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FAQs on Ropefish Stocking/Selection

Related Articles: Bichirs & Ropefish, Family Polypteridae

Related FAQs:  Ropefish 1, Ropefish 2, & Ropefish ID, Ropefish Behavior, Ropefish Compatibility, 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,


Feeding Ropefish and System, Selection      12/4/16
Hello Crew, I've written you before and have gotten lots of help about panther crabs (of which I haven't been successful in breeding yet, but am devising a plan to try in a 40B heavily decorated with driftwood), and I thank you for that. This site is very helpful and informative.
<Good to know; thank you!>
I've been reading a lot about Ropefish on your site, starting with Ropefish 1 and I'm currently on Ropefish Health (going in order of the linked categories on top of the page). I was hoping to finish reading them all before writing you, but I hope to get three Ropefish mid to late next week to house in my 135 gal temporary Ropefish River (the name of this tank build these will be going into) and will buy anywhere from 1-3 at a time after the initial purchase of three. Eventually I hope to house 8 of them (3 males, 5 females, using the finlet count to determine sex - 9 finlets means female, 12-15 means male according to what I've found),
<Something like that. But loss of finlets though predation attempts happens, and some "well endowed" females will have as many finlets as "poorly endowed" males, so some specimens will be difficult to sex. Best to keep an open mind, get a group, and let pairing occur at its own pace.
Sexually mature males have different-looking anal fins, and that might be a safer bet.>
in a 100 gal aquarium with crypts, Val.s, and lots of driftwood set up to look like a root sticking out from the bank reaching into the water (towards the middle of the tank) on one end. I'm thinking of a Val jungle opposite of the driftwood with the substrate banked up to about 4-6" on that end, the crypts in the middle where the substrate starts banking from 1-2" to the 4-6" on the other end, and then the driftwood with epiphytes like Bucephalandra and perhaps java fern or some others. I also will have some water lettuce floating on the surface, and already have an Amazon
sword plant I would like to move to the 100 gal when I get it set up, but am not sure where I'll put that plant yet (possibly near the crypts or on the sloping section of the substrate). I will be employing the Walstad method and will dirt the bottom with mineralized topsoil, though I will use gravel or rocks, plastic mesh screen, and then the topsoil and cap on the end with the deeper substrate. Eventually, I hope to be able to have this set up as a Dynamic Aquarium in the future - an ecosystem in an enclosed system, also known as a microcosm for my size tank.
<Quite so. Rather difficult to do with comparatively large fish though, especially carnivores, because of the need for high-protein foodstuffs. I'm guessing you've read the 'Dynamic Aquaria' book, and would direct you in particular to the Angelfish set-up designed along these lines.>
Now, I would like to have the substrate color the same as what they're used to from the wild, so do you have any idea what color the mud is from the rivers they collect these fine fish from?
<Leaf litter. Thick vegetation on the riverbanks, so we're talking decaying leaves in various shades of brown and yellow.>
I read Bob Fenner has been to the rivers and knows people who actually collect them, so I was hoping to get some advice as to what color to get the substrate - brown, black, red, tan, or white. If I need black, I plan to use Black Diamond Blasting Sand; for white I would use PFS; and for tan I would use Play Sand (which I have employed in the temp 135 gal setup. For the brown and red (if it's applicable) I would need to look further into other types of suitable substrate and advice would be appreciated if the wild substrate is one of those colors.
<I would avoid any type of sand that is not "smooth". Pool filter sand (smooth silica sand) is a good choice. A typical river system will have a muddy substrate virtually impossible to replicate in an aquarium, so aquaria substrates are all compromises to some degree. Smooth silica sand is similar to the sand seen in some rivers though, and the colour, while
bright at first, mellows with age, and most fish seem to be perfectly happy with it.>
I know it must seem I'm going overboard with this, but then I usually do...
I also plan to have a small pump (either a Rio 600 or Aquatop SWP-480, both rated for around 200 GPH) pushing water through pvc behind/near the driftwood so I have some circulation, but am concerned since I read about bacterial issues resulting from poor circulation around the substrate. I was going to have this manifold near the surface of the water, but where would you recommend me placing it?
<Bear in mind these are swamp fish, so minimal water current is the name of the game. You want adequate turnover of course, to keep water quality good, but distributing the outflow of water as far around the tank as possible will help avoid strong currents, which these fish dislike.>
Ultimately, I would like to breed them and want them to be most comfortable in the tank I create for them. I've discovered breeding them usually isn't the issue - raising the fry and keeping them alive long enough to breed is
(since they mature slowly and don't typically breed until 10-20 years old).
However, my only concern is them not having any open space to swim when the crypts in the tank grow in.
<That's not your problem. Keeping Ropefish in a tank at all for 10 years is something most folks fail at! These fish are SUPERB escape artists. You need a system more like a paludarium than a fish tank, with at least six inches of air between the waterline and the bottom of the hood. Anything less than that and they're prone to escaping. It's their natural instinct, apparently, to slither from pool to pool during the night.>
Should I go ahead and just have a small, dense line of crypts near the back of the tank and just use flame moss for the front-ish part of the middle section of the tank? This might allow me to have the sword intermingled with the moss... I've also discovered that it seems they like to breed in Java moss, but I'm hoping flame moss will be a suitable alternative should they choose to breed in my tank at all.
<Any/all of this will work. Their snake-like shape is adapted to sliding through vegetarian, not swimming in open water. Think thicket, and you have the right idea.>
Finally, as for feeding, I am currently culturing Microworms, banana worms, Walter worms, and vinegar eels. I also have some Mysid shrimp and bloodworms (both frozen alternatives), of which I will ultimately feed far less bloodworms than I do Mysid or any live food, though I typically feed my fish both in the morning with bloodworms and at night with Mysid shrimp (with these fish feeding at night, if I continue with my typical feeding regime I should be primarily feeding them Mysid shrimp). However, I also realize they need variety, of which I was wondering if these fish might consume Microworms, banana worms, Walter worms, and vinegar eels even if these foods are quite small and meant for fry?
<I do suspect anything below, say, 5 mm in length is more likely to end up in the substrate or filter than inside the Ropefish. It's going to be a case of trying things out. They're worm-eaters more than anything else, taking insect larvae, midge larvae, and all those sorts of wormy foods. But not really micropredators as such, so very tiny foods might escape their notice.>
I will also be making a purchase of Tubifex worms, sw copepods, and a plankton mix which has potential to contain Ostracods, daphnia, rotifers, Ceriodaphnia, copepods, and amphipods, though they mix the plankton when they receive an order. I hope to separate many of these plankton into separate buckets for better keeping, but may not be able to. Plus, I plan to have a brine shrimp hatchery and culture going relatively soon which I can also feed from. Since they eat small invertebrates in the wild, would all these foods be suitable (rinsing the sw copepods and brine shrimp)?
<Might be a bit small, but they will probably consume Spirulina-enriched frozen adult brine shrimp.>
Oh, and I forgot to mention I also have some red wrigglers and plan to culture white worms as well eventually (and some black worms if my lfs can get them in), as well as fruit flies, bean beetles, night crawlers (which I released into my yard since most of the culture died and I was having no luck with them in a tote culture, leaving only one small worm still alive that was moving like it should), meal worms, and possibly other insects in the future (like crickets or Superworms). How often should I feed each of these foods, and what should my feeding schedule look like?
<Earthworms are a favourite, and if you have them, would make a great staple. Mealworms and the like tend to be a tough, and I never had much success feeding them to Ropefish. Their jaws aren't as strong as those of Bichirs, and their diet should be adjusted accordingly.>
Which should be staples, and which should I feed as occasional treats?
<I'd be focusing on small slivers of seafood, ideally vitamin enriched as you'd do with marine aquarium fish. Earthworms are a useful staple, as small river shrimp if you can get them. Frozen bloodworms are useful but a
bit lacking in nutritional value, so more a treat than anything else. Tubifex sparingly, if at all. Gut-loaded brine shrimp on the other hand could be used freely. A "little but often" would be my approach here, to avoid problems with uneaten or regurgitated food.>
I may stick with feeding the white worms and other terrestrial insects primarily when I aim to get them into breeding condition (or try to) since many fish breed with the monsoon and an abundance of insects and terrestrial worms signal such breeding in the wild, though I know worms such as red wrigglers and night crawlers have been recommended as a staple from you to other people who have asked along with tilapia fillets (which I hope to reduce on-going costs by culturing most of the food my fish room will need, so I'm not keen on the idea of buying such filets as a staple food, though I might until I have the resources to culture tilapia as well). Also, do you think the Mysid shrimp have too much Thiaminase for use as a staple (haven't been able to read that link, yet)?
<It's potentially a problem with all plain vanilla crustaceans, yes. If they're gut-loaded or enhanced somehow (e.g., Spirulina enriched) than they'd be a lot better as staples.>
I will also have snails in the aquarium (both for eating food waste [pond and Ramshorn snails] and turning the substrate to reduce dead spots as everything is growing in [mts] so I don't have anaerobic zones) that they will likely munch on from time to time according to what I've read. I realize some of these snails may not be completely compatible, but I
haven't been able to read that link, either.
<If Ropefish eat snails, they do so rarely.>
Is there anything else I should read to help make this fool-proof (or as close to that as it can get)? I will cover the aquarium, and hope the water lettuce will soften the lighting so they come out in the day more, as well as comfort them so they're less likely to try to escape (I've figured out most fish and inverts won't try to escape unless they're unhappy with their environment, or so it seems...).
<True, but some fish are migratory (e.g., Ariidae catfish) while others are amphibious (as with your Ropefish) and these types of fish will always try to escape, and you have to plan accordingly.>
What do you think of all this?
<Ambitious! But in a good way.>
Please realize not all the food cultures are exclusively for these fish (that would be a bit much), but I do plan to keep vampire crabs and will require food for them as well. I hope this will be a great place/way to keep these wonderful fish, and I do hope they breed for me and I successfully raise the resulting offspring. Thank you for your time and advice, as I know this is a very long, intensive email I've written you.
Jacob G.
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Feeding Ropefish and System, Selection      12/4/16

Also, I forgot to ask what should I be looking for when I go to buy these fish? Clear eyes, good fins, no spots that could suggest slime disease or such, but what about behavior-wise? Should they be hiding, swimming, floating? How should they swim and how often? Anything I'm missing?
<A group chilling in a cave, with their heads poking out, watching the world, would strike me as a healthy group worth investing in. Specimens swimming up and down trying to get out might be okay too, as this is normal enough behaviour, but I'd want to check it wasn't be nipped or harassed in some way first. A lethargic specimen just sitting at the front of the tank, alone, neither hiding nor swimming, would not strike me as a normal specimen, and I'd approach such a fish more carefully, looking to see if it was simply stressed, or starving, or suffering from something less easy to fix.>
Jacob G.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Feeding Ropefish and System, Selection      12/17/16

Another question for you, Neale and crew. How many would you say I could keep in the 100 gal Ropefish River aquarium? Would you say eight would be the limit, or could I do 10 to 12 once I (hopefully) succeed in raising some young ones up?
<Easily the latter. Adult size in aquaria seems to be around the 30-35 cm mark, not the 90 cm often seen in books. Indeed, Fishbase seems to report similar lengths in the wild. Given they're quite slender fish with slow metabolisms, I'd reckon them similar in "bio-load" to a chunky 20-25 cm cichlid like a Jack Dempsey, and feel you can stock accordingly.>
Thank you so much for your help and time. It's much appreciated! Although my lfs ran out last weekend, I still hope to get the first three by the new year!
<Good luck with your project. Neale.>

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.>

Where to find Ropefish Hi, I work at a vet and there we had a Ropefish, it recently died. At my home we just recently got a 55 gallon tank.  I was wondering where is the best place to purchase another for work and for myself. We are located in New Jersey and no one at work seems to know. THANK YOU <hi there, I would talk to you local fish store, they usually have them on their list of fish they can order for you.  They probably know the best place to find the Ropefish, and it would probably be less expensive then ordering them from online sources.  If you can't get one through your LFS, then LiveAquaria.com often times have Bichirs (Ropefish) for sale there. -Magnus> Re: Ropefish Hello, I'm sorry, I just realized that I had typed "Bichirs" in your email... I must be staring at the screen too long.  I meant to say your LFS can find them under the name Reedfish or Lobed snakefish.  Their Latin name is Erpetoichthys calabaricus. Also, I had found that these fish do best if kept in groups.  So, if you have a tank that can handle a couple of these monsters (30+ inches full grown) then I suggest you put them in together. -Magnus

Reedfish, Ropefish, Social Animals A note on your article on the Polypterus that appears at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bichirs.htm Reedfish, though Polypterids, prefer to be kept in pairs or groups. <Agreed. Will check the piece and amend. Thank you for your input. Bob Fenner> ~Ben

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