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FAQs on Ropefish Compatibility

Related Articles: Bichirs & Ropefish, Family Polypteridae

Related FAQs:  Ropefish 1, Ropefish 2, & Ropefish ID, Ropefish Behavior, Ropefish Selection, Ropefish Systems, Ropefish Feeding, Ropefish Health, Ropefish Reproduction, & FAQs on: Bichirs 1, & Bichir Identification, Bichir Behavior, Bichir Compatibility, Bichir Selection, Bichir Systems, Bichir Feeding, Bichir Disease, Bichir Reproduction,


Compatibility between Ropefish and spiny eels     9/20/17
Hello to all and good afternoon!
I currently have two custom tanks, one 100x50x50cm 250l (40x20x20" 66g) and a 80x35x45cm 126l (32x14x18" 33g)
I have long since fallen in love with oddballs, currently I have a Macrognathus circumcinctus with some guppy and shrimp in the smaller tank it has around 10cm (4") or so, eating frozen brine shrimp very well, the bigger tank has some bichirs and a striped Raphael catfish (the bichirs are going to be rehomed, the catfish also might get out), I have ordered 3 Ropefish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) with a friend, they are 20cm(8") according to him, the plan on the long run was getting more M. circumcinctus (getting a group of 4~6) and getting them together with the Ropefish and probably a African knife fish in the bigger tank, and probably a purple gudgeon or African butterfly for the smaller tank
Today though, it downed on me that the M. circumcinctus might look a lot like an earthworm to the Ropefish, and that maybe M. siamensis could work better for getting bigger, then I've been thinking of setting the smaller
tank for a group of M. circumcinctus and the bigger tank for the ropes, knife and M. siamensis, the bigger tank has a sump, a whole lot of canister media and is soon getting a fluidized sandbed, nitrate reactor and a little aquaponic setup, very well filtered, bioload wouldn't be a problem there, the smaller tank has a diy internal filter, so i wouldn't dare stock too much in it, it has a whole lot of Egeria densa though;
Now that my whole story is out in open, my main questions are:
Would Ropefish eat M. circuncinctus ?     9/20/17

If so, would I have a problem with doing M. siamensis instead ?
If not, how many would you consider a proper number for the tank ?
If I were to keep the M. circumcinctus in the smaller tank, could I get more to make a group ?
That should sum it up, I am free to any suggestion, thoughts on the setups and advices, the bigger tank is absolutely scape proof, the smaller has four 25cmx4mm openings at the top, I will soon take care of them though
<The short answer is that Ropefish are inept predators adapted to taking bloodworms and other insect larvae. While they can (and do) consume bite-size fish such as Neon-sized things, they are otherwise harmless, .
Assuming the Spiny Eel in question is similar in size to the Ropefish, it should be absolutely fine. An adult Macrognathus circumcinctus (around 20 cm/8 inches) should be okay, but I agree, Macrognathus siamensis (30 cm/12 inches) would seem better on paper, though frankly I've never seen any that size. Ideally, look for something like Macrognathus aral that get bigger, but not very much bigger, than the Ropefish. Here's what I'd do -- throw in a couple big earthworms and see what the Ropefish do. If they're devoured at once, there's your answer! As a rule, predators shouldn't be kept with tankmates less than 2/3rds their size, unless the potential prey is very obviously too well defended to be vulnerable. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Compatibility between Ropefish and spiny eels      9/21/17

Thank you for the fast answer Neale, I guess I will just do that, try out with earthworms to see, in the worst case I'll just grow the M. circumcinctus in the small tank and when it reaches a nice size put it on the bigger tank...
<Quite so.>
Or even better, if I do find a M. aral I'll just let the M. circumcinctus chilling in the small tank and have the M. aral in the bigger tank
<Agreed -- M. circumcinctus is a great species for community fish that aren't too tiny -- Platies, Bleeding Heart tetras, X-ray Tetras, Harlequins, that sort of thing. M. aral is a nicer species for big fish communities, but without the territoriality of the Mastacembelus, as opposed to Macrognathus, species Spiny Eels. Cheers, Neale.>

My bichir... ate a newt! Shades of Monty Python!       6/18/15
Hi, I have a beautiful bichir named Dracco. He is so friendly he will swim into my hand to be rubbed
... anyway, I believe he ate one of my baby fire belly newts... should I be worried?
<For the Polypterid; Cynops newts may be too toxic food items; only time can/will tell. Bob Fenner>

re: My bichir        6/19/15
They weren't meant to be good for him... he just greedy lol
<Shouldn't be in the same system. Incompatible. BobF>
re: My bichir       6/19/15
I'll let u know what happens
<Thank you. B>

re: My bichir       6/21/15
I am happy to say that Dracco, it's doing just fine... I sent up prayers and then put him in cool water with an all natural ick medicine that's safe for crabs (I've used this need fir several different fish injuries and ailments)...
I let him sit in it for 4 hours then placed him back... he been doing wonderful ever since... thank God and thank u for ur time.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
re: My bichir      6/21/15

Sorry my phone's auto correct, I have used this all natural medicine for not only ick but fir bite injuries caused by Drago to ny other fish. The med helps them heal. I had a Molly whose penial fins were bit completely off, leading his whole inside exposed and hanging out... I let him sit in a private bowl filed with circulated water and a cup of this med and he healed. This medicine is wonderful and fir much more than ick
<Cheers, B>

disappearing fish      /RMF      4/3/14
Greetings, experts! I have a new issue today. . .I've had six fish disappear in the last three weeks.
No bodies, no evidence, no nothing. I've torn the tank apart, and I can't find ANYTHING.
In my 125 gallon tank, I have: 14 Denisonii Barbs, 14 Glo-skirt tetras (I think these are modified Black Skirt tetras),
<You are correct... Gymnocorymbus ternetzi all>
8 Ropefish,
<... the "butler/s" here... Prime suspects. They do eat fishes>
6 Hillstream Loaches, 2 Siamese Algae Eaters, and 2 Plecos (L333 and L129).
<And Loricariids will quickly (w/in hours, a day), clean up dead bodies>
Three Denisonii Barbs and three tetras have vanished without a trace.
None of these fish were small, and in fact the smallest of the Denisonii Barbs are alive and well.
Could it be the Ropes?
My previous group never ate anybody, and I kept small(er) fish with them long-term. This new group is another matter entirely. Even though I keep them well-fed, I have seen them stalk and snap at other fish. Could it be because they're more recently caught/imported?
<Mmm, possibly a factor. All Erpetoichthys are wild-caught, imported>
Could it be that ever since they got a taste of the Danios I was keeping in there, they've gotten more predatory? (I moved the Danios to another tank.)
I did not think it was possible for them to eat fishes that are 3 times the size of their own heads, especially when round (like the tetras) and not torpedo-shaped. I have seen a Rope grab a tetra, then release it when it thrashed violently, and the tetra was uninjured -- you'd never know it had been grabbed. So do Ropes even have the ability or the jaw strength to
tear up other fish into bite-sized pieces?
<Possibly; yes>
This is the first time I've had this many Ropes at once, is that a factor?
<This too a possibility>
I initially wondered if one or two fish had spontaneously died and been scavenged, even though none of the fish appeared to be ill.
<Would be odd here; considering what all else you have this is doing fine>
But there have been too many disappearances. Water parameters: 76 F, pH 7.3, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 5-10.
These tetras have turned out to be so nasty and nippy that I've moved them to another tank, and I'll be taking them back to the store. I am considering Rhombo Barbs as a replacement. Thoughts?
<Should work as well as the Denison's>
Thanks so much,
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> 
disappearing fish     /Neale      4/3/14
Greetings, experts! I have a new issue today. . .I've had six fish disappear in the last three weeks. No bodies, no evidence, no nothing.
<Corpses of small fish can, will disappear overnight.>
I've torn the tank apart, and I can't find ANYTHING.
In my 125 gallon tank, I have: 14 Denisonii Barbs, 14 Glo-skirt tetras (I think these are modified Black Skirt tetras),
<I did wonder if these were merely Black Skirt Tetras that have been injected with fluorescent dyes, a cruel process widely discouraged among humane fishkeepers. But it does seem these are genuinely genetically modified fish. Not seen them in the UK, where genetically modified pets are currently not licensed for sale.>
8 Ropefish,
<Fish predators, given the chance in aquaria, though they feed on wormy things in the wild.>

6 Hillstream Loaches, 2 Siamese Algae Eaters, and 2 Plecos (L333 and L129).
Three Denisonii Barbs and three tetras have vanished without a trace.
None of these fish were small, and in fact the smallest of the Denisonii Barbs are alive and well.
Could it be the Ropes?
<Easily. Or snails. Or the SAEs, or really anything with a taste for dead fish.
Indeed, this the whole idea of Clean-up Crew in marine tanks!>
My previous group never ate anybody, and I kept small(er) fish with them long-term. This new group is another matter entirely. Even though I keep them well-fed, I have seen them stalk and snap at other fish.
<Indeed. It is their nature to do so. A housecat, even if well fed, will still stalk mice, spiders and songbirds.>
Could it be because they're more recently caught/imported?
<For sure, and if they were larger when purchased than the last bunch, they may have developed a taste for small fish before you bought them.>
Could it be that ever since they got a taste of the Danios I was keeping in there, they've gotten more predatory? (I moved the Danios to another tank.)
I did not think it was possible for them to eat fishes that are 3 times the size of their own heads, especially when round (like the tetras) and not torpedo-shaped.
<Quite so; they aren't really adapted to handle large prey, but if the prey is weak, dying or dead, then maybe...>
I have seen a Rope grab a tetra, then release it when it thrashed violently, and the tetra was uninjured -- you'd never know it had been grabbed. So do Ropes even have the ability or the jaw strength to tear up other fish into bite-sized pieces?
<Their jaws and teeth are relatively small, adapted to handling mosquito larvae and the like.>
This is the first time I've had this many Ropes at once, is that a factor?
<Possibly; hard to say.>
I initially wondered if one or two fish had spontaneously died and been scavenged, even though none of the fish appeared to be ill. But there have been too many disappearances. Water parameters: 76 F, pH 7.3, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 5-10.
<Sounds fine.>
These tetras have turned out to be so nasty and nippy that I've moved them to another tank, and I'll be taking them back to the store.
<Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, the Black Widow or Black Skirt Tetra is indeed nippy, though usually harmless if kept in decent numbers. So the fact yours are nasty is quite unusual.>
I am considering Rhombo Barbs as a replacement. Thoughts?
<A nice, but rather shy/gentle fish, so do approach with care. It's small -- about 5cm when mature -- and needs soft, acidic water to do well, as you'd expect for a blackwater species. Not a substitute for a robust barb like Tiger Barbs, but good for specialist tanks.>
Thanks so much,
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: disappearing fish      4/4/14
Thank you, Bob and Neale, for the swift replies!
I was aware that dead or dying fish could be swiftly consumed, especially with the Loricariids in the tank, and that's what I assumed had happened. . .until the disappearances continued. The best time to observe and inspect is when I feed them late in the evening; lights on or off, even the nocturnal Loricariids and the slow-poke Ropes rush out to eat since I started feeding the Repashy gel! All of the fish that went missing had eaten "dinner" the night before and looked healthy, then were gone the next morning.
Neale, you said that the Ropes may have developed a taste for small fish before I bought them, if they were larger than the last bunch when purchased. As a matter of fact, yes, the fish in this group were quite a bit bigger than the previous ones, and I would have blamed them automatically if it weren't for the size, shape, and condition of the vanished tankmates. It's one thing for them to gulp down a small fish or pick at a dead/dying fish, but for them to attack a larger, healthy fish?
Seemed unlikely. They always struck me as opportunistic swallowers, rather than aquatic wolves that kill their prey and devour it in pieces.
<Your analysis is correct here, but they are predators nonetheless, and if a fish is ailing for some reason and easy to catch, I wouldn't put it pass them to deliver the coup-de-grace. That said, I would expect them to be safe with healthy tetras of the size and shape of Black Widows.>
But, since I don't have any other suspects, I'm boarding the Ropes at my LFS to see if the disappearances stop while they're out of the main tank.
I would put them in my quarantine tank, but it's occupied - with two tiny new Ropes! If fish stop vanishing while the big Ropes are on "vacation" and all evidence points to them, I'm hoping that the tiny ones might still work out in the main tank.
<Indeed, but 'post hoc, ergo propter hoc' is not always true, and if the sickly Black Widows have all died off now, removing the existing Ropefish will have zero relationship with the absence of further deaths among your remaining Black Widows.>
By the time those ones got really big, surely their tankmates would also be big enough to be safe, and hopefully this pair would never develop that kind of behavior in the first place.
I hope I can find more tiny Ropes, I love watching them grow. I could probably set up another tank for the group of big, "mean" Ropes, but if they are responsible for these disappearances, I don't know if I could safely keep ANY dither fish with them. I do not find this sort of thing (miniature food chain in my living room) funny or cool, and I will take the necessary steps to avoid it.
<Ropefish are generally not predatory, and in fact coexist well with many types of fish. I've kept them without problems alongside Mollies and Rainbowfish for example in low-end brackish systems.>
When I got the tetras, my LFS said the same thing you did: they shouldn't be as nippy in larger numbers. So I got 14 of them, and they were perfectly fine until I got a few more larger Denisonii. I think they were displaced from their territory or something, since they started hanging out in a different part of the tank at the same time they started shredding the barbs' fins.
<Not good.>
I absolutely agree that it's unethical to participate in the trade of animals that have been injected with dye or dipped/stained/painted, and you're correct, Glo-Fish are modified genetically. Apparently they were originally developed to help detect environmental toxins, and only the first generation of fish were actively modified; the ones that are sold as pets today inherit their color from their parents. Or so says their website.
<A curious tale indeed!>
As the ethics of fishkeeping go, I'm a lot more concerned with the appalling misinformation spread by careless and/or ignorant employees at many pet stores, especially the big chains. I don't buy my livestock there, but I do eavesdrop when I'm shopping for plants or decor, and more than once I've gone so far as to approach a customer and try to correct whatever nonsense they just heard from a store employee.
I'm sure I sound insufferable, but I can't remain silent when I hear stuff like, "Well, if your tank is brand-new, then the fish can't be dying from bad water quality! I bet it's your pH. Here, buy this pH-Down, that'll fix it right up!" Or, "This Oscar fish here would be a great addition to your 20-gallon guppy tank!" I only WISH I were exaggerating.
<I fell your pain.>
Thank you, thank you!
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: disappearing fish       4/5/14
Thanks again for your reply.
Neale, about boarding my Ropefish to see whether that makes the disappearances stop, you said: "Indeed, but 'post hoc, ergo propter hoc' is not always true, and if the sickly Black Widows have all died off now, removing the existing Ropefish will have zero relationship with the absence of further deaths among your remaining Black Widows."
I take your point. But some Denisonii disappeared as well. Even though they are more torpedo-shaped than the tetras, they were still (I thought) too big to simply be swallowed. And the tiniest of the Denisonii are all still here. It's perplexing.
Are you saying that, rather than Ropes killing/eating healthy fish that they "shouldn't" have been able to eat, it's more likely that some tetras AND some barbs were sick in a way that was not apparent to me, then either died and were consumed by the clean-up crew, or were vulnerable enough to be eaten by the Ropes, despite their size?
<That does seem probable, but I simply don't know without seeing the fish in front of me. Generally Ropefish aren't particularly predatory, and even Senegal Bichirs are pretty good alongside fish too large to swallow whole, and those Bichirs are substantially more piscivorous than Ropefish.>
If so, I hope my removal of the Ropes did NOT coincide with the last of the maybe-sick fish dying off. Any suggestions to improve the integrity of my "test"? If two weeks go by with no additional disappearances, then I put the Ropes back in and the disappearances resume, would that be a reasonably good indicator that the Ropes are somehow responsible?
<That would seem reasonable, yes, though 4-6 weeks is the classic "quarantine" period to see if there's something amiss with a new batch of fish.>
[You said] "Ropefish are generally not predatory, and in fact coexist well with many types of fish. I've kept them without problems alongside Mollies and Rainbowfish for example in low-end brackish systems."
That has also been my experience, which is why this current situation so baffling.
<Quite so.>
As always, I so appreciate your input.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: disappearing fish    4/14/14

Hello again, all!
I haven't had any more fishes disappear since moving the Ropefish out, but I'm still not confident that they were to blame. My Denisonii barbs have always seemed a bit "itchy," flashing against the sand now and then, but I didn't want to medicate without knowing what was going on, and there weren't any other symptoms. I tested my water, of course: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 5-10 nitrates, pH between 7.0-7.2 with no fluctuations.
Then the barbs' flashing escalated, and other fish started doing it, too.
Some of them would even stick their faces into the corners of the glass to scratch, and it almost looked like they were trying to scratch their eyes.
The only fish that weren't flashing were the Plecos and the Hillstream Loaches. I read quite a bit about parasites on WWM, but didn't see anything that really fit my situation. Again, I couldn't SEE anything: no spots, no visible worms, nothing. Their color has remained bright, their fins are open and erect (not clamped), and they're all eating well.
<Flashing can also be a sign of ammonia/nitrite, or Whitespot, or Velvet (which frequently affects the gills before being visible on the body).>
Per the recommendation of my LFS, I've been treating with Praziquantel for about 10 days, and the flashing is FINALLY starting to diminish. I'm only seeing it once or twice per day now. My Ropes are also being treated separately, lest they carry anything back into the tank with them when I bring them home. (Hope the disappearances don't resume after I bring them back!)
So, I wonder if the fish that vanished actually died from a parasite that the rest of the fish have been better able to resist/suppress, and their bodies were scavenged before I found them. Perhaps the scavenging infested the other fish, or led to the increase in symptoms?
Neale, when you said that without seeing them, you wouldn't be able to really tell whether the fish were being hunted/eaten by Ropes or dying of some other cause, what would you be looking for if you COULD see them?
Size of Ropes relative to tankmates? Health of other fishes?
<Mostly predatory behaviour... stalking, for example.>
I'm afraid I may never know what happened or why the fishes were flashing so much. Any theories?
<None come to me beyond what we've discussed.>
Whatever the cause, I'm hoping to add an extra layer of protection from
disease with the use of UV sterilizers. I tried an in-line model first, but I couldn't get it to work with the amount of space I have under the tank and between the tank and the wall. I'd have to majorly revise the filter plumbing, which would potentially compromise the filter efficiency, and I doubted that UV sterilization was more important than optimum filtration. So I chose an in-tank model with a built-in pump and a pre-filter sponge. It's 13 watts with a 210 gph turnover. They're rated for 100-gallon tanks, and my tank is 125 gallons, so I got two of them. I really hope they help.
<Some value for sure, at preventing cross-contamination.>
I'm not running them right now, since everything I've read says to turn them off while using Praziquantel. (Why is that?)
<No idea. But UV does cause the breakdown of many complex chemicals, so it might be that.>
But I look forward to turning them on! As I always, I greatly appreciate your help and the service you provide. It's made me a much better fish-keeper, and I hope to continuously improve. Thanks, Jane
<Welcome, Neale.>
RE: disappearing fish      4/15/14

Thanks for your latest reply.
Neale, what does Ropefish stalking look like?
<Ever seen a cat chasing flies or mice... something a bit like that.
Cautious approaches, fixed stares, occasional lunges.>
Sometimes I see them hovering motionless among the plants, with their bodies vertical and their heads tilted forward like little periscopes, and when a fish swims by, they creep forward a bit. Does that sound like fish-stalking?
<Does indeed. But hard to say for sure.>
I also considered that the flashing could be caused by common problems like Ich and velvet (I've seen flashing precede Ich before), but weeks went by with nothing visible showing up. Not even fin-clamping. If the Praziquantel is helping, which disease or parasite does that implicate?
<In and of itself, it doesn't implicate anything with 100% certainty. As we've discussed, irritation of the gills can be caused by dissolved metabolites in the water (nitrite, ammonia); changes in pH whether up or down; gill parasites such as Ick and Velvet; all sorts really!>
<Sorry I can't be more specific here. Cheers, Neale.>

Ropefish tankmates and feeding        3/21/14
Hello again, everybody!
Along with my 8 Ropefish, I have 1 L-333, 2 rapidly growing Siamese Algae Eaters, and 14 Denisonii. They're in a 125 gallon tank, kept at 75-76F, pH 7.0-7.4; I have a 12-inch bubble wall, an airstone, and two Eheim Classic 600s (#2217). The tank has very good circulation -- the plants in the center blow in the "wind" where the two filter currents converge, and there are spots where the barbs are clearly putting forth a bit of effort to swim "upstream!"
My first question: I am considering adding 6-10 Rainbowfish (I think a Melanotaenia species, like the boesemanni or similar) and 3 Spotted Red Severums (I think it's a variation of the Heros notatus). My LFS thinks these species are all compatible, and that I have enough space/filtration in my tank for all of them; do you agree?
<The Severums in time may prove to be too large and aggressive for some of your other fishes here; particularly should they decide to pair up, spawn...>
If possible, I might also like to get a few more Denisonii, but that's a lower priority at the moment.
My second question is about food. I've started using the Repashy gel pre-mixes, and I'm VERY impressed. I'm ready to do an infomercial on the stuff. The gel medium slows down the feeding enough that the Ropes have a chance to get some before the other fish gobble it up, it's soft enough for the Ropes to tear off pieces, and they LOVE it.
I've never seen them so enthusiastic about their food, even when I fed krill, blood worms, tilapia chunks, garden worms, etc. Now, I know that the Ropes are mostly meat-eaters in their natural habitat, and presumably need a good deal of protein; my Denisonii and Siamese Algae Eaters are omnivores who need some protein, but not too much.
The Repashy "Community Plus" mix (Krill Meal, Alfalfa Leaf Meal, Squid Meal, Pea Protein Isolate, Fish Meal, Stabilized Rice Bran, etc.) is 40% protein, 8% fat, and the "Super Green" mix (Spirulina Algae, Algae Meal (Chlorella), Pea Protein Isolate, Rice Protein Concentrate, Alfalfa Leaf Powder, etc.) is 35% protein, 8% fat. I want to make sure that the Ropes get enough protein, and that the Denisonii and SAEs don't get too much. If I alternate them, how frequently should I use each one, respectively? I tried blending them into one gel with 2 parts "Community Plus" and 1 part "Super Green," which seemed to work. Can the Ropes' digestive systems handle the algae and plant matter in the "Super Green"?
I was also thinking of getting some "Meat Pie" mix (Fish Meal, Krill Meal, Squid Meal, Dried Brewer’s Yeast, Dried Seaweed Meal, Lecithin, Spirulina Algae, etc.) which contains 55% protein and 8% fat, and some "Spawn & Grow" mix (Squid Meal, Krill Meal, Fish Meal, Schizochytrium Algae (Source of DHA), Dried Brewer’s Yeast, Dried Seaweed Meal, etc.) which contains 45% protein and 14% fat. If I use those, where would they fit into my feeding plan in terms of ratios and frequency?
<For the more meat-eating fishes in your entourage, yes>
It's almost impossible to feed just one species at a time. The barbs seem to smell, find, and eat everything, even with the lights off, no matter where I hide it. The Ropes are pickier and will only nibble on the "Super Green" if it's not mixed in with the "Community Plus."
I never feed just one type of food, but I'd like to make this Repashy gel their main staple. They all love it so much that now they swim up and beg whenever I approach the tank -- they're even eating it out of my hand! What's the best way to balance the different "flavors" of gel to maximize the health of all the fishes?
<You'll have to experiment and see>
Thanks so much,
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Ornate Bichir and Jack Dempsey (comp. problems)   12/3/11
Love your site. So on to my problem. I have a Dempsey who's now approx 5yrs old and quite large along with a Ornate bichir who is approx 3 yrs old and about 12inches long. They have never had problems in the past but I'm now finding that the bichir is nipping at the Dempsey at night. I never would have imagined that I'm fearing for my Dempsey's well being but i am. Is this a sign of future more violent problems?
<Could well be>
 should i separate them now?
<Yes I would>
Oh and i have this going on in a 60 gallon tank. I'd hate to part with either one. :( . Your thoughts?
<Another system! Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: More Re: caring for my rope fish (now fdg. comp.)   7/20/11
These Bleeding Heart tetras are driving me CRAZY, eating all of the rope fishes' food!
I put the food (tilapia fillet, krill) in at night, using a turkey baster to place it deep in a cave I built out of driftwood. (The ropes love the cave!) Then I sit in the dark and watch. Those damn tetras are swimming into the cave and eating all the food!
<If you can see the food, so can the Tetras. But the Tetras can't see in the dark, and the Ropefish hunt by smell. So, by all means try this method of feeding out, but otherwise do place some chunky food in the tank when the tank is dark and the room is dark, and lead the Ropefish alone. With luck, they'll get enough to eat. Cockles for example could be sliced in half, and being quite large, wouldn't be viable food for Tetras.>
And this is after I put in some flake food to distract them, too.
<Likely doesn't help. If the Tetras understand it's feeding time, they'll be in the mood to forage. Leave the Tetras alone, quietly place the food near the Ropefish, and see if you can do things so quietly the Tetras don't notice what's happening.>
Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with my tank. It was like this with giant Danios, too. And fish that should be in the middle or the top of the tank - Danios, tetras, some barbs I gave away - never venture above the bottom third when the light is on. The light shouldn't be abnormally bright, it's the standard that came with the hood. I've tried different floating plants with no improvement. It's very odd.
<Is odd, yes. Fish may feel stressed or exposed one way or another. Fish sink into deeper water when they think something overhead is going to grab them. They stay close to plants if they think there's something in open water likely to eat them.>
Are there any fish that would be compatible with the ropes that DO NOT eat off the ground, EVER, at all?
<Hatchetfish and Halfbeaks would be two obvious examples of strict surface feeders. Bristlenose Catfish and Whiptails would be too slow at feeding time to compete. Cheers, Neale.>

caring for my rope fish, comp., fdg.    1/15/11
I've had two rope fish for a little over a week. As soon as the store receives more, I will be adding a third.
<Excellent. They're lovely fish, but very sociable.>
My tank is 55 gallons. Ammonia 0, nitrites 0, trace amounts of nitrate, pH around 7.2 (it's hard for me gauge exact numbers when I'm looking at little colored pads). I've been keeping the temperature at about 80 degrees F.
<All sounds fine, but try lowering the water temperature a bit, 25 C/77 F is fine.>
In the tank with them are 5 Filamentosa barbs. After spending a fair bit of time reading on Wet Web Media, I will giving those back to the fish store, as they seem to be really aggressive eaters, and I want to make sure the rope fish don't starve. What would be a good alternative? Ideally, I'd like something active and colorful that spends time in the middle/top area of the tank.
<I'd look at strict surface feeders, and on top of that, species that won't nip fins. Among the widely traded stuff, Congo Tetras, Penguin Tetras, Bleeding Heart Tetras, Australian Rainbowfish, Madagascar Rainbowfish, Silver Hatchetfish, Golden Wonder Killifish, Queen Danios and Giant Danios would all be good choices. Really anything along these lines.>
In the meantime, I've been feeding the rope fish by hand: tilapia (cut into strips while fresh, then frozen), wet-frozen krill, and occasionally wet-frozen bloodworms. When the ground thaws, I'll try to find some earthworms. (Ick!) They'll typically take 2-3 chunks quite eagerly, then stop; even when I put the food right up to their noses, they just turn away. Are they stopping because they're full? (I didn't think fish EVER stopped when they were full.) They are between 7 and 9 inches.
<Yes, these fish are best given a little but often. I'd feed them nightly.
They aren't particularly "greedy".>
Their bodies/bellies get lumpy after they feed. I hope that's normal! The lumps are usually gone by the next day, and I've been feeding again only after they're gone.
<That's absolutely ideal.>
All spaces and gaps in the tank are well-sealed with sponge, modeling clay and duct tape (well above the water line).
<Planning ahead!>
I hope they're happy. They SEEM happy; they glide around, and sometimes they rest at the bottom. One in particular is very friendly. Whenever I put my hand in the tank, it swims up curiously and will let me pet it a little.
Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!
<Sounds to me you've got everything well in hand. Well done! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: caring for my rope fish   1/20/11

Thank you so much for the input!
<No problem.>
The third rope fish was finally released from quarantine (standard with incoming shipments for at least two weeks at my local fish store) and able to come home. He had a rather buoyant tail for a few days - internal air bubble? - but it went away.
<Hmm'¦ they are air-breathers so it's possible they get air in their digestive tract sometimes.>
It's so cute to see the three of them stacked up together with their faces peeking out of their tunnel!
<Yes indeed! They love company. Just imagine how sad they are when kept singly.>
I gradually lowered the temperature to 77 F and returned the Filamentosa barbs. (THAT was exciting. One of them jumped out of the bucket in my car. It wasn't looking so hot by the time I pulled over, found it, and put it back in the bucket, but when I finally reached the store, it was swimming around like nothing had happened! Amazing.)
The store recommended four "red-tailed Bala sharks" (Cyclocheilichthys janthochir) as a replacement, saying they would be even more peaceful than the Bleeding Heart Tetras I had in mind.
<True, while Cyclocheilichthys janthochir is peaceful, even shy, they do get rather large. Expect a good 15-20 cm under aquarium conditions.>
I can't say I'm thrilled with them so far. They do ignore the rope fish and the rope fishes' food, to their credit, but they seem to spend most of their time cowering at the bottom of the tank.
<They will get over this once settled. But they are big, open water fish for tanks with a good water current, and if they feel "cooped up" they might never settle down. Congo Tetras and Bleeding Heart Tetras are both excellent choices for Ropefish, and frankly, even Penguin Tetras should do because Ropefish aren't predatory beyond stuff the size of Neons and less.>
They were poor eaters at first, and they appear to have lost some weight, looking a little pinched along the bottom. I've offered flakes, brine shrimp, and blood worms. Things seem to be improving. Slowly.
<They're a nice fish, worth fattening up. They are more or less carnivores, so whilst I'd give them Spirulina flake regularly, I'd concentrate on meaty foods -- krill, brine shrimp, tilapia fillet, etc. Colour-enhancing food will be useful, especially if you don't offer enough whole crustaceans.>
I'm having difficulty finding much information about the species. I'm not even sure that "red-tailed Bala shark" is the correct common name. Any suggestions?
<Do search for Cyclocheilichthys janthochir and you'll find a lot more data.>
Thanks again for all your help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fish Compatibility   11/24/10
Hello! I have a 6" Pleco and a new 3" Nigerian Rope Fish. Are they compatible tank mates?
<Not really, to be honest. Ropefish are schooling fish and their best companions are one another. Keep at least three, or your chances of success are minimal. They are very slow feeders, and Catfish and Loaches generally cause problems when kept with Ropefish. Plecs are territorial and tend to attack slow-moving companions they view as threats. I find it hard to believe your Ropefish is three inches long. That's tiny, and specimens that young are very delicate and difficult to feed.>
I also have a Beta fish that is hanging with the Nigerian and they seem to get along great.
<For now. Bettas are small enough to be eaten by large Ropefish, at least in theory. Ropefish feed primarily on worms and insect larvae, so either live versions of these or wet-frozen substitutes will be required -- they don't eat freeze-dried, pellet or flake foods, as I hope you know. No feeder fish!>
ALSO, do Oscars get along with any of these guys?
<Nope. Oscars will eat Bettas without a second though, though the best diet for Oscars is good quality pellet together with crayfish and other crunchy invertebrates -- not feeder fish!>
I have a 30 gal tank and realize that my tank size limits my options but for now these are my constraints.
<Oscars need 55 gallons for one specimen, and at least 75 gallons if kept with anything else. Ropefish get to about 40 cm/16 inches in length, so you need at least 55 gallons for a trio, though that would allow plenty of space for a school of Rainbowfish or Congo tetras. A common Plec needs 55 gallons; will grow to 45 cm/18 inches within about two years. The only catfish I'd keep with a group of Ropefish is something like a Bristlenose Plec -- they're the right size and not strongly competitive at feeding
Thank you!
<Happy to help. Do think carefully about what you're doing here. Randomly adding oddball fish to community tanks rarely works, and I can see all sorts of problems with what you have now. Most Ropefish die from stress, fin-nipping, escaping the tank, or starvation. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Compatibility   11/24/10
My Nigerian (looks like a dragon with a wide flat mouth - came from Wal-Mart tank with Oscars in it).
<Are you sure this is a Ropefish? Doesn't sound like one at all. A Ropefish is Erpetoichthys calabaricus; look online for photos.>
He is only 4 inches or so. I feed him n betafish frozen bloodworms.
<He will need more than just bloodworms. Bloodworms are mostly water and contain little nutrition. By all means use them once a week, but the bulk of the diet should be wet-frozen krill and slivers of lancefish, live earthworms, and strips of seafood, particularly tilapia fillet and cockles which are both thiaminase-free (unlike mussels, shrimp and prawns).>
Pleco is in with a black n silver tetra. For 6 years now.
<If the Plec is six years old and only six inches long, he's either not a Common Plec or severely stunted. The growth rate of the Common Plec, Pterygoplichthys pardalis, is very well known.>
Sigh. Big tank it is . . . LOVE Oscars.
<Mixing Oscars with Ropefish is incredibly unwise.>
Thank you for help.
<More than welcome.>
I love my fish n want to do the best for them.
<Then please read the needs of these fish. Ropefish have a notoriously short lifespan in most aquaria. Cheers, Neale.><<RMF thinks this is a new SKU for WM... Another poor choice... Gobioides broussonetti>>

My rope/reed fish... in w/ goldfish? Fed guppies?  10/10/10
I bought a rope about a week ago that was in a tank with large Oranda gold fish. I found this fish to be very interesting and since it was in a tank with gold fish, I bought it because that is what I have at home.
<Your first mistake. Pet shops will often stick all kinds of fish together in one tank, and for a few weeks that might be fine. But what works at home is often very different!>
I also bought an Oranda that was in the tank with him so he would have someone familiar.
The lady told me she fed him guppies everyday;
<The lady at the pet store is taking full advantage of your ignorance. You should never, EVER use feeder fish bought from a pet shop. Sure, they sell them, but there are folks who sell crack cocaine too, and that doesn't make it safe. Please do some more research and less shopping!>
so I bought 10 feeder guppy's for him. In two days 8 were gone. 2 remained for almost a week.
<Indeed. But feeder fish are then #1 way of getting diseases into your aquarium. So unless you want to make your fish sick, don't use them. Secondly, Ropefish aren't really fish-eaters. They mostly feed on insect larvae and other small invertebrates. In aquaria wet-frozen bloodworms and krill make good staples, augmented with small pieces of tilapia fillet, cockles, occasional prawns, and earthworms.>
I started to worry that he was not eating. Then I noticed my Oranda's left fin was tore up like it was nipped at.
<Oh. Could be the guppies, could be the Ropefish. Hard to say. In any case, fancy Goldfish should not be kept with other sorts of fish. Yes, Orandas are social and need companions, but much better to choose another Oranda.>
The store told me it could have been the rope. This makes no sense to me because there were still 2 tiny feeder guppy's.
<What's that go to do with it?>
Well, the Oranda's fin began to get infected so I quarantined her. I later read that ropes like to be in groups and tend to eat better that way.
<They are certainly social and should be kept in groups of three or more.>
I went back to purchase another and they had just got a shipment in. I had two choices, a larger rope that flipped and flopped everywhere or the smaller rope that seemed calmer.
<I'm sure the bigger one was healthy, merely very unhappy. Your retailer doesn't sound like she knows anything about fish.>
The store also recommended me to stop giving guppy's and make them adjust to shrimp pellets. I added the new rope and he didn't really swim around like my first did in his introduction but, I gave him the benefit of trying to figure the new home.
By the morning I saw that he found the cave he chose and one of the two guppy's were gone. Don't know which one ate it but was glad to see one eat regardless but still concerned of eating habit because 1) I don't know if they are really eating the pellets and 2) It has been 4 days since the second rope was added and all four days he stayed in his cave; even at night-I check several times.
<Ropefish do not eat pellets. So stop using them. They need foods as listed above. Can't supply those? Then don't keep Ropefish.>
Today he came out but swims weird. He will position his body vertically with head down and spin in circles while staying straight and vertical. By the evening he is now floating at the top of the tank with his body in a circle and floating in a circle.
This behavior is very different from the other and he occasionally swims from one side of the tank to the other while my first rope continues to hang out at the bottom as usual and sits at top time
<Not sure what you mean here.>
there is still one guppy there and I don't know if they are eating at all and don't know if they are really eating the shrimp pellets plus my gold fish try to eat the pellets even when I shut the light off at night.
<They will eat a range of live, fresh, and wet-frozen foods. They WILL NOT eat freeze-dried foods including pellets and flanks.>
Is the second rope sick or is that just his personality and how long do they go without eating?
<Usually they starve to death when people try to give them the wrong foods. My guess here is that yours will be dead in a couple of months. You seem to have made no attempt at all to research the needs of these very unusual animals.>
My tank is a 65 gallon breeder with two power filters that each filters up to 70 gallons. Nitrates and nitrites are good and yes even with my gold fish the ammonia is maintained with chips and remover and test shows safe and the ph is 7.0.
<"Good" means nothing to me. Ropefish need 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite.>
I have inspected everyone's body and fins, everyone looks good except the Oranda which is quarantined and being treated and yesterday one of my black moors had the same fin problem so he is with the Oranda now getting treated before his infection could even get started. I read the ropes like to bundle together and they don't even go near each other.
<They're stressed and unhappy, and I'm fairly sure trying to escape. Since they WILL escape given even half a chance, I suspect the next part of this sorry story will be a dead, dried-out Ropefish on the carpet.>
Any thoughts, comments, suggestions and advice.
<Read. There is nothing mysterious about the maintenance of Ropefish. But you are doing everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, wrong.>
If it helps, each rope is about 5 inches,
<Seriously? That's tiny.>
the Oranda is about 4, 2 black moors are 3in, and one fancy tail is 2 and 1/2, the other fancy is 1 and 1/2, and 3 comets are 2in. You are probably thinking this is too many fish but these fish look tiny compared the this tank and the 65 breeder is just a temp home and looking to get a tank over 100 gallons maybe 200 to accommodate the ropes adult size and the 3 comets were for my uncles tank but when I brought them I did not add them to his tank because his current one fish had slim and sickness all over it so I placed them in mine till his gets better. Oh yea, I had a snail but he disappeared today, can't even find the shell.
<Sometimes Ropefish eat small snails, if the snail can fit into their mouth.>
<Do read, Jessica:
and linked articles. Cheers, Neale.>

Reed Fish Aggression -- 06/10/10
I recently purchased two Reed fish as company for my existing Reed fish who has been living quite happily in my community tank for about 6 months.
I did this because I found out that apparently Reed fish prefer company.
<Yes, usually the case.>
Oliver(the name of the first Reed fish) is apparently a hermit amongst his species, well he doesn't seem to like the other two new Reed fish, the tank has plenty of hidey holes for all fish so they could have 1 each if desired, but it would seem that Oliver is destined never to get along with the new ones.
Has it been your experience that you really need to buy the Reed fish from the same stock for them all to get along, or is it a case of just leaving them to it.
<The latter.>
It looks quite viscous when they are fighting, but none of the fish have any signs of damage on their body's and all of their scales are fine.
<Assuming the tank is sufficiently large, I'd leave them to it.>
I have another tank which will be ready for fish in the next few days and was wondering if I would be best leaving Oliver as a single Reed fish, whilst moving the two new ones to the new tank as they do not seem to have a problem with each other.
<You might try this: Remove them all, move the rocks and plants about, and then release them together. With luck, the hierarchy will be broken down, and they'll get along.>
Other than that they seem to be happy fish, unless swimming past each other.
Best regards,
<Good luck, Neale.>

Rope fish compatibility   8/1/08 Hi, Thank you in advance for taking the time to read my question. <Most welcome.> I currently have one 9" Rope fish. <These are gregarious fish, and she'll be very unhappy kept on her own. Needs to be kept in groups of at least three specimens.> She is currently in a 20 gallon long QT tank, she has not shown any sign of and illness after one month, so I am planning to re-home her. <OK.> I currently have a 200 gallon tank that has a 12" Oscar, a 7" female jaguar cichlid, a 4.5" female convict, and a school of 5 silver dollars. <She's too delicate to be kept with these fish. While the Oscar should ignore her, and the Silver Dollars are ideal tankmates, the Jaguar and the Convict are both too territorial and too aggressive.> Filtration on this tank is 50 gallon sump, and Emperor 400 and a Rena XP3 canister. Would this be an adequate environment for the rope? <Well the tankmates aren't right, and you only have a single specimen which is cruel to the species. But your other problem is checking if the tank is escape-proof. Be under no illusions here: Ropefish *will* escape from any tank not expressly designed to keep them in. Personally, I always recommend keeping them in half-filled tanks so that it is much more difficult for them to squeeze into cracks at the top of the tank.> On a side note the 200 gallon is a show tank so it is about 3' deep. I also have a 30 gallon breeder tank that only has a pair of Jewel cichlids and two Aqua Clear 150's for filtration, would this be a better home? <Quite possibly, though I'd be very cautious about combining Jewels with any fish as docile as Ropefish.> All my tanks get weekly water changes of 50% or more and Ammonia and nitrites are kept at 0, nitrates are kept below 15ppm and temps are kept between 78-81 degrees. <All sounds great.> Again thank you <Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: Columbian Shark help!! (follow-up question). Ropefish fdg., comp.  3/16/2007 <<Hi, again, Andy.>> Great idea, thank you for your assistance!  I did as you suggested last night and it already appears to be helping. They ate last night for the first time in 3 days!!   <<Glad to hear it, Andy.>> One more question for you.  In this tank (55gal in the process of being transferred to brackish), there are also 2 spotted puffers, 2 Dalmatian mollies, and one Ropefish (Yes, they all get along!).   <<Still a good idea to keep a watchful eye here.>> The sharks, mollies, and puffers gobble EVERYTHING I put in there for food rather quickly.  I'm afraid the Ropefish won't be able to get any food and will eventually starve as he doesn't seem to come out at all during feeding (I know he's nocturnal).  My question is this: Is there any foods that are specific to Ropefish or anything I can put on the bottom that he'll find when he comes out at night? <<Unfortunately, Andy, the Columbians are going to be every bit as interested in whatever foods you select as your Ropefish would be so, it might be more a matter of 'when' than 'what'. Live foods are preferred by both but I would offer that you should stay away from small feeder fish of any description with your current stocking arrangement. (We almost universally advise against this anyway from a nutritional standpoint, however, it can/will 'trigger' predatory responses in both of these fish that the other fish, particularly the Mollies, don't need awakened.) You might try a food like sinking shrimp pellets later in the evening. These make it to the bottom rather quickly and might not get 'picked off' on the way down by the others. The Sharks, as you know, are scavengers but changing up feeding times may give the Ropefish a chance to feed while the others are less active.>> Thank you again for your assistance, I love this website and you guys are a HUGE help! Andy <<Thanks, Andy. We certainly appreciate that. If I may, while you've just recently 'upgraded' your tank, you'll need to keep in mind that your Columbians will need even more room down the road. These guys grow very large and the typical recommendation is about 50 gallons per fish. I suspect you are already aware of this but I like to point this out when the opportunity presents itself for our other readers. Keep up the good work and good luck with your new tank. Tom>>

Ravenous Ropefish, or Sick Cichlid? - 06/01/2006 I sent you the picture of the Ropefish last week, and I was wondering if they are aggressive towards their tankmates.   <Mm, no, not typically....  Though they will be capable of consuming slow, small, or bottom-dwelling critters that are not too big to consider as food.> I had two African Cichlids in a 40 Gal, and I introduced the Ropefish about a week ago.  I woke up this morning and one of the Cichlids (about 2"), was dead, and the Ropefish was chewing on him.  I was just trying to figure out if he could have killed him, or if something else caused the death of the cichlid.   <Likely something else, unless this Ropefish is quite large.> The cichlid seemed a little listless for a couple of days, then seemed to be a lot more energetic, was eating more, and then suddenly he was dead.  He had started staying in the same area as the Ropefish for the last day or so.  Just trying to figure out what is going on, as if there is something wrong with the water, I want to fix it before I subject others to it. <Definitely test for pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  Also remember that African cichlids are territorial and can be aggressive to one another.  One last thing to keep in mind, African (Malawi/Tanganyikan) cichlids and Polypterids have quite different requirements for water.  I would not consider keeping this mix; Polypterids tend to prefer water with a pH of 7.0 or below, whereas Malawi and Tanganyikan cichlids require a pH closer to 8.3 or so, which is just too high for Polypterids.> Thanks you so much!  Nick <I hope all goes well!  -Sabrina>

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