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FAQs on Bichirs, Family Polypteridae 1

Related Articles: Bichirs

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

The most common/popular Bichir species, Polypterus senegalus

Delhezi Bichir hunger strike & hunting tank mates     /RMF  2/6/19
Hi WWM Crew,
My Delhezi Bichir was previously more than happy to eat beef heart, silver sides, and black worms, but recently has gone on a hunger strike... I was giving him the occasional treat of live saltwater crabs that I had been catching out of my saltwater tank, so maybe that spoiled him into only wanting to hunt?
<Possibly a factor... I kept, fed Bichirs years back...>
He managed to snag a couple of my Congo Tetras that didn't quite grow fast enough to stay out of "bite size" range. Ever since then, he's trying to use the beef heart as bait for the other fish. He'll literally sit with his nose practically touching it while lurking under the driftwood or Amazon Sword leaves and just waits to see if any of the other
fish are dumb enough to come snag a piece.
He keeps lurking to try and catch more fish. I've tried offering market shrimp, scallops, crab meat, silver sides, beef heart, blackworms, live earthworms, and Massivore pellets, but he's snubbed them all.
<Very strange that this fish refuses live earthworms...>
He's in a 75g with 2 Angels, 6 Congo Tetras, 6 Goyder River Rainbows, 4 Boesemanni Rainbows, and 1 Turquoise Rainbow at the moment. The Bichir is around 9" right now. The Angels, 4 Goyder River Rainbows, and 1 Turquoise
Rainbow are all full grown and not at risk of being eaten, but the others were restocks after I had a problem with an Opaline Gourami killing half my tank (who's since been removed)... I got the largest I could find to replace, but no one sells Rainbows or Congo Tetras larger than 2-3"... I knew it was a risk, but this guy's been so mellow and easy to feed until recently that I was hoping it would work.
Is there any way to convince the Bichir to go back to non-live foods, or do I just need to cut my losses and pull the Congo Tetras now?
<How long has it been since you saw it eat? Does it appear thin, the stomach "caved in"?>
Maybe if I
isolated him in a spare 20g long bare bottom tank for a short time to keep him away from the tetras until he takes food again? Or would he just go back to his old tricks the moment he had fishy temptations again?
<I wouldn't worry if it's only been a week, ten days, and this fish has a good index of fitness. I'd offer it a live earthworm every two, three days and be patient at this point>
<Welcome, Bob Fenner>
Delhezi Bichir hunger strike & hunting tank mates /Neale       2/7/19

Hi WWM Crew,
My Delhezi Bichir was previously more than happy to eat beef heart, silver sides, and black worms, but recently has gone on a hunger strike... I was giving him the occasional treat of live saltwater crabs that I had been catching out of my saltwater tank, so maybe that spoiled him into only wanting to hunt?
<This is definitely true. Farmed Bichirs may be more than happy to take dead or pellet foods, but if they "discover" live alternatives, this can pique their interest. If starved for a while, they will go back to what
they know, but that's really only viable in a tank with other big fish. If they live with even potentially edible tankmates, they may try eating those before settling back down.>
He managed to snag a couple of my Congo Tetras that didn't quite grow fast enough to stay out of "bite size" range. Ever since then, he's trying to use the beef heart as bait for the other fish. He'll literally sit with his nose practically touching it while lurking under the driftwood or Amazon Sword leaves and just waits to see if any of the other fish are dumb enough to come snag a piece. He keeps lurking to try and catch more fish. I've tried offering market shrimp, scallops, crab meat, silver sides, beef heart, blackworms, live earthworms, and Massivore pellets, but he's snubbed them all.
<It isn't unusual for predators to stop feeding for a while. Hunger makes the best sauce of course!>
He's in a 75g with 2 Angels, 6 Congo Tetras, 6 Goyder River Rainbows, 4 Boesemanni Rainbows, and 1 Turquoise Rainbow at the moment. The Bichir is around 9" right now. The Angels, 4 Goyder River Rainbows, and 1 Turquoise Rainbow are all full grown and not at risk of being eaten, but the others
were restocks after I had a problem with an Opaline Gourami killing half my tank (who's since been removed)... I got the largest I could find to replace, but no one sells Rainbows or Congo Tetras larger than 2-3"... I knew it was a risk, but this guy's been so mellow and easy to feed until recently that I was hoping it would work.
<Delhezi Bichirs can be good tankmates, and generally ignore fish too large to eat. I'd expect adult Congo Tetras to be fine, having myself kept these with Polypterus palmas for example, and it's a very similar species. But as you say, anything the size of, say, a Platy will definitely be at risk.>
Is there any way to convince the Bichir to go back to non-live foods,
<Time; lack of food; hunger. You could also try offering half-way house foods, such as white fish or prawn fillet wobbled in front of his snout on the end of forceps or cocktail sticks. Bichirs have terrible eyesight, but a good sense of smell, so should fall for this trick if they aren't spooked.>
or do I just need to cut my losses and pull the Congo Tetras now?
<Could be a good move.>
Maybe if I isolated him in a spare 20g long bare bottom tank for a short time to keep him away from the tetras until he takes food again? Or would he just go back to his old tricks the moment he had fishy temptations again?
<Impossible to say for sure. I would not trust him with small teammates at all.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Low-Light Freshwater DSB with a Bichir?      12/2/17
Hi WWM Crew!
<Hello Kim,>
I'm looking to overhaul my 75g tank from being high-light/mid-tech (I'm using liquid carbon instead of injected CO2) to low light/low tech.
The goal is to make the tank lower maintenance since the weekly 50% water changes, plant trimmings, and daily fert dosings are going to be difficult to keep up on shortly (I'm pregnant with our first child, so I'm expecting
most of my free time to be spoken for soon)!
<Completely understandable! Did much the same thing when my own daughter arrived. Switched to a very basic system with slate chipping substrate, a few rocks, Anubias on lava rocks, and stuck with the sorts of fish that
will literally go months between water changes and not get fussed, such as Anostomus and various catfish.>
As part of this overhaul, I'd like to swap to using a freshwater deep sand bed per the instructions in Deirdre Kylie's article on your site.
<A nice idea!>
My only concern is that it's mentioned that digging fish tend to be incompatible with this approach...
<Precisely. Also, not totally convinced it's the ideal solution for tanks with big fish. Not that big fish will mess up the DSB, but that their solid wastes and uneaten food create a lot debris, and you really do need to siphon this out regularly. So you'd want an aquarium that's easy to clean, hence my preference for thin layers of gravel or slate in such situations rather than sandy substrates with lots of plants.>
Would a single Bichir (Polypterus palmas palmas specifically) cause problems for a DSB?
<Probably not. It's a fairly small species by the standards of the genus, and on top of that doesn't dig much. Have kept precisely this species in a tank with a sandy substrate and it did no digging that I observed.>
I'm assuming some of the sand critters would be eaten, but I don't mind restocking them periodically.
<Likely very regularly! The smaller Bichirs are primarily, perhaps even exclusively, predators on small benthic worms and insect larvae.>
I wouldn't think a single Bichir would be able to single handedly wipe their populations out... Right?
<I think you might be surprised! But it's certainly worth a shot, if you don't mind topping up the burrowing worms every few weeks.>
I just don't want the Bichir's digging to burp a toxic amount of bottom-level gas into the tank.
<Very unlikely to happen. Bichirs don't dig deeply like, say, Horseface loaches or Spiny eels. At most they're poking about the debris, such as leaf litter.>
Also, I've heard that Bichir tend to show their best colors on pink or dark substrates.
<Overhead shade is probably more important.>
This is my first time using pool filter sand, but I've heard it's on the lighter end of the substrate colors...
<Initially, at least. It does age after a year over two.>
Would it be too light to bring out the best colors in the Bichir? Or would the difference be negligible?
<I found the latter to be the case, in my tank with plenty of floating plants.>
I thought about using black diamond blasting sand instead, but I wasn't sure if it would be compatible with a DSB.
<Theoretically, but it's often abrasive, so not ideal for fish that rest on the substrate.>
Given a choice between fish aesthetics or an effective DSB I'd obviously go for the DSB!
<Plain vanilla smooth silica sand would be the best all-around choice.>
Lastly, what level of planting is required for a successful DSB?
<Enough that most of the sand has at least some healthy roots, as the roots are crucial for maintaining a low, but adequate, level of oxygenation in the upper part of the substrate. That's important to avoid too much anaerobic decay in the top couple of centimetres. Toxic gas forming deeper down isn't going to be released, and more to the point, produced very quickly, so the actual risk of trouble is very small. Doesn't really matter what plants you use, so long as they have extensive root systems.>
I was planning on a combination of Amazon Swords, Vallisneria, Crypts, and maybe a Red Tiger Lotus (allowing it to float it's leaves) for the rooted plants, with a fair amount of driftwood with Anubias and Bolbitis, possibly
some Water Lettuce.
<All sound fine, though I personally find Water Lettuce a bit hit or miss in tanks with hoods. Amazon Frogbit much easier, and if you trim the aerial leaves of floating Indian Ferns, that's another good choice too.>
I'd like to have some open sandy areas however. Would open sandy areas cause issues of gas build-up?
<Nope. The roots from your plants spread out a great deal. Something like a single Vallisneria will have its roots extending at least 20 cm/8 inches, even before you factor in the daughter plants.>
If so, should I try to keep the open sandy areas as shallower sand?
<No real point, to be honest.>
Thanks for your help! My inner science geek is loving the idea of trying the FW DSB out!
<I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how easy they are. They're really what happens to the substrate in ponds, just indoors. Cheers, Neale.>

3 Polypterus species and sizes and tankmates    7/16/17
I have a 75 gallon tank with
1 Senegal Bichir 7”
1 Polypterus teugelsi 5”
along with
1 African Feather fin Catfish 7”
<Lovely, peaceful catfish.>
2 Turquoise Rainbows 3” each
<I'd add a few more of these.>
1 Pictus Catfish 4” and
<No threat to all but the newly hatched Bichirs.>
1 Angel fish 4.5” tall.
The tank is well decorated with many hinding spaces and a 2” sand bottom. I have recently found a 3’ Polypterus delhezi 3”. My question is, how long should I allow my to get before I can add him to the 75 gallon tank., and will any of the other occupants cause a threat to him? Thank You
<I would not combine such a small Polypterus specimen with substantially larger specimens. Once the little Polypterus delhezi grows to within a couple of inches of the existing specimens, you should be fine combining them. But very small juveniles, especially those with their external gills present, are extremely vulnerable. Bichirs are snappy, and even the smaller, more tolerant species like Senegal Bichirs can't be completely trusted to leave smaller or weaker specimens alone. Use your common sense here, even though the three species you mention should be compatible, given space. Cheers, Neale.>

Dinosaur Eel       12/26/16
Last week we noticed a bump on our dinosaur eel,
<Polypterus senegalus; or Senegal Bichir. Neither a dinosaur nor an eel!>

we’ve had him for a year now, and this is the first we are seeing this.
The bump isn’t getting any bigger, but there’s two white marks on the bump, under an inch apart, and we don’t know what could have caused it, or what it is. Here is a picture of him and his injury, hopefully you can help?
<We can try. These look like blisters or cysts, rather than ectoparasites like flukes (which are fairly common among Bichirs and usually treated using anti-worm medications). So the question is how the skin of these Bichirs got damaged or irritated.>
His tank-mates are: 1 Red Tail Shark, 1 Angel Fish, 1 Pictus Catfish,
<Pimelodus pictus? A schooling species.>
1 Algae Eater,
<Gyrinocheilus aymonieri by any chance? Or even if it's a common Plec, not really safe with Bichirs. Any of these algae-eating fish can, will graze on the flanks of Bichirs, especially when hungry, but at least some 'algae eaters' are entirely opportunistic, Gyrinocheilus in particular, and these will simply eat the mucous from fish because they can. In doing so, these fish remove the healthy mucous that keeps the skin below safe, making it easier for bacteria to infect minor injuries. From there, you get blisters and such like. Other possible causes of damage are heaters (always use a heater guard around glass heaters if you have such items in the tank) and sharp gravel. Bichirs are quite tough animals, but because they're sensitive to copper-based medications, treating them once they get sick is difficult. Antibiotics are safe though.>
2 Molly’s
<Molly's what?>
and 4 Black Skirts
None of them are aggressive with each other, (until one of them is dying….) they all have their own spaces in the 70gal tank, and never fight over food.
I’m hoping you can figure out what that is on our eel, I would hate to see him go after having him for a year. Thank you.
<Indeed. Review the above, and write back if anything unclear. Happy Holidays, Neale.>

Eel, bichir ID 4/8/12
Could you please tell me what kind of eel this is and what should i feed him and how often?
<Hello. This is Polypterus senegalus, the Senegal Bichir. It's NOT an eel, but a bichir, a primitive fish that comes from Africa and feeds primarily on insect larvae and other small invertebrates. Bloodworms, krill, and so on are favoured foods but a good staple would be a mixture of tilapia fillet, earthworms, and the occasional prawn (prawns contain Thiaminase so should be used sparingly). They are nocturnal but will become day-active if not stressed or threatened by other fish. Feed them 4-5 times a week, a good sized amount, e.g., a thin strip of tilapia fillet around 2 cm long for an adult specimen 30 cm in length. Healthy specimens should be plump-looking but not obviously fat. I'm very worried your specimen is kept with Lake Malawian cichlids -- I have seen this done, and the bichir can end up with its fins stripped away. Keep Senegal Bichirs alone or with peaceful day-active tankmates too large to be viewed as food, e.g., Giant Danios or Swordtails. Cheers, Neale.>

Greetings from Jakarta, Indonesia. Cray and Polypterus fdg.     2/5/12
<Salutations from San Diego, CA>
Dear WetWebMedia Crews,
Greetings from Jakarta, Indonesia. My name is Ben Haryo. I have been reading the contents of your lovely website, http://www.wetwebmedia.com, and I thank you all for providing such a wonderful place full of very useful information for hobbyists such as myself.
<Welcome Ben>
I happen to live in Jakarta, Indonesia.
<Have visited there, and several other areas in your expansive country>
Living in the tropics has its advantages, and that includes getting exotic fishes at very affordable prices. My current aquatic friends consists of three freshwater lobsters (I include a picture of one here), and two "Dragon Fishes" (that's a translation for the local name of Polypterus Palmas.. I have included their picture here). I have two aquariums, one specifically for the lobsters, one for the Dragon Fishes.
I have a couple of questions.. I am sure you have heard these questions zillion times, so I am sorry for the inconvenience.. The thing is, the guy who sold me the lobsters and Palmas also sold me plenty of small fishes (I don't know their Latin names, here we call it "Ikan Cecere", literally "small fish") as live food.
<Appear to be some species of livebearing or egg-laying toothed carp>
He also sold me some Neon Tetras, which looks cool as a "contrast" to the rather dull colors of the small fishes.
The lobsters ate both the small fishes and commercial shrimp pellets, with no bad effects at all.. in fact they have moulted twice and grow bigger ever since bought them. But I really curious, is this how lobsters eat in their natural habitat? Any advice?
<Ah yes. Read here:
Also, the Dragon Fishes ate the small fishes too, and the Neon Tetras as well (here Tetras are very cheap, with one dollar you can get a dozen!). I read in your website that it is not very good in the long run to feed live fishes to the Palmas. Mine seemed to be doing just fine, they enjoy munching on the small fishes. I'd like to hear your further advice, should I wean them away from the small fishes, or let them be?
<Should be fine, but do read here:
Well, thank you for your time, and I wish you all a happy Sunday!
Best Regards,
Ben Haryo
<And you, Bob Fenner>

My first aquarium   12/19/09
Hey guys,
Great site, I wish I had found it two days ago.
I have a cycled 90 gallon tank that tests out very well (according to a friend and the LFS). Its a sand substrate with lots of plants, rocks and a great filter good for 150 gallon tank (I cant recall the name but its top of the line, recommend by a long time aquarium enthusiast).
<OK, but do take the recommended tank size for filters with a spoonful of salt. They're based on the best case scenario, i.e., small, guppy-sized fish, not big predators. In the case of a 60 cm fish like an Ornate Bichir, you'd be looking -- at minimum -- for a filter rated at 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, i.e., 8 x 90 = 720 gallons per hour.
Anything less will eventually mean cloudy water and high ammonia/nitrite levels. You may be fine now while the Bichir is a pup, but Ornate Bichirs grow extremely fast, so plan on making an upgrade soon, should that be warranted (and it almost certainly will be).>
In it I have: two 5" Ornate Bichirs, two 7" Rope Fish and plan on two African Leaf Fish. There is a hockey sock of Guppies, Tetras and Cory's as well (tank cycling crew).
<Well, the Bichirs and the Leaffish will eventually view the Guppies as food, and unless you bred them at home, that isn't something desirable. The problem with farmed fish -- especially anything sold as "feeders" -- is their health tends to be variable. Just looking at farmed livebearers, the prevalence of Camallanus digestive tract worms seems to be very common, especially in the US. Allowing such fish to be eaten by a prized predator is likely to infect it with parasites. So while there's a tradition among the less experienced hobbyists to allow or even encourage their predatory fish to consume small fish, it's something experienced hobbyists strongly recommend against. There are things like Silver Dollars, Congo Tetras and some of the larger barbs such as Spanner Barbs and Clown Barbs that would make superb companions for Bichirs, so if you have the option, replacing the smaller fish with these would be very wise indeed.>
I want a single elephant nose (but am intimidated by their difficult reputation) or a Ghost Knife Fish as well.
<You are wise to be prudent. Neither of these species makes an obviously good companion of Bichirs of the type you're keeping. Polypterus ornatipinnis is a big, aggressive species usually kept only with robust tankmates. Elephantnoses are extremely fussy feeders that need to be kept in a tank with soft sand (never gravel) and they should never be forced to compete for food, even with Corydoras. That path leads to starvation.
Apteronotus albifrons is marginally easier to keep, but it's size and sensitivity to poor water conditions, as well as its need for strong water current and lots of oxygen, means it needs a different habitat to Bichirs or Ctenopoma. In short, neither species is a good choice for beginners, and indeed most moderately experienced aquarists fail to keep them alive for long.>
Is this feasible?
<No. The Ropefish are going to have a hard life in here, and the two Bichirs will eventually fight.>
Will the Bichirs fight? I just found out that they can get territorial.
<Yes. All Polypterus are more or less territorial, with only the smallest species, like Polypterus senegalus and P. palmas, being manageable in groups. The medium sized and large species tend to be far too intolerant.>
Any and all advice is more that welcome.
Warm Regards,
<Would sit back, review what you want in the long term, and then rehouse those fish that break the plan. The Bichir community is a classic, and a single medium sized species alongside things like Synodontis, Hemisynodontis, Anaspidoglanis macrostoma, Ctenopoma, Congo Tetras, and various West African cichlids can work extremely well. Robust South American cats like Panaque, Hypostomus, Callichthys callichthys and Hoplosternum littorale are also good choices. The African Knifefish (Xenomystus) is a good companion for the smaller Bichirs, but should be okay with an Ornate Bichir; that said, if you could get an Asian Knife (Notopterus) -- but not a Clown Knife (Chitala) -- these would be a better size for life with an Ornate Bichir. That said, your tank isn't huge, so choice of tankmates will be limited. Cheers, Neale.>

My dinosaur eel (Bichir), ID, gen.   11/12/07 Hi I bought a "Dinosaur eel" from my local pet store and it is doing great eats readily etc.... but I wondering if it can match up with any other fish because he seems a bit aggressive and I want to have more variety in that tank. Whenever I feed him blood worms he grabs onto them and thrashes around crazily until its all down. Also I was wondering if a small convict cichlid (1.5 inch) could go with him. Or any other fish that could make a pair. Also it is only a baby, (4 inches) and I realize it will get much bigger. I was also wondering if I should feed it anything else besides high quality flakes, brine shrimp, and bloodworms. Maybe some feeder guppies? thank you. <I'm curious precisely what fish you have. Dinosaur Eels are typically Polypterus species, also known as Bichirs (a word for which the correct pronunciation has been lost in the mists of time). The most common species in the trade is Polypterus senegalus, a uniform grey-pink fish with a whitish underbelly. It gets to about 30 cm in length. The other common species is normally called Polypterus palmas by hobbyists but may in fact be any one of a handful of similar species. It's mottled grey above with a yellowy-white underbelly. Again, maximum size is around 30 cm. The only other fish I can imagine this is would be Erpetoichthys calabaricus, the Ropefish or Reedfish. This is a very eel-like animal with a green body and orangey underbelly. Maximum size in aquaria seems to be around 60 cm, but wild fish approach one metre in length. Unlike the Polypterus species already mentioned, this is a "schooling" fish of sorts, and rarely does well kept singly. Keep in groups of three or more specimens. By contrast, Polypterus species tend to be snappy, and in some case outright hostile towards one another. All three of these fish are good community fish when kept with animals too large to eat. Cichlids, catfish and medium sized barbs and tetras will work well. Anything too small (guppy-sized) will be eaten. Erpetoichthys calabaricus is very peaceful and shouldn't be kept with anything aggressive, or it becomes shy. There are some other species of Polypterus in the trade, include some very mean and aggressive ones that are normally kept alone (e.g., Polypterus Bichir and Polypterus ornatipinnis). But those species are relatively uncommon. Fishbase is a good site to visit if you are having problems identifying Bichirs. Do a search for "Polypterus" and look them over. The Polypteridae is a small family, so this won't take long. All three species mentioned here feed primarily on invertebrates, particularly insect larvae. Bloodworms and mosquito larvae make excellent staples. None needs feeder fish, and for all the usual reasons you shouldn't use feeder fish unless you are breeding them yourself. If you want to give them live foods, then the correct food items for these fish are earthworms, mealworms, river shrimps, Gammarus, and the like. But since they hunt by smell, live food is redundant. Anything that smells right will be eaten. These fish adore frozen prawns and other seafood, chopped into smallish chunks. As usual with nocturnal hunters, only put small amounts in the tank each night; too much food makes it difficult for these practically blind fish to locate the food because the smell will be everywhere. A 15 cm Polypterus only needs a two or three chunks of prawn about the size of your fingernail, or a single cube of bloodworms. Hope this helps, Neale.>

My dinosaur eel... Polypterid gen.  11/14/2007 Marco's go Hello, <Hi.> I am an experienced fish keeper with 4 tanks of my own. And in one tank I have a "dinosaur eel" and that is what the store I bought it from said it was. The problem is I can not find a Latin name for the little guy and need to find out more. <Have a look here: http://www.fishbase.org/identification/specieslist.cfm?famcode=31&areacode=&spines=&fins= Each picture will lead you to a description and more pictures. Should be possible to find the scientific name and give us something to work with. Dinosaur eel is just a general name that may be used for any of the Bichir species and others. Also read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm  and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/taxonomy.htm  > Right now he is only 4 inches and I know he will get to about 12 inches. <How do you know if you do not know the species?> He is in a small little 5 gallon eclipse and is as happy as a clam. <Tank too small�� produces lots of nitrogenous waste and will be poisoning itself.> When it comes time to upgrade the little fellow I am going to purchase a 15 gallon. <Still too small�� for any Bichir.> And since he only roams around the bottom I was wondering if there are any compatible fish for the little guy. <Depends on the species and personality of the fish. Cichlids and catfish of adequate size can work, but you will need a larger tank first.> I know he is aggressive because when I feed him his favourite foods (blood worms) he goes crazy and attacks it and thrashes around. If you don��t know what this "dinosaur eel" is I don't blame you. <I��m glad to hear that.> I can give you some description. It is a Bichir and has a white under belly and a fanned out tail. Its head also looks kind of like a lizard. the back colour is sort of whitish brownish. <Please have a look at the site linked to above and properly identify your eel. If it is mottled white and brown compare it to pictures of Polypterus ornatipinnis.> Thanks for your support and I love your site it has helped me a lot. <Good to hear. Thanks, Dinosaur Marco.>

Polypterids   5/8/06 Thank you or your informative article on Polypterids. I recently purchased one from the LFS who didn't know all too much about them. With a bit of my own research I decided to get one of the Senegal Bichirs for my Jack Dempsey tank. <Mmmm, not a good mix potentially... do keep your eyes open here> I was very worried they'd eat him up, he's the most expensive fish I own lol. Either way, Your article had great insight to its behavior, dietary needs and what I should expect from it in the future as it crawls the bottom of my tank. Thanks again, Great article! //Blair <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Marbled Bichir repro.   7/22/06 Hi, this is Kiel speaking and I have a breeding question. In  the near future I'm getting a 55 gallon tank, and I'm planning to try to breed my  Marbled Bichir pair. I have learned everything I need to know about  breeding them, except what size they breed at. I really need your help on  this. <Likely at eight inches (20 cm.) or so... Please see here: http://fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=2386 see the linked topics below, the reference to Baensch and Riehl?... Bob Fenner>

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>

Mixing Crayfish And Bichirs  4/09/06 Hi, thx in advance for answering my question. I have a 40 gallon tank with (1) 4 Australian blue crayfish, (2) gold Gouramis, (2) pearl Gouramis, (1) Bala shark, (1) Pleco.  I would like to make a Bichir the final addition to my tank, but of obvious reasons there may be a clash between my crayfish and the Bichir.  Do you have any thoughts on how this setup will work? Sincerely Chad < The crayfish will try to eat the Bichir at first depending on the size of each. As the Bichir gets bigger there will come a time when the crayfish will molt and the soft new shell will leave the crayfish vulnerable to attack by the Bichir.-Chuck>

Ornate Bichir   1/31/06 Hi Robert, I'm a big fan, your website has served me very well and kept all the fish I've ever had alive and well. I'm going to purchase an Ornate Bichir to put in my 55 gal. I plan on putting it into my QT tank for at least a month before adding him to the larger tank. The 55 gal has been up and running for several months now, it's planted and uses a Fluval 304 and a Penguin 350 BIO-wheel for filtration. All I have in it right now is a Pictus Catfish about 5 in. The guy at the fish store told me I cannot put anything else in a tank with an Ornate Bichir including other Bichir/eels and catfish. In your professional opinion do think that an Ornate Bichir and a Pictus Cat will get along or should I find the Pictus a new home? Thanks a million, >> Hello Phil, There are hundreds of species of fish you could keep with an ornate Bichir. They are not aggressive fish, so the only think you have to keep in mind is that they are predators. They will swallow any fish that fits in their mouth, including your pictus cat if he is too small. Good Luck, Oliver

Polypterus predation  1/31/06 I just stumbled across your site today.  Very informative!  I have dabbled in aquaria for many years, had a fledgling maintenance business (more like a hobby playing with other people's money as I knew nothing of business at the time and learned a great deal about aquaria and business at my expense).   I have often thought of having a good sized aquarium (2-300 gal) well planted, and stocked with feeder white clouds and Neons in large quantities.  I wasn't sure if the Polypterid would be able to easily capture these small quick fish or not.  I guess it's the evil side of me that likes the idea of the normal response of "Gee, look at the pretty fish" followed by "What the heck is that thing?"  as the Polypterid eats one of their pretty little fish.  That and I just love the primitive look of the Polypterids and lungfish.  Any suggestions (that don't include psychiatric help)?  I noticed don't recommend UG filters for Polypterids.  What is the reasoning behind that?  I have typically used UG's with penguin powerheads and have had good results.  Would that create too much current for them to surface and breathe? >> Dear Allen, These fish eat at night when the barbs and tetras sleep. so they will have no problem eating them at all. Except you will not see it eat most of the time. Other than that it will work fine. Lungfish especially also eat some snails in nature, so you may want to consider that as well. UG filters are not ideal because these fish may uncover part of them, and that would make them useless, I would recommend a strong powerfilter instead. Good Luck, Oliver Polypterids  10/3/05 Hi there, I'm Rohaizat from Malaysia, which country are you from ?  <The U.S., in Hawai'i currently, but have visited your country... Pulau Redang, KL, various places in Saba> Your article was very informative as I found from wet web media.com. How many species of these kind do you have. <None currently, but have had four I believe> I have 4 of them just like those in the pictures. But a friend of mine had a foot long ornate Bichir <Wow, big> where mine is only 5 inches. Where can I find more info regarding this fishes, if you could help.  <Mainly large, public/college libraries> I would like to send you their pictures later if you like.  Have a nice day, anyway.  Bye...  Rohaizat  Roosley  <Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Packin' In The Polypterids - 08/24/2005 Hi <Hello.> I've just acquired the two fish above, <Polypterus ornatipinnis and P. lapradei> both are approximately 9" and healthy looking specimens. They are in a 48 x 15 x 18 tank <I assume this is in inches?  This is FAR too small a tank for multiple Polypterus, even small, without severe territoriality/aggression....> with a few catfish and a school of 8 convict cichlids as well as 2 small (4-5") senegalus. <Four Polypterids....  in 55 gallons....  Not a great plan. All the fish are healthy, greedy eaters, apart from the two new Polys. I've not seen them eat yet after being in the tank for almost a week, <Were these two quarantined prior to introduction?> the senegalus are greedy eaters, constantly looking like a bag of marbles and I was assured the ornate and lap where greedy too. <Likely they are being prevented food by the existing P. senegalus, despite the difference in size....  Possibly fighting/getting stressed after dark....> I've tried offering lance fish, live earth worms, blood worm, prawns and catfish pellets, I've offered food in the day and at night when the lights are out as they are nocturnal fish, but I've still not seen them eat. <There is serious conflict here; these animals very likely will not coexist with any semblance of peace....  One or all may end up killed as they age/grow.> Any suggestions on what to do? <Remove the two newcomers, and when the two P. senegalus (still quite small) begin to grow and show aggression toward each other, remove one.  The only Polypterus species I've heard regular accounts of peaceful groups is P. palmas....  and even still, ALL Polypterids get too large in the long run for a 55g tank.  Much to think about, here, I fear....  I do hate being the bearer of bad news.  Please read here for more:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm .> Kind regards,  Ashley Etchell <Wishing you and your fishes well,  -Sabrina>

Senegal Bichirs/s Hi there my name is Jason from Auckland, New Zealand, the other day I bought a couple of Senegal Bichirs and I was wondering if there is any way of telling if they are short body Senegal or normal ones, they are about 4inch. <Mmm, I am not aware that there is any more than just the one species: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm> The pet shop that I bought them from told me that they were lung fish but after searching the web for these fish I found that they are Bichirs not lung fish, and that there are short and long body types. Are you guys able to help? Cheers. <Please see the above link, and read about the family on Fishbase.org Bob Fenner> New armored Bichir   First and foremost, kudos on an amazingly informative website.  Easily navigated, well maintained, and chock-full of great ideas and tips.   I acquired a 100gal. tank with cabinet base and canopy a couple of years ago.  It was in pretty bad shape but with a lot of sandpaper, stain, acrylic scratch remover, and elbow-grease it is an eye-catching addition to my home.  I initially started a cichlid tank but quickly realized I was way in over my head.  Unfortunately, this cost me a couple of hundred dollars and approx. 15 innocent fish their lives.     I decided to go with a semi-aggressive community tank, after a couple of months of mourning, of course.     After establishing the tank again, I have slowly accumulated:                               4 Bala sharks                      2 Kuhli loaches                               1 silver dollar                      2 Gouramis                               2 rainbow sharks                1 upside-down catfish                               1 Chaetostoma (Rubberlip) 1 mystery fish  (girlfriend)                        and  1 new armored Bichir.   I love the Bichir but he doesn't seem to be eating.  I have tried frozen blood worms placed directly in front of him as he is too slow to compete with the other quicker fish (as I'm sure you know) but that didn't take.  He does seem to like the floating cichlid pellets I had left over as long as I drop them directly in front of him, however, I am hesitant to let him get used to these.     After perusing your website, I noticed that many offer their Bichirs beef heart.  My main questions are:  1) How often should I feed him? and 2) What size/amount chunks are best? (He is a young'n at only about 4-5 inches)   Also, on a side note:  I have two large porous lava rocks in the tank that have been 'infested'? with a light-green covering, finding the majority of it where there is no direct light.  It doesn't seem to have any ill-effect on water quality or the fish but I was still just wondering. <Just an algae. Nothing to worry about.>   I'd appreciate any response and apologize in advance if I missed the answer to these inquiries in the various FAQ's. <Good info on this oddball here. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl= http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ PolypteridPIX/Polypterus_delheziAQ.jpg&imgrefurl= http://www.wetwebmedia.com /FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm&h=142&w=200&sz=6&tbnid=BQFcPersbSMJ:&tbnh =70&tbnw=98&start=3&prev=/images%3Fq%3Darmored%2Bbichir%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26safe%3Doff Hope this helps. Don>

I Didn't Mean to Call You a Bichir!  Another lesson in how Not to Punctuate Sorry to bother you but I don't know who else to ask.. I have this Bichir who looks very swollen.. from bellow the head to the mid fin.. it has been swollen for weeks now, I have 3 more Bichirs in the tank that are doing  fine.. I have a 55 gal thank.. it seems to be ok except for the swelling.. it seems to have gone bigger too in the last couple of days.. I've had that Bichir for more than a year now, at least 1.5 years.. I attached a picture so you can see what I mean.. thanks for your help.  < You need to get some Metronidazole ASAP! This bloat situation can be cured if it is caught early. It usually happens in cichlids mainly Tropheus and some lake Malawian fish.  I think it is stress related. Big fish are messy eaters and generate a lot of waste. It is easy to let the wastes build up in the tank and get out of hand unless you do some water changes. If your fish is still alive you need to do a 30% water change now and treat the water for ich. A Formalin-malachite green medication will work. Add a hand full of rock salt too. Look for the Metronidazole at your local store. Check the ingredients for it. It may not be labeled as such. Treat the entire tank with 250 mg per 10 gallons. Use a little extra and use 6 tablets. Remove any carbon from your filters and if you have a Marineland filter with a BioWheel then remove it and place it in a plastic bag with some aquarium water in it. Leave it open and don't let it dry out. Do not treat on the second day and repeat day number one on the third day and every other day until the fish is cured. If the fish dies then watch the others closely in case they don't eat. If they don't it means that they are sick too and need treating. I got this cure a few months ago from another website. The website is called JDTropheus.com. They deal strictly with cichlids in the genus Tropheus and this cure does work. Good Luck.-Chuck>

A Thank You Hello WWM Crew, within the following page, concerning to your pages, a person called Chuck gave a very helpful answer to a question concerning a problem that now also occurred in my tank. I successfully saved my Bichirs using the tips published on your website. I want to say Thank You to Chuck for his help, so I want you to give me his email address. Sorry, If I did not notice any contact formulas of your page, but I got to your page by using a German internet search engine, so maybe I did not get the full frameset of your page. The URL of the page is: www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/bichirfaqs.htm Thanks a lot for your answer. < I am glad you were able to save your Bichirs. The real credit should go to a Tropheus breeder who turned me on to this treatment. You can find him on his website at JDTropheus.com.-Chuck> Greetings from Germany, yours Dr. D. Groll

Senegal Bichirs problems Hi all, I have / had 2 Polypterus senegalus 1 may have committed suicide.   <Senegal Bichirs usually are survivors given the proper living conditions. Though they are known for jumping out of a poorly sealed tank. They need quite a large tank to keep them happy.> I know they go after anything they can fit in their mouth but, would that also include one of their own if it is smaller then the remaining 1 thanks. <Senegal Bichirs are carnivorous critters.  They feed on live foods and dead meaty foods such as earthworms, mussels and silversides.  They do show aggression to their own species, especially if you don't give each fish a cave or something they can hide in and call their own.  It's not out of the question for one of them to attack and kill a competitor... Though, none of the ones I have worked with in the past had killed and eaten another Senegal Bichir.> Dave <Hope that helped.-Magnus>

Bichirs Breeding? 7/11/03 Hi, I have a question on how to breed Bichirs. I have two of them, one male, and one female. my question is what size tank should I use, and is there any "tricks" to get them to breed. also what water qualities should I have. any other information would be much appreciated.   Thank you           ,regrettably, I am not aware of captive commercial propagation of these fishes (naturally v. hormones). Will post on the daily FAQ page for feedback from our readers though... do check back for the next couple days by reading the FAQs. Best of luck! Anthony>

Bichir gill growths Hi Bob, I'm the guy that owns the 17 inches ornate with a torn left pectoral fins. Thanks for your reply. In between, I forgot to tell you that a juvenile ornate specimen of mine have 'red color horns' that resembles the Chinese saint animal 'dragon'. The 'horns' grow from inside the gills and go upwards. And the 'horns' grows as the fish grows. I had never seen anything like this before. No doubt it is BEAUTIFUL, but I am worried that it might be some disease or similar. <Not likely. Especially if this fish is small/young... they have growths that come out of their gill areas then. Bob Fenner> Rgds, Uix

Torn Bichir fin Dear Dr. Fenner, <Just Bob, please> Please help me. I own a ornate Bichir which is now currently 17 inches. I love him dearly. Last night, the left hand side of the pectoral fin of my Bichir was torn! Left with only the muscle part, the rest of the fin is gone! I am not sure what happened....... Dr., will the fin grow back in time???  Please tell me..... <Sounds like either a tremendous injury (did the fish get stuck somehow?) or an aggressive encounter with a tankmate. If the injury isn't too deep the fin will regenerate. These fishes are tough. Bob Fenner> thanks Uix

Please help Yoshi (a Bichir) Hello, my name is Erin.  I have been active in the fish hobby for awhile, with two 30 gallon tanks, one 10 gallon quarantine tank, a five gallon, and 12 Betta bowls.  I would like to address in issue that has arisen. <Wow!> I have had a fire eel, Astral, a Polypterus delhezi, Yoshi, in a 30 gallon tank for around 3 months.  They seem to be accepting each other just fine and share the same hang out spots for nocturnal fish.  Astral is about 6-7 inches in length, and Yoshi is yet a baby at only 5 inches.  Both take in a several ghost shrimp a day without hesitation, and Yoshi loves his beef heart cubes.  I just got in my ornate Bichir and was shocked to see him already close to 9 inches and quite girthy.  I have another 30 gallon set up with African cichlids, but the tank with Astral and Yoshi is the one with the eclipse hood.  Have you ever known an ornate Bichir to prey upon an Armoured Bichir of smaller size?  I would hate to lose Yoshi in such a way, he is a great fish. Thanks for listening, and I hope to hear back from you.  Erin. <Unfortunately, the ornate Bichirs are reputed to go after others of their species so a mix isn��t advisable. Ronni>

Ornate Bichirs nostrils Hi, I would like to know does the tubular nostrils of a Bichir grows back in time it happen to be bitten off by cichlids? thanks Rgds Louis <If not bitten too far back, yes. Bob Fenner>

Adding to Bichir Tank Bob, Now that I have the Bichirs in their own tank, is there any other fish that would be compatible with them? <Umm, yes... other African fishes from the same regions. Please see fishbase.org are the species you already have, and WetWebMedia.com re freshwater fish groups. Bob Fenner> Dave Siecinski

Bichirs Hi I recently just found your site.  I had a few questions about Bichirs before I go out and buy them.  I currently own a 20 gallon freshwater tank.  The only current resident in that tank is a freshwater moray.  I have added some aquarium salt to the tank to alleviate any problems he's had with breathing.  I'm currently interested in turning this tank into a brackish water tank and was wondering if Bichirs can cope with brackish water.  Also, what is the most active Bichir you can recommend as I've heard the ornate Bichirs are very very shy.  Are there any other fish that would do well with these two species?  Oh and do you recommend any equipment for a brackish water tank?  Thanks for your time and I think your website is great. Peter Kim <Hi Peter, Thank You for your comments on the site! I would encourage you to keep fish in conditions that they are evolved to. Bichirs are freshwater tropical African fish.  FW Morays are a Freshwater/brackish/marine species.  I would also be concerned with keeping any of these species in a 20 gallon tank.  Please type in "freshwater moray" into the Google search at WetWebMedia.com and also see: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm to read about Bichirs.  Take note of the water chemistry warning!  Craig>  

BICHIR I would just like to ask on how you can tell sex in a Bichir? thank you <Mmm, please read over the materials stored for the family (Polypteridae) posted on fishbase.org Bob Fenner>

Polypterus palmas do u know where I can buy a Polypterus palmas or Polypterus delhezi? and do u know how much they cost? <These Bichirs ought to be available from your local livestock fish stores... maybe as special order items. These are amongst the more commonly readily available species. Otherwise, I would shop around the not-so local e-tailers WITH the input of actual hobbyist users opinions. Perhaps start with our Chatforum: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ (ask where, reputation...) and the annotated list of suppliers on our Links Pages: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/links.htm Cost for Palmas should be in the $30 U.S. range, Delhezi about ten, fifteen dollars more... plus shipping and handling if ordered distally. Bob Fenner>

Compatibility I've had a Bichir 4 about a year now, he's about 10" long and have recently purchased a Amphiuma for the same tank. he's nearing 2' and seems aggressive to everything but the Bichir. (he ate a gar already) should I be worried or might they leave each other alone? <I would be/am concerned... the Amphiuma (an amphibian to those out there browsing) will indeed at least try to eat the Bichir... if it has eaten a Gar (family Lepisosteidae)... I'd move them to separate quarters. Bob Fenner>

Polypterus ornatipinnis Dr. Fenner: Hi. I've had 2 Bichirs together for almost a year in a 30 gal tank. The biggest one used to attack the small one for a while but both survived. I also have a horn Plecos and a Gourami. Three days ago I bought a 40 gal long tank so my Bichirs could have more space since they are getting huge. The big Bichir is about 8" long and since I moved them to the new tank the smallest has been attacking him to the point of bleeding. I'm very frustrated. Could you give me any advice if there is something I could do or if I should separate them???? Juliana <I would definitely separate these two... they are territorial in the wild and in captivity when kept in too small a system (a forty is small)... and they do get larger... Bob Fenner>
Re: Polypterus ornatipinnis
Thank you for answering my email. I'm in the process of setting up the second tank. Juliana <Ah, good to read/hear. Have seen some great Polypterids around the world in Public Aquariums... some that they've had for decades... and even saw a Bichir on a cemetery wall in an ancient Pharaonic setting in Egypt years back... one of my favorite groups of fishes. Bob Fenner>

Polypterus I'm interested in raising Polypterus but they're one of those obscure species the folks at the pet store aren't able to tell me much about. I've been reading online for info and yr page has been incredibly helpful. what I'm thinking about purchasing is either p. palmas or the armored Bichir, as both those are available to me. (the Ropefish is a little too big for my tastes and personally, I don't like it aesthetically...) which is the smaller of the two and what would be the minimum tank size requirement if I were to just keep one specimen in the tank with no other fish? <Polypterus palmas would be/is my choice. At a foot maximum length it is amongst the smallest of species of Bichirs. A twenty gallon long (30 inches long) would be the smallest of systems I'd suggest.> also, since these are able to breathe air, am I able to get away with just a bubble stone and one of those small whisper aerators, or do I need an elaborate set up?  <Not really elaborate, but more shallow and well-filtered nonetheless... The former to ease aerial access, the latter to account for their meaty foods, messy habits. I would utilize a good outside power filter (at least a large size hang on the back power type), and take pains to cover any/all spots where the animal might escape... The family is notorious at getting out of their glass houses.> anything else you can tell me about the basic set up would be great. the food information on the page was informative as well as the community/conspecific interaction.  thanks, -Ming > <So much to say... Get hold of Gunther Sterba's freshwater aquarium and diversity books and read about the "many fins"... Bob Fenner>

Polypterus I have a few questions on the ornate Bichir. What kinds of foods do you recommend feeding them?  How long is there lifespan? How large do they grow? What the water temperature should be and the PH?  Thanks,  MIKE > Meaty foods of appropriate (mouth) size. The Polypterus I used to keep I mainly fed larval beetles (meal worms etc.), earthworms (Oligochaete), and cut meat like cubes of beef heart.  This species (and others) live several years... the biggest ornatissimus I've seen is about eighteen inches. Some other Polypterids grow to more than two feet in length. Low seventies to low eighties F. is about right temperature. pH about neutral is best in my opinion as their water tends to go acid (which it is in the wild) with aging. Bob Fenner

Polypterus  Dear Mr. Fenner: I'm very interested to acquire some Polypterus but I don't know where can I found some photos of them biotope, because I love the "biotopical aquariums". I have a 450 Liter aquarium, a 2500 liter/hour external filter. How many Polypterus can I breed in ?? Thank you for advanced: Xavi  Well... if really interested... would encourage you to do something in the way of a scientific literature search. You're welcome to the input about such searches posted on the site: Home Page ... Otherwise, an old, but still valuable source is Gunther Sterba's works on freshwater fishes. Do a look-see through the "used" book sources on the net for these. Bob Fenner

Ornate Bichirs Hi, I've been planning to keep an ornate Bichir have a forty gallon tank do you thing that would suit one. Do you know if you can keep water dogs or mud puppies with them. Thanks, Mike > I wouldn't mix amphibians with the Bichir... they're quite messy and too much competition for bottom space... Bob Fenner

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