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Hypopomidae Steatogenys elgans.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gymnotiformes
Suborder: Sternopygoidei
Superfamily: Rhamphichthyoidea
Family: Hypopomidae
Mago-Leccia, 1978

The Hypopomidae are a family of fishes in the order Gymnotiformes known as the bluntnose knifefish. They may also be called grass or leaf knifefishes.[4] These electric fish are not often eaten, of little commercial importance, rarely kept as aquarium fish, and poorly studied; however, species in this family may constitute a significant fraction of the biomass in the areas they inhabit.[3]

These fish originate from fresh water in Panama and South America.[4] The Hypopomidae are confined to the humid neotropics, ranging the Río de la Plata of Argentina (35°S) to the Río Tuira of Panama (8°N). Hypopomids are known from the continental waters of all South American countries except Chile, and are most diverse in the Amazon Basin.[3]


Teeth are absent on the oral jaws. Unlike the closely related Rhamphichthyidae, species of this family do not have a tubular snout, but a blunt, short one. Also, the nostrils are well separated. This family contains the smallest gymnotiform, Hypopygus lepturus, which reaches a maximum of 9 cm (3.5 in) in total length. The largest species in this family reaches only 35 cm (14 in) in Brachyhypopomus brevirostris.[4] These fish have extremely small eyes - smaller in diameter than the distance between their nares. The long anal fin originates below or posterior to their pectoral fins, and no caudal fin is present.[3]

The electric organ discharge (EOD) of these fish are multiphasic (usually biphasic), and are produced in distinct pulses.[3] Certain predators, such as catfish and predatory knifefish, are able to detect these EODs and use this to their advantage in finding prey. However, species in the genus Brachyhypopomus restrict the low-frequency spectrum of their electric field close to their bodies, allowing higher frequencies to spread further; this makes it more difficult for predators to detect them.[5]


  1. ^ Maldonado-Ocampo, J.A., López-Fernández, H., Taphorn, D.C., Bernard, C.R., Crampton, W.G.R. & Lovejoy, N.R. (2014): Akawaio penak, a new genus and species of Neotropical electric fish (Gymnotiformes, Hypopomidae) endemic to the upper Mazaruni River in the Guiana Shield. Zoologica Scripta, 43 (1): 24–33.
  2. ^ Cox Fernandes C.; Nogueira A.; Alves-Gomes J.A. (2014). "Procerusternarchus pixuna, a new genus and species of electric knifefish (Gymnotiformes: Hypopomidae, Microsternarchini) from the Negro River, South America". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 163: 95–118. doi:10.1635/053.163.0107. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2014). "Hypopomidae" in FishBase. November 2014 version.
  4. ^ a b c Nelson, J.S. (2006). Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-25031-7. 
  5. ^ Stoddard, P.K.; Markham, M.R. (2008). "Signal Cloaking by Electric Fish". BioScience. 58 (5): 415–425. PMC 2832175Freely accessible. PMID 20209064. doi:10.1641/b580508.