Leaffishes are small fishes of the family Polycentridae. According to FishBase, it only includes the genera Monocirrhus and Polycentrus from fresh and brackish water in tropical South America.[2] Although included in the Asian leaffish family Nandidae by FishBase,[3] most recent authorities place the African Afronandus and Polycentropsis in Polycentridae.[4] Polycentridae were formerly placed in the order Cichliformes but are now regarded as being incertae sedis in the subseries Ovalentaria in the clade Percomorpha.[5]

Monocirrhus polyacanthus.jpg
Monocirrhus polyacanthus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
(unranked): Ovalentaria
Family: Polycentridae
T. N. Gill, 1858

All of these fishes are highly specialized ambush predators that resemble leaves, down to the point that their swimming style resembles a drifting leaf (thus the common name leaf fish); when a prey animal - such as an aquatic insect or smaller fish - comes within range, the fish attacks, swallowing the prey potentially within a quarter of a second. To aid in this lifestyle, all members of the family have large heads, cryptic colors and very large protractile mouths capable of taking prey items nearly as large as they are. These intriguing behaviors have given the family a niche in the aquarium hobby; however, none of these species are easy to maintain in aquariums, requiring very clean, soft, acidic water and copious amounts of live foods.

Genera and speciesEdit


  1. ^ Betancur-Rodriguez; et al. (2017). "Phylogenetic Classification of Bony Fishes Version 4". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17 (1): 162. doi:10.1186/s12862-017-0958-3. PMC 5501477. PMID 28683774.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2019). "Polycentridae" in FishBase. February 2019 version.
  3. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2019). "Nandidae" in FishBase. February 2019 version.
  4. ^ Collins, R.A., R. Britz, and L. Ruber (2015). Phylogenetic systematics of leaffishes (Teleostei: Polycentridae, Nandidae). J Zoolog Syst Evol Res 53(4). doi:10.1111/jzs.12103
  5. ^ J. S. Nelson; T. C. Grande; M. V. H. Wilson (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Wiley. p. 752. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6.
  6. ^ Coutinho, D.P. & Wosiacki, W.B. (2014). "A new species of leaffish Polycentrus Müller & Troschel, 1849 (Percomorpha: Polycentridae) from the rio Negro, Brazil" (PDF). Neotropical Ichthyology. 12 (4): 747–753. doi:10.1590/1982-0224-20140046. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-29.