The featherbacks have other common names while some people actually call them clown knife, they are all referring to the same type of fish belonging to the same family. Most of the featherback species including N. chitala originates from the rivers of South East Asia. Although there is no mention or evidence that relates and points to specific area on where they can be found, some actually suggest that they belong to the Mekong River spanning across Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The shape of the fish is the most interesting aspect that makes the species unique as it has a very elongated body that ends in a pointy tip towards the tail. At one glance you could easily tell that the shape resembles a feather normally one that you would find placed on caps and I guess that is probably how it got its name in the first place.
The fish has a very long anal fin which it uses to maintain balance and unlike other tropical freshwater species, the anus is actually located close to the front section, about one-third of the whole body length. The colors are mostly brown to grayish and the rounded spots can differ from one species to another, and while some of the fish has the marking appearing in a long horizontal arrangement, others have a random distribution. In terms of size, the featherbacks are known to grow to become quite big measuring at least about 2 feet in total while some will achieve beyond that limit. So as an owner, you can imagine how was it like having to deal with that super bulkiness for something that is living in the water and of course huge responsibility as well that comes along with it.
In terms of living environment, an aquarium tank that houses them should at least measure about 100 gallons and above. Try not to illuminate the tank with bright fluorescent lights as the fish prefer darker condition. If possible get an aquarium lighting which you can tone down the light setting adjusting according to needs. The bigger and more spacious the aquarium, the better it is and most aquarist actually kept them single, whereby they are the only species confined to a large tank. Concerning behavioral nature and subject of aggressiveness towards other tank mates, they are quite difficult to predict and while smaller fish will definitely ended up become a meal, large fish close to their size will sometimes get attacked and harmed as well. Thus, the idea on setting up a community tank is out of question here. There are reports of successful pairing up with large freshwater stingray as both of these fish belong to the same biotope in the wild so you might want to try out if that works.
Feeding your pets should be a cause of concern as they only demand fresh meat and live foods rejecting dry pellets most of the time. Constant feeding of tubifex worms, beef heart, chopped or minced market shrimp should be occasionally provided in order to keep them vigorous and healthy. There are certain types of fish food like the carnivorous pellets normally fed to Oscars which you can try it out but I think if that suits them well, providing to your featherback should be fine as well. In terms of reproductive behavior, little is known about how they mate and produce young offspring and till date, there has been no report of captive breeding taking place in home aquarium.
Before jumping into the idea and making decision of getting one to add on to your fish collection, careful consideration and lengthy thoughts have to be given mainly on how to provide them enough living space to cope up with their large size. Watching the fish swims around the tank should be an exciting affair especially for those people who enjoy watching their pets go about with their daily activities, and featherbacks would be a good choice as they display their active behavior traveling across the tank moving from one end to another looking for prey.
The featherback should not be confused with another type of freshwater species known as the Black ghost knife fish