Datnoid Care: Feeding, Tank Mates, Setup, & More

If you tend to window shop at the pet store chances are you’ve seen a striking, angular-looking predator at some point. It was probably in a tank by itself or with a few equally large tank mates. What was this fish, exactly?

With their bold stripes and predatory nature Datnoids are captivating and a great fish for aquarists looking for something out of the ordinary. So let’s talk more about the fascinating Datnoids and how to care for them!


What are Datnoids?

Danoids are a little unusual but becoming a lot more common in the hobby. The family Datnioididae is found solely around Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

Some, such as the New Guinea Tiger Perch (Datnioides campbelli) thrive in brackish swamps and estuaries. Like most brackish fish they can survive for extended periods in freshwater but need to eventually return to brackish or marine environments to thrive.

All of the species commonly found in the trade are fully freshwater, however. The two most common are the Indonesian Tiger Fish (Datnioides microlepis) and Siamese Tiger Fish (Datnioides pulcher).

The Indonesian Datnoid is found in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra while the Siamese Datnoid is found in the Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam). Both species are fully freshwater.

Datnoids are becoming more common in the hobby because they are raised as food fish in Indonesia. Impressively patterned and thick-bodied, they sell well in Asian markets. Instead, we’re going to discuss how to keep them thriving in aquaria.

  • Common Names: Siamese/Indonesian Tiger Fish, Tiger Datnoid, Tiger Perch
  • Scientific Name: Datnioides sp.
  • Origin: Southeast Asia, Indonesia
  • Size: 12-16 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Predatory
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

Datnoid Care

Here are a few things that you should consider when keeping Datnoids:

Datnoid Tank Size

Ensuring your aquarium is large enough for an adult Tiger Fish is the single greatest challenge in keeping these animals. They are large, active predators that create copious amounts of waste.

Considering they can grow up to 16 inches in length, 125 gallons of space is an absolute minimum, with 180+ gallons being better. As juveniles they can be kept in smaller tanks but be aware that Datnoids grow quite quickly and will likely need yearly upgrades.

A 55-75 gallon is your best bet for raising a few young Siamese Tiger Fish. This gives them space to fill out and room to flee from a dominant fish as they can be territorial towards each other.

Water Conditions

SpeciesLatin NameSalinityDescription
Siamese Tiger FishDatnioides pulcherFreshwaterTypically has a few thicker bars; bars stay prominent into adulthood
Indonesian Tiger FishDatnioides microlepisFreshwaterTypically has numerous thicker bars; often faded into adulthood
Silver DatnoidDatnioides polotaBrackishSilver or dark grey base color instead of brown/orange; rare species
New Guinea Tiger FishDatnioides campbelliBrackishMottled stripes that fade into spots along flank; rare species
Mekong or Thin Bar DatnoidDatnioides undecimradiatusFreshwater5-6 thin bars, smaller than other Datnoids; rare species

When deciding to keep Datnoids you should get a positive ID of the species – and don’t rely solely on what your local fish store tells you. Either on the ID or the water conditions.

Many fish store employees not only misidentify Datnoid types but mistakenly say they are all brackish or all freshwater. The Silver Datnoid (Datnioides polota) is a perfect example.

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They are often sold as regular Siamese Tiger Fish yet they are true brackish Datnoids. They will seem to do well in freshwater for months. Until a wound erupts, festers despite medicine and good food, and they wither and die.

Brackish Datnoids absolutely need salt and freshwater species (Mekong, Siamese & Indonesian) should be kept in pure freshwater. That said, a touch of aquarium salt does bolster immunity in nearly all freshwater fish by stimulating healthy slime coat production.

You may not be able to 100% ID your Datnoid if it’s one of the purely freshwater species as they are quite similar to one another until fully grown. Even then, the Indonesian and Siamese Tiger Fish can look nearly identical.

However the two brackish species are so different that you’ll be fine as long as you provide them with the right water conditions!

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Your filter should also be up to processing the waste that Siamese Tiger Fish (and their tank mates) produce. Canister filters rated for giant aquariums like the Fluval FX6 are essential if you don’t want to be performing multiple weekly water changes.

Being tropical/equatorial fish, they should be kept in elevated temperatures (78-84℉); anything cooler will render them susceptible to ich.

 Like most small scaled/scaleless fish they are sensitive to not only skin infections like ich and fungus but spikes in ammonia, nitrites, and nitrites as well.

Datnoids can tolerate some ammonia and nitrate but being predators they create a lot of waste. If you get lax on your water changes this can lead to fatal buildup, especially in a smaller tank.

The pH should be moderate; unlike many Southeast Asian fish that prefer acidic conditions, Datnoids need slightly acidic to slightly alkaline conditions (pH 6.5-7.5).

This is due to their proximity to the mouth of rivers, where alkaline ocean water modifies both the pH and salinity of their environment.

Plants and Decorations

You may find yourself space-limited when keeping these massive fish. Many aquarists keep their Datnoids in bare aquariums as a result. Empty tanks are also a lot easier to clean as feces and other debris can be easily swept up, saving time spent doing water changes.

That said, I’m a firm believer in giving our pets a stimulating, natural environment. If you’re going to buy a fish that gets this big, make sure you can provide room for large plants, driftwood, rocks, and other environmental features that help them feel comfortable.

Datnoids are open water predators but constant exposure isn’t good for any animal. It places stress on them and their colors are typically faded without a good backdrop.

Fortunately, they are easy on plants and decorations. Datnoids have none of the digging habits that large cichlids display and they leave plants alone. I recommend choosing some of the recommended plants for Discus tanks because they all thrive in temperatures about 80F!

Tank Mates for Datnoids

Datnoids are thankfully trouble-free when it comes to tank mates so long as you choose them wisely. They are peaceful but definitely predators and they grow very fast.

Keeping young Datnoids with Tiger Barbs will go well until they get to be 5-6 inches. At which point your Barbs will become lunch.

Watching a Tiger Fish feed, you’ll see that their mouths are both spacious and projectile, similar to an American Largemouth Bass. Surprisingly large tank mates can be swallowed if your Datnoid is hungry enough.

Best Tank Mates for Datnoids

  • Arowanas: Arowanas go perfectly with Tiger Fish and you’ll often see them side by side. The two species are not only found together in nature but have similar habits. Both fish grow large, fast, and are otherwise peaceful.
  • Large Cichlids: Cichlids can be a bit rough personality-wise but many of the milder tempered types like Oscars and Jack Dempseys are fine alongside Datoids.
  • Large Catfish: This is a broad category and includes big vegetarians like Plecostomus and predators like Red-tail Cats. So long as your catfish is well armored and big enough not to be eaten, they will do fine.
  • Other Datnoids: Datnoids can be a little aggressive if kept in smaller groups. However if you keep 5 or more the aggression is spread out enough that no one fish gets all of it.
  • Stingrays: These bottom dwelling predators are excellent so long as you ensure they get fed before the Datnoid scoops up all of the food. Stingrays also need the best possible water quality to survive.
  • Spiny Eels: Spiny Eels are also Southeast Asian natives. Mostly nocturnal, they grow large enough to not be eaten and enjoy meaty (but smaller) prey items like worms and fish.
  • Silver Dollars and Tinfoil Barbs: These are excellent non-predatory dither fish for an aquarium full of Datnoids, Arowanas, and other hunters.

Poor Tank Mates for Datnoids

Fish to avoid keeping with Datnoids includes anything small enough to be eaten. Tetras, Barbs, Livebearers, Danios, and other community fish will eventually become lunch.

Also avoid keeping Datnoids with large, aggressive fish. Many Central American Cichlids like Red Terrors and Blue Umbees are nasty towards any perceived challenger and will stress the otherwise peaceful Tiger Fish to death.

Feeding Datnoids

Tiger Fish are predators through and through. While they can sometimes be trained on prepared flakes and pellets they don’t do well on them at all. At most, you should use pellets as a supplement for those days where you’ve run out of meat and can’t get to the store.

Freshly chopped seafood (fish, shrimp, clams, etc) are the best choice when not feeding live food. If you want to use terrestrial protein stick to small amounts of chicken breast and other low fat choices as beef and pork are too rich.

Supplement this with live or thawed whole fish. Since feeder fish are often kept in terrible conditions I recommend keeping yours in a quarantine tank to purge them of ich, worms, and other parasites that they will pass onto your Tiger Fish.

Tiger Fish are easily trained to be hand fed as well! Their way of sucking food in at a distance ensures they never nip fingers.

Datnoids should be fed at least twice a day as juveniles, down to once per day as adults. With their fast metabolisms and need for high temperatures you may end up feeding them more often without them getting fat!


Breeding Datnoids

Unfortunately, it’s almost unheard of for Tiger Fish to breed in aquariums. Not only are they nearly impossible to sex but they don’t breed until they are close to their adult size of 12-16 inches.

Datnoids have recently been bred on government and business fish farms in Thailand where they are endangered in order to both provide food and replenish native stocks. Massive development in Southeast Asia has been threatening many aquarium species with extinction, not just Tiger Fish.

Thankfully, captive bred Datnoids are finding their way around the world and prices are decreasing. The technique is still being honed but they involve large outdoor ponds, dozens of fish, and year-round tropical temperatures.


Are Datnoids Right For You?

Datnoids are a little more challenging than some large fish. They need lots of high quality protein, good water conditions, and plenty of space.

However they are striking, personable, and very rewarding to keep! If you’re looking for your next aquatic mega-fish, Datnoids are my recommendation to you!

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