy eaters or produce a lot of waste, you need to do frequent water changes. 

In case you’re using tap water that contains chlorine and other harmful chemicals, you should use a water conditioner to remove these chemicals before adding new water to the tank. 

During water changes, it is also a good opportunity to clean the gravel in the tank. 

The gravel can accumulate debris and uneaten food, which can cause poor water quality and promote the growth of harmful bacteria. 

To remove debris and uneaten food during water changes, you can use a siphon. 

A siphon is a simple tool that uses gravity to create suction and draw water out of the tank. 

There are several types of siphons available, but most consist of a tube with a bulb or hand pump at one end and a nozzle or vacuum head at the other.

To use a siphon, place the nozzle or vacuum head into the gravel at the bottom of the tank and start the flow of water by either squeezing the bulb or using the hand pump. 

As the water flows through the tube, it will draw up debris and uneaten food from the gravel and carry it out of the tank. 

But ensure to be gentle and not disturb the gravel too much to avoid damaging the beneficial bacteria that live there.

2. Water Temperature

These guys are a tropical fish species and require a consistent water temperature of between 72-82°F (22-28°C) to thrive.

Any fluctuations in water temperature can stress your peppermints, impacting their growth and development. 

If the water temperature is too low, the fish’s metabolism can slow down, leading to a reduced appetite and slower growth rate. 

Conversely, if the water temperature is too high, it can increase their metabolism, resulting in a higher demand for oxygen.

These fluctuations can occur due to a variety of reasons, such as changes in ambient room temperature, faulty or inadequate heating equipment, or power outages. 

To avoid these issues, you should use an accurate thermometer, ensure that the aquarium heater is functioning correctly, and keep the tank away from windows and drafty areas.

In the case of a power outage, you can use a battery-operated air pump to maintain oxygen levels.

3. pH Level

The pH level is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the water in the aquarium, and it plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of Peppermint Pikehead Fish. 

This species prefers a slightly acidic to neutral pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, and any significant fluctuations in pH levels can stress the fish and affect their health.

Low pH levels can result from the accumulation of organic waste in the tank, the presence of excess carbon dioxide, or the use of alkaline substrates or decorations. 

This can decrease water hardness, leading to poor health and a weak immune system.

On the other hand, high pH levels can result from the presence of alkaline substances such as limestone, coral, or crushed shells in the tank, or the use of alkaline tap water. 

This can make the fish lethargic, lose their appetite, and experience difficulty breathing. 

High pH levels can also cause skin irritation, fin damage, and even death in severe cases.

To maintain a stable pH level, you should use a test kit such as a liquid test kit or a digital pH meter to monitor the pH level in the water regularly. 

These test kits can provide accurate and reliable readings of the pH level, allowing you to identify any fluctuations promptly and take appropriate measures to address them before they become a problem.

4. Water Hardness

Water hardness refers to the amount of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, in the water. 

Water hardness is typically measured in degrees of hardness, or dH. The ideal water hardness for Peppermint Pikehead Fish is between 5-15 dH, which is moderately hard water. 

You can test the hardness of water using the API GH & KH Test Kit, which is a reliable and accurate method for measuring the hardness of the water. 

The kit includes test solutions that can be used to determine the general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) of the water.

If the water is too soft, you can increase the hardness by adding mineral-rich substances such as limestone or crushed coral to the aquarium. 

And in case the water is too hard, you can reduce the hardness by using a reverse osmosis filtration system or diluting the water with distilled water.

b.Tank Requirements

1. Tank Size

Peppermint Pikehead Fish can grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) in length and are quite active swimmers and require a spacious tank to move around freely and explore. 

Therefore, you should provide them with a tank size of at least 75 gallons (284 liters), but providing a larger tank is always better.

A larger tank not only provides more swimming space for these fish but also allows for more room to create a natural and stimulating environment. 

I actually prefer to offer my peppermints with a tank size of 90 gallons to make sure that every fish has enough space to swim around and establish their territories. 

In a larger tank, each fish can claim their own territory and reduce the likelihood of aggression towards other fish in the tank.

The water quality in a large tank is generally more stable than in a smaller tank. 

A larger water volume means that there is more water to dilute any fish waste, reducing the buildup of harmful chemicals such as ammonia and nitrite.

Additionally, a larger tank can accommodate a more robust filtration system, which can further improve water quality by maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria. 

2. Decorations

Decorations are an important aspect of creating a natural and stimulating environment for Peppermint Pikehead Fish. 

The addition of plants, driftwood, rocks, and other natural elements can help mimic their natural habitat and provide hiding places and territories for the fish.

Plants not only add aesthetic appeal to the aquarium but also help regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the water, promoting a healthy environment for the fish. 

Moreover, live plants can provide an additional food source for fish, especially if they contain algae or other small organisms.

Driftwood and rocks can also help improve water quality by serving as surfaces for beneficial bacteria to grow, aiding in the nitrogen cycle.

But when you choose decorations for your fish, avoid sharp or rough decorations that can harm the fish.

Similarly, you should avoid decorations that can be easily uprooted as they can disrupt the aquarium’s environment.

3. Lighting

Just like us, Peppermint Pikehead Fish require a consistent sleep schedule to maintain their health and well-being. 

As nocturnal fish, they require periods of darkness to rest and rejuvenate.

So you need to establish a consistent lighting schedule to ensure a balance of light and dark periods in the tank. 

This means turning off the aquarium light for at least 8-10 hours per day to provide a resting period for the fish.

To help maintain consistent lighting, you can use a light timer. You can set this device to turn the aquarium light on and off at specific times, providing a regular cycle of light and darkness for the fish.

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Compatibility

Peppermint Pikehead Fish are generally not suitable for community tanks, as they are territorial and can be aggressive towards other fish. 

It is best to keep them with fish of their species or with other large, hardy fish that can handle their aggressive behavior.

Therefore, you should avoid keeping them with small or timid fish.

When you introduce new fish to your peppermints, do it gradually and monitor their behavior closely. 

If you notice aggressive behavior, such as chasing or nipping, you should remove the fish from the tank immediately.

Here is a table of good and bad tank mates for Peppermint Pikehead Fish:

Good Tank MatesBad Tank Mates
Large CichlidsSmall or timid fish
CatfishFish with similar coloration or pattern
PlecosAggressive or territorial fish
Other robust, large fishNipping or fin-nipping fish

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Feeding & Diet 

Peppermint Pikehead Fish are carnivorous and need a varied diet of both live and commercial foods to ensure proper nutrition and growth. 

In their natural habitat, they feed on a variety of small fish, crustaceans, and insects.

In captivity, you should give them a varied and balanced diet of:

  •  Earthworms
  • Crickets
  • Brine shrimp
  • Fish pellets
  • Bloodworms 

When it comes to feeding frequency, you should feel them in small portions 2 to 3 times a day, with one day of fasting per week

You should notice that overfeeding can lead to obesity and health issues, so monitor their feeding habits and adjust the amount and frequency of feeding as needed.

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Breeding

1. Setting Up the Breeding Tank

Setting up the breeding tank is an essential part of successfully breeding Peppermint Pikehead Fish. 

Here are the steps to follow when setting up the breeding tank:

  • Choose a tank of at least 30 gallons to provide enough space for the breeding pair and their offspring
  • Install a filtration system that can handle the fish waste 
  • Maintain the water temperature in the breeding tank between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Keep the pH level in the breeding tank between 6.0 and 7.5
  • Decorate the tank with plants and other hiding places

2. Selecting the Breeding Pair

When selecting the breeding pair, there are several factors to consider. 

One of the most important factors is the health of the fish. Both the male and the female should be healthy and free from disease. 

So, you need to check for any signs of illness such as discoloration, lethargy, or loss of appetite. 

Another factor to consider when selecting the breeding pair is the size of the fish. The male should be larger than the female. 

This is because the male needs to be able to protect the eggs and fry from the female. If the female is larger than the male, she may become aggressive and harm the eggs or fry.

The color of the breeding pair is also an important factor to consider. The male should be more colorful than the female as this is a sign of good genetics and will result in more vibrant offspring. 

Finally, the age of the breeding pair should be around 12 months old. Selecting a breeding pair that is too young or too old may result in poor egg production or low-quality offspring.

3. Conditioning the Breeding Pair

Conditioning involves preparing the male and female fish for breeding by providing them with a high-protein diet. This encourages growth and egg production in the female fish.

You can give them live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. 

These foods are high in protein and will provide the necessary nutrients for the fish to grow and develop. 

You should also feed the fish small amounts of food several times a day, rather than one large feeding. 

This will ensure that the fish are receiving a consistent supply of nutrients throughout the day.

This process will take several weeks before introducing the pair to the breeding tank. 

During this time, the male and female fish will begin to show signs of readiness for breeding. 

For example, the male may begin to display mating behavior such as chasing the female around the tank, while the female may become more swollen with eggs.

4. Breeding Process

Once the lovely pair have been conditioned for several weeks, you can introduce them to the breeding tank. 

The male will begin to court the female, performing a mating dance to encourage her to lay eggs. The male will nudge the female’s belly, trying to prompt her to lay her eggs.

Once the female is ready, she will lay her eggs in a suitable location in the tank. 

The male will then fertilize the eggs by releasing sperm over the eggs. 

The male will also guard the eggs and fry to protect them from predators and to ensure they receive enough oxygen.

The eggs will hatch in approximately 24 to 36 hours, and the fry will be free-swimming in 3 to 5 days

5. Fry Care

The newly hatched fry are very small and delicate and require special care to ensure their survival.

The first step in fry care is to provide them with the right food. You should feed them small amounts of food several times a day. 

Some foods that you can give them include live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or microworms. These foods are high in protein and contain the necessary nutrients for the fry to grow and develop.

You should also perform regular water changes to prevent the buildup of harmful ammonia and nitrites. 

To keep the new babies safe, you need to separate the fry from other fish is ideal, as larger fish may view them as food and try to eat them. 

For this purpose, you can use a breeding net or a separate tank.

Peppermint Pikehead Fish Common Diseases

Peppermint Pikehead Fish are generally hardy fish and can tolerate a range of water conditions. 

However, like any fish, they are susceptible to certain diseases and health issues. Here are some common diseases that these buddies may experience:

IchParasitic infectionWhite spots on the body and finsMedication, raising tank temperatureMaintain good water quality, avoid stressors
Fin RotBacterial infectionFins deteriorate and become raggedMedication, improve water qualityMaintain good water quality, avoid overcrowding
VelvetParasitic infectionYellow or brown dust on the bodyMedication, improve water qualityMaintain good water quality, avoid stressors
DropsyBacterial infectionSwelling of body and protruding scalesDifficult to treat, often fatalMaintain good water quality, avoid overcrowding
Swim Bladder DisorderVarious factors, including overfeeding or constipationBuoyancy and swimming issuesAddress the underlying cause, fasting, improving dietAvoid overfeeding, provide a proper diet


What Size Tank for Pikehead Crocodile Fish?

The tank size for Pikehead Crocodile Fish is 50 gallons. 

However, I recommend providing them with a larger tank to allow for adequate swimming space and hiding places.

How Big Is a Luciocephalus Pulcher?

Luciocephalus pulcher can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length.

What Is the Size of Luciocephalus Aura?

Luciocephalus aura can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length.

How Do You Care for Luciocephalus Aura?

You care for Luciocephalus aura by providing them with a suitable tank environment that includes plenty of hiding places and a varied and nutritious diet. 

As carnivorous fish, feed them a diet consisting of both live and prepared foods. 

It is also important to maintain good water quality, avoid overcrowding, and reduce stressors.


As promised, we have covered various aspects of the Peppermint Pikehead Fish (Luciocephalus aura), including its origin, habitat, appearance, behavior, lifespan, and care requirements. 

Just remember to provide them with a large enough aquarium, plenty of hiding places, and open swimming space to thrive. 

Do you still have any questions or concerns regarding the Peppermint Pikehead Fish? If so, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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