Pinnatus Batfish: Complete Guide to Care, Breeding, Tank Size and Disease

The Pinnatus Batfish, is a type of saltwater fish which are named in the scientific community as Platax. It has been referred to by several common names such as: Dusky Batfish and/or Firebird fish. They can grow up to 10 cm in captivity.

The base color of the pinnatus batfish is deep black with orange lines along the outer body, which is why it is one of the most sought out fishes for enriching every fish keepers’ aquariums. But it is not as easy to keep in captivity as are most fish.

They have a flat, disk-shaped body with big dorsal fins, so when they grow into adults they gain a triangle-like shape. If you get the pinnatus batfish as a juvenile, don’t be disappointed if it loses its black coloring, that’s a part of their adulthood.

Pinnatus Batfish

Natural Habitat And Origin

Pinnatus Batfish has origins from the Pacific Ocean western tropics. It is also found in the Ryuku islands of Australia. The waters of central Western Australia, northern regions, and south coast of New South Wales are natural habitats for these fishes.

Adult Pinnatus like to inhabit coral reefs and inshore waters. They generally live alone and remain under rocky overhangs on the outside edges of coral reefs. These fishes even reside at a depth of 20 meters.

Juvenile Platax Pinnatus or P. Pinnatus, however, remain in shallower water. Instead, they prefer to spend their time in mangroves and inner reefs or caves. These fishes find shelter and food, including algae, corals, anemones, crustaceans, zooplankton, and jellyfish.

Lifespan Of Pinnatus Batfish

The lifespan of Pinnatus Batfish can range from 5 to 12 years. They remain active throughout their life but become sluggish a brief time before they die. Occasionally, these species live for a few months or weeks. Unfortunately, most P. Pinnatus do not live longer due to bad shipping.

Moreover, if the tank mates are not that friendly, then these fishes do not last long. But if you provide proper tank condition, tank landscape, and the right feeding, your fish can easily live for at least five years.


Feeding the pinnatus batfish is one of the biggest problems for home fish keepers. Feeding a wild-caught batfish is almost impossible. They have a stubborn temperament and are used to eat what they can get by themselves. They are omnivores, so they eat food with animal or plant origin.

Not many fish keepers have had success with keeping the pinnatus batfish alive more than a couple of weeks, maybe for a few months, but those who did are sharing their experience and this is how they did it:

For the first 2 weeks they gave the pinnatus batfish live brine and some worms (black/blood worms), if you are successful the first week with this diet, after that you can lure them into eating both live/frozen brine and Mysis until they are capable of eating only frozen food. Experiment with offering the pinnatus batfish different kinds of food (like flakes), as they are a curious species and will try it, but keep in mind that they will reject it if they don’t like it.

After the pinnatus batfish starts feeding in general, you have to keep the continuity by giving the food in the preferable dimensions so the batfish won’t spit out what it can’t swallow. The best way to do this is to freeze the food and then grind it in a hand grater so you can get it into small bites for the pinnatus batfish. The good thing about this grating process is that the food comes out in different sizes (all small, but various) and the batfish would have multiple choices and would eventually eat the desirable sized food.

This particular way of feeding the pinnatus batfish has been done in a Quarantine Tank, but getting the batfish to feed in an aquarium with other fishes is a different situation altogether. After joining your aquarium with other species, you must observe its behavior and watch closely if the pinnatus batfish is eating properly and regularly. The food that you will be grating for it should increase by proportion because of the smaller fish who will eat from it around its den. When you increase the amount of food you are giving the pinnatus batfish, you will notice how he will not only eat its own food, but also start trying out the general food you are feeding the other fish with.

If you notice your pinnatus batfish stops eating regularly, start feeding in for 5 to 6 times a day, just to get it back on the healthy track again.

Choosing the right fish tank size

Keeping in mind their fin size, which is particularly big, you will be needing a large-sized fish tank, from 200 to 300 gallons. Yes, this is an above-average aquarium, but if the pinnatus batfish doesn’t feel comfortable, it will fall under the duress of stress and you will lose its companionship. It will also require a stony decorum with large-sized hiding places, preferably with a higher position to the top of the aquarium, but not so high that its fins will touch the top of the tank.

Also the depth of the tank should be a minimum of 2.5 feet deep. As the pinnatus batfish grows, it needs more space to swim freely and stress-free.

Fish tank Maintenance

High-quality water is recommended. Changing the water of the tank weekly will be the cornerstone of keeping the pinnatus batfish in pristine condition. Don’t empty half of the tank by replacing it with fresh water by 50%, make sure you empty the whole tank and replace all of the water by a 100% diluted water change.

The temperature of the water would have to be around 80F, where the gravity must be from 1.018 to up to 1.025. Remember to get the Ammonia and Nitrite levels as close to 0 as possible, as for the Nitrites – 10 ppm is acceptable.

Some fish keepers that have the pinnatus batfish are using UV sterilizers to destroy any parasites that can give the batfish the Ich, which they are highly vulnerable to.

Pinnatus Batfish in Healthy Environment


Don’t be alarmed if your pinnatus batfish is hiding in a cave or just standing still in a corner during the day, they are night swimmers, moving around the tank freely during the night. If living within a fish community, you will notice it chasing other fish from the food when it’s feeding time.

Keeping the Pinnatus Batfish in a reef aquarium

The fact that the pinnatus batfish is feeding on corals and anemones is the biggest problem for keeping them in a reef aquarium. Even if you place defenses for the corals and anemones like crabs, it would be useless as the pinnatus batfish is quite clever and fast, so it can outmaneuver them with great ease.

Pinnatus Batfish Tank Mates

Pinnatus Batfish is one of the peaceful and slow-moving fish species. They are social and can get along with other fish in the same environment. As they have a peaceful nature, they are mostly targeted by aggressive species, and you should not keep them with such fish.

These fish are a vulnerable target for predators like triggerfish, and if juvenile fish remain with them, they will die within days. Also, you should not keep your Pinnatus Batfish with Red Tail Shark, Tiger Barb, Afer Knife, or Jaguar Cichlid. Finally, while keeping fish in the tank, make sure that it is not housed with corals or small invertebrates as they feed on them.

When the P. Pinnatus grows to full maturity, you should reduce the fish in the aquarium as they will need more space with increasing size. Even though they are stronger than small fish, these fish remain gentle and friendly.

The Pinnatus Batfish can easily reside in the community. Their ideal tank mates are clownfish, tangs, butterflyfish, damsels, gobies, and boxfish. In general, your Batfish can get along with any peaceful fish, but it should not be too small as the Pinnatus Batfish might eat it.

Breeding Pinnatus Batfish

You might want to breed Pinnatus Batfish at home. But these fish are not suitable for breeding in the home aquarium environment as they have a larger size. Moreover, they have pelagic requirements of larvae, so you cannot breed them at home.

These species prefer seafood, and they can only be captive-bred as seawater and ocean water are their natural habitat. In Indonesia, the P. Pinnatus are aqua-cultured on fish farms which are then sold in fish markets. However, you can purchase from the US as few of these species are imported to the US for aquarium purposes only.

The captive-bred specimens, along with better natural dietary habits, can live for a longer time. In the future, these species will earn much popularity in the aquarium industry, and people will dedicatedly take care of the Pinnatus Batfish. The breeding level of these fish is intermediate.

There is no sexual dimorphism observed to date, but it is essential to understand that the small fish specimens look different from the adult ones as there is metamorphosis. When the juveniles reach adulthood, their color changes from dark brown to a gray hue.

After the puberty of P. Pinnatus species begins, the gender difference is visible. However, you can also find sexual inversions. Natural spawning happens in captivity and is only possible in favorable conditions and temperatures.

Pinnatus Batfish Common Diseases And Their Treatment

The Pinnatus Batfish is a saltwater type fish, and they remain healthy if you provide a mixed diet having meaty foods like shrimp, scallops, or preserved herbivore preparations. However, these species are prone to Amyloodinium ocellatum and Cryptocaryon irritans, marine velvet or ich, respectively.

If you notice a purchased specimen having an infection or these diseases, then you should address these problems as quickly as possible. You can make some freshwater dips that can kill ich and ensure no signs of stress. Also, keep it in a separate tank and provide medications.

Many other diseases can happen to Pinnatus Batfish, and some of them, along with the treatments, are mentioned below:

Bacterial Diseases

You can notice the signs of these diseases as they appear in red streaks or spots. It can also swell the abdomen or eye of the fish. If it is a red pest, then you will find bloody streaks on fins or tails. Any external treatment is not effective for this infection. But you should separate it in a clean tank and spread disinfectants like monacrin or acriflavine with water.

If you notice white patches near the mouth, then it is mouth fungus. Using penicillin can treat the fungus. Dropsy is another common disease, and it affects the kidneys and causes bloating, due to which the scales protrude. You can add an antibiotic to the food and mix it so that it can cure dropsy.

Fungal Diseases

Fish louse or Argulus is a disease where the fins clamp and parasites become visible on the fish body. Add 10 mg of potassium permanganate per liter of water and keep the fish there for 10 to 30 minutes to treat it.

In Ichthyosporidium disease, the fish becomes sluggish, has a hollow belly, and loses balance. If your Batfish has the problem, mix 1% of Phenoxethol solution into the food, and the disease will stop spreading.

Parasitic Diseases

If the Pinnatus Batfish has light brown or yellow dust in the body and is breathing hard, then velvet has affected it. The best treatment for it is the addition of an Acriflavine solution.

Fluke is a common disease that causes fish skin red. In addition, the gills or fins may disappear. For treating it, you have to provide a 10 to 30-minute bath in water that contains 10 mg of potassium permanganate per liter.

Non-Infectious Maladies

Tumors are generally genetic that may happen due to much hybridization. This disease can cause fish distress and is untreatable. If you see any physical injuries in your P. Pinnatus, then treat it with 25 of mercurochrome.

Some Pinnatus Batfish may get constipated and have compressed bodies. By changing the diet and adding some glycerol to the dried food, you can cure constipation.

Facts About Pinnatus Batfish

  • The juvenile Pinnatus Batfish has a black or brown body with orange tipping, but some gray hue starts appearing when they grow.
  • These species are good-eating fish, and they mostly prey on algae or invertebrates.
  • An adult P. Pinnatus can weigh from 3 to 10lb or around 4.5 kg.
  • Due to their peaceful behavior, they can stay with any fish that is not aggressive or large.
  • These fish slowly move as they have a larger body.

Only for seasoned aquarist

If you are just starting out as a fish keeper, don’t bother with adding the pinnatus batfish to your collection as it will die from the smallest little negligence on your part. Expert fish keepers are very mindful of their pets’ needs and keep a close eye on them all of the time. Any single change in the pinnatus batfish behavior must be met with adequate reactions to better its living conditions, especially if it’s living in an aquarium with other types of fish.


Are Batfish Hard To Keep?

As the P. Pinnatus species prefer saltwater and have different needs, they are difficult to keep. Therefore, only the aquarium hobbyists and those who have expertise in keeping fish should opt for Pinnatus Batfish.

Are Pinnatus Batfish Reef Safe?

Pinnatus Batfish eat anything in the tank, so these species do not live well in reefs as they eat coral polyps and invertebrates.

What Do Pinnatus Batfish Eat?

They are omnivorous fish, and you should change their diet from time to time. These species like to eat krill, squid, crab, shrimp, and algae.

Can Batfish Live In Freshwater?

Pinnatus Batfish is a native of the Pacific Ocean. So, it prefers saltwater, and you should avoid keeping it in freshwater.

Are Batfish Aggressive?

These species are peaceful ones, and they are social as well. They can adjust with any fish that is not aggressive.

How Much Does A Batfish Cost?

Different countries can have different price ranges for these fish. The cost of Pinnatus Batfish generally varies from 26 USD to 66 USD.

Will Batfish Eat Corals?

Pinnatus Batfish are mostly carnivorous, and they like to consume corals, zooplankton, crustaceans, and anemones.

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