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FAQs on Bichirs, Family Polypteridae Foods/Feeding/Nutrition

Related Articles: Bichirs

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

Senegal bichirs and convict cichlid feeding question      3/22/16
Hello and thank you for always having such great answers!
<Glad to help.>
I apologize in advance if the answer to my question can be found somewhere here.
<WWM has built in Google search, try to use that ahead of time, most stuff is covered already someplace or other. Try http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/polypterids.htm>
I currently have a 55 gal with two juvenile Senegal bichirs (5in or so) and a convict cichlid. They have lived together since they were very small and have got along well. My convict is generally very docile and previously was bullied by other cichlids, so he and the bichirs enjoy a peaceful life. My question is, what would an ideal food be to offer to both species?
<Well, the more important concern here is that there is rarely a case where a non-obligate feeder should be fed the same thing all the time. We need to find our captive critters with variety more than homing in on a perfect
food as such. You wouldn't feed a person just one food all the time no matter how healthy it is. One thing can rarely solve all nutritional needs (despite advertising to the contrary!). Another thing to consider is stimulation and behavior. As you have noted, these are very interesting fishes behaviorally and IMO the behavior and "personality" of a fish are more important than beauty. Bichirs are a really unusual and unique ancient fish of which only a few other kinds of extant compatriots still exist. So while as a rule it's a bad idea (for several reasons) to feed live food, I would certainly make an exception for this species due to its being essentially a species tank, your correct idea that specific prey are key, and that their behavior is such a big draw for you (me too).>
I have typically fed them frozen bloodworms which they all enjoy and seem to thrive on, but the diet I've seen you recommend for bichirs seems much more varied and likely better.
<The more varied, the better! Stimulation, more natural, laid-back behavior, nutrition. The link above gives a good list of foods, some of which seem surprising. Mealworms! Convenient to get at any pet store...try them live. I would be a little leery of all the pond-acquirable things that they would like such as small frogs due to water pollution in the wild. The more types of meaty food, the better, rotate them.>
I also have given cichlid pellets on occasion with all parties satisfied. I am wary of my more sensitive cichlid having issues with bichir food. I have fed the tank with feeder guppies (apparently a big no no) with no ill effects that I have
seen and they do all appear to enjoy the thrill of the hunt... second part to my long winded question- I recently started a tank of feeder guppies separately and they have begun to breed. I am fortunate that my local pet store has their own breeder tank; the guppies I purchased are definitely more healthy than ones typically seen at big box pet stores.
<Home-grown feeder animals of any kind are usually better due to control-ability of what they eat, and keeping out who knows what pests a retailer may have. And cheaper in the long haul! Certainly worthwhile as long as they are fed well themselves and are not used as a daily fare due to the above concerns. -Earl >
If I fatten these guppies up and continue to keep a healthy adult population growing, is this acceptable fare for my tank? Watching the bichirs hunt is one of the most entertaining things I've ever witnessed :)
Thank you in advance!
Alyssa Stone
re: Senegal bichirs and convict cichlid feeding question      3/22/16

Thank you for such a quick and thorough reply, I really appreciate it! My spikers (bichirs) appreciate it too :D

dinosaur bichir; hlth. concern plus fdg. f'.... trauma likely      8/8/15
I know that is not the actual name, but that is what the pet store called it. He is called Buddy now. it is the lighter color silver/yellowish. He is big now, about 12 inches maybe an inch thick. I would say, maybe a little smaller. He has been fine since I put him in the take months ago. Feed him around twice a day pellets/bloodworms whatever it is that I have. (only because we have small live fish for him to eat)
<Mmm; do see WWM re Bloodworms/Sewer Fly larvae and feeding freshwater fishes to fishes. Problematical
Water changes every week/two weeks
<I'd do partials every week. See WWM re this also>
because I have 3 black long finned tetras, 3 black and yellow (not sure if they are guppies or not but in that family) 1 sucker fish, 1 big snail. So I know w/ that many I have to keep the levels right for them all and I try hard to do that constantly. I live right next door to a PetSmart. He was the last addition other than some small minnows for him to eat.
<Trouble... vectors for several parasites>

Not sure if that is killing him or not but something seems to be wrong with him.
He has started swimming funny. Like his head is too small for his body and there is a small dark spot on top of head.
<Ahh; this and your relating of erratic behavior below lead me to speculate that this Bichir has physically injured itself (very common) by "jumping" to the top, crashing into a rock or the tank side....>

That has been a few weeks now but last week started the mess I am in now.
he just started swimming crazy flipping and rolling in circles and twirling all over the tank when I would put my hand in to feed him/the others. He does that anytime I get near the tank. Then last night. I thought it was it. he swam all over crazy, and then went to the bottom and just sat there.
so I tried to get him out and he went crazy again and went to the corner to hide. He seems to be breathing and fine but then just out of nowhere swims crazy, flipping and rolling again in the sand at the bottom. I go to grab him and it was like he just stopped fighting like he was out of energy. He is not bloated in anyway like I have seen online. Am I feeding him the
wrong thing?
<To a degree... See (READ) on WWM re Polypterid feeding>
Before I fed him live fish and bloodworms (freeze dried).
<Oh! These are fine; as are good quality frozen, like Hikari brand>
Now, it's live fish and shrimp pellets. Is there something specific I should do to keep this one alive that I might not know about?
any help would be appreciated, these aren't just fish to me, he's my buddy, they are my pets/my family.
Thank you,
<Not much "to do" if indeed this is a trauma... placing the fish in another established system w/ shallow (six inches or so) water might help it to recover. Do the reading. Bob Fenner>
Re: dinosaur bichir /RMF      8/8/15

When I do water changes I only do about a 30% water change and vacuum sand.
Is sand bad to have?
<Not bad if kept moderately clean as you're doing>
should I get the bigger gravel? I changed to sand when I got him because they said he would like to dig and hide. But, Will start working on all of that. I have smaller tank I can get him to, and will start on the other food and stop the pellets.
<The pellets are fine... but do read:  http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypfdgfaqs.htm
If this does not work, how do I get him/tank tested for the parasites/disease?
<PLEASE learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM.... IF you so desired, you'd need to learn to sample and use a 'scope>
How would I know?
<Bingo.... books, some on the Net re>

I have had the aquarium for about a year now and no issues for any of them (until I got the bichir)
Thank you,
Re: dinosaur bichir      8/8/15

Will do, thank you for the help.
Thank you,
<W. B>
dinosaur bichir /Neale
I know that is not the actual name, but that is what the pet store called it.
<Guessing this is Polypterus senegalus, also known as the Senegal Bichir.>
He is called Buddy now. it is the lighter color silver/yellowish. He is big now, about 12 inches maybe an inch thick. I would say, maybe a little smaller.
<More or less full grown.>
He has been fine since I put him in the tank months ago. Feed him around twice a day pellets/bloodworms whatever it is that I have. (only because we have small live fish for him to eat) Water changes every week/two weeks because I have 3 black long finned tetras, 3 black and yellow (not sure if they are guppies or not but in that family) 1 sucker fish, 1 big snail. So
I know w/ that many I have to keep the levels right for them all and I try hard to do that constantly. I live right next door to a PetSmart. He was the last addition other than some small minnows for him to eat. Not sure if that is killing him or not but something seems to be wrong with him.
<Indeed, feeding any kind of feeders is a game of Russian Roulette. No idea why the use of 'feeders' persists in the US. You simply can't predict what diseases feeders will introduce, and because of that, diagnosis and treatment is extremely difficult.>
He has started swimming funny. Like his head is too small for his body and there is a small dark spot on top of head. That has been a few weeks now but last week started the mess I am in now. he just started swimming crazy flipping and rolling in circles and twirling all over the tank when I would put my hand in to feed him/the others. He does that anytime I get near the tank.
<There is of course a disease called Whirling Disease that affects (mostly) salmonids such as Trout. It isn't proven to occur among tropical fish though I suppose coldwater species like Minnows might introduce it. More likely though we're looking at something else, difficult to pin down. Check firstly environmental parameters. Many fish go loopy when stressed; the classic example is what happens when too-cold water is added to a tank of cichlids. They lose control. Fix the conditions and they get better.
Mollies are a more extreme example, "The Shimmies" just being a name given to the neurological problems that improper conditions (low pH and high nitrate to name but two) cause them. Constipation ("Floaty Bloaty Goldfish" syndrome) is a common problem, primarily among herbivorous fish (such as Goldfish) but possible with pretty much any fish that eats mostly pellet foods. Epsom Salt (1-3 teaspoons per 5 gallons/20 litres) works well against this as a mild laxative, especially when the fish in question also eats something high fibre as well (ideally peas or some other greens, but frozen brine shrimp work quite well too). Finally, there is that old chestnut "Swim Bladder Disease", an almost meaningless term that merely describes a situation where a fish is so sick it can't control its buoyancy properly. Dozens of things can cause this, which makes it hard to treat. Antibiotics are frequently recommended, and can work if the cause was bacterial, which it often is.>
Then last night. I thought it was it. he swam all over crazy, and then went to the bottom and just sat there. so I tried to get him out and he went crazy again and went to the corner to hide. He seems to be breathing and fine but then just out of nowhere swims crazy, flipping and rolling again in the sand at the bottom. I go to grab him and it was like he just stopped
fighting like he was out of energy. He is not bloated in anyway like I have seen online.
<So unlikely to be constipation, but nonetheless, trying Epsom Salt would be worthwhile just in case. Epsom Salt does no harm and can do some good;
it doesn't react with other medicines, so is a good thing to use alongside, say, an antibiotic.>
Am I feeding him the wrong thing? Before I fed him live fish and bloodworms (freeze dried). Now, it's live fish and shrimp pellets.
<Please may I also stress that with carnivores there's always the problem of thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency. Can cause all sorts of symptoms including nervous system problems. Shrimps, prawns and similar crustaceans and most fish from the Cyprinidae family (minnows and goldfish for example) are the two main food groups that cause thiamin deficiency because they contain an enzyme called Thiaminase that breaks down this vitamin. It's a slow to develop problem that might not cause ill health for months, even years, but it is likely a very common reason for predatory fish mortality.
Minimise the use of crustaceans, and never, ever feed cyprinids. Never use feeder fish anyway, but if you breed feeders from quarantined adults (the only safe approach) then use killifish or livebearers ONLY because these carry no particular health risks (cyprinids have the Thiaminase, while cichlids are spiky and can choke predators). Vitamin supplements (mostly
sold for marine fishkeepers) can be used to minimise/eliminate the problem of thiamine deficiency, and to a degree can also be used to treat it. Review diet, and see whether this is a possible course of action.>
Is there something specific I should do to keep this one alive that I might not know about? any help would be appreciated, these aren't just fish to me, he's my buddy, they are my pets/my family.
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: dinosaur bichir         8/11/15

I have a question. I have a smaller tank he is in but Im having problems w/ my little heater. Is it safe to put him back in big tank? Or do I need to keep him separated while doing the medication?
<Epsom salt is harmless to other fish. Vitamin supplements (obviously) harmless. Internal infection bacterial treatments (such as Maracyn, Kanaplex, etc.) also safe for other fish, though the types you add to the water are LESS reliable than medicated fish food (though Bichirs unlikely to eat medicated flake/pellets anyway).>
Will get the medication today. Just in case. I honestly do not know what it could be. maybe a combo ? I have fed him minnows over the last few weeks. I think this is what is doing it.
<Certainly possible. Minnows are a double whammy: containing Thiaminase (leading to Vit B1 deficiency) and parasite time bombs.>
He was fine before I put in the minnows (and I didn't do anything to them, I did not know I should have kept them for a few days outside tank and then feed him the fish, I just put right in from the fish store.....)
<Would have made precisely no difference keeping them in another tank a few days, so don't beat yourself up over it. Many/most infections they carry wouldn't be seen in the short term, other than, perhaps a sick fish simply dying before use. To stress: don't use live feeders unless they're the offspring of fish you've been breeding at home.>
That and when we took him out to put in other tank, looks like a dark grey dot on top of head, might even be a hole? What do I do about that?
<Pray to the fish gods! More seriously, at this point, get the Bichir settled and feeding again. Is he still spinning about? That's the key problem. Bichirs do suffer physical damage quite easily (jumping to aquarium hoods and getting burned on heaters without plastic heater guards) but such damage heals readily if they're feeding and in good quality water.
Make sense?>
Thank you,
<Welcome, Neale.>
RE: dinosaur bichir         8/11/15

Ok. I have him in a smaller tank so he can't thrash around as much. He does sometimes, but nowhere near as much.
That has seemed to help calm him down on that part, just my little heater isn't working so the water is getting cold fast, especially now that I am not home watching water/warmth.....
<Understood. Do make sure he can't burn himself. Fault heaters are not worth using: discard. If they jam on, they'll boil your fish in no time.>
i might just put him back in other tank so he is in good levels of water.
Eating- he's not doing a whole lot of that lately. He used to eat as soon as I put food in tank, now it sits for hours and doesn't eat it all... Once I get home and get the Epsom salt and the other stuff
<Do be careful about "stuff". Antibiotics and Epsom salt fine, but Bichirs are intolerant of copper and formalin as used in numerous general purpose medications.>
on him will see how he turns out. Hopefully he will start eating better soon- I took minnows out tank and only feeding him bloodworms for right now.
<Do remove uneaten food from the tank; you want to keep water quality as good as possible.>
thank you for the help.
Thank you,
<You're welcome. Neale.>

Juvenile Ornate Polypterus Not Eating!     12/9/12
I have a juvenile Ornate Polypterus, approx. 3 inches, which was housed for the past three months in a 29 gallon by itself.
<... this system is fully established, cycled I take it>
It ate very aggressively and was otherwise very active. I noticed about 10 days ago that it was lethargic and refusing food. I even tempted it with meal worms and live
<http://www.fishlore.com/profile-ghostshrimp.htm> ghost shrimp, aside from its regular
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00025K0ZI/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=fishlorecom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00025K0ZI >
krill, (it will not eat meat pellets thus far). I had the water tested and the
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002566TC/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=fishlorecom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0002566TC > ammonia and
nitrite levels were perfect, as well as the
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000255NAK/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=fishlorecom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000255NAK >
pH. The Nitrates, however, tested at 80ppml.
<Trouble. Likely indicates the root cause of trouble here>

Put De-<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002DVVICS/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=fishlorecom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002DVVICS>  nitrate in the filter,
prime, emergency water changes every 2-3 days of 1/4 of the tank's volume.
The Nitrates are holding at 80ppml.
<... too high>
 I then tested my tap water and it tested close to 20ppml.
<Beyond the safe limit for potable water...>
 The head guy at my fish store, who is also an eel keeper, both fresh and salt, recommended getting the Polypterus into a hospital tank ASAP.

I drained my 10 gallon hospital tank, and refilled it with filtered water from the aquarium store, let it run and heat up to temp for awhile and then tested the Nitrates. It tested at 20ppml, so I immediately started acclimating the eel in a bucket with an airline tubing drip for quite awhile before putting him in. He is responsive and seems fine, not breathing heavily or anything, but still won't eat after 24 hours of being in the tank. I am very worried that it is simply going to starve itself to death.
Any advice on how to get this little guy to eat,
<Just time, patience, and fixing the NO3 issue, placing the fish back in the larger (more stable) system>

 what I can tempt him with, how long these fish can go without eating,
 would be GREATLY appreciated. 
I have longtime experience in keeping these fish, and have never had an issue like this before. In fact, I have a large one in a 72 gallon that is quite healthy. Very confused and desperate to save it.
<Review what I've written above, do the reading, fix the main tank NO3, move this fish back, be patient. Bob Fenner>
Re: Juvenile Ornate Polypterus Not Eating!      12/10/12

Thank you for writing back!!!  The 10 gallon that I moved the Polypterus into was a well established tank,
<Ah good>
with the filter and substrate (fine crushed coral)
 in use for several years, 7 I believe.  It as well had high Nitrates before putting the fish into it.  It had been kept for a few months as just a hospital tank and hadn't had an occupant for awhile.  It tested at 80 as well.  Now it is testing at 10/20.  Hard to tell with the close colors on the API kit between those two numbers and is holding.  He seems more responsive as far as coming up to me when he sees my hand outside the glass, and he is moving around a bit more, switching laying spots frequently, but he will not eat.  I put 3 Ghost Shrimp in there with him just to have some kind of food source at all times that was not rotting.  If he doesn't eat the Krill after a bit, I remove it so not to add to the problem.
 It's refreshing to hear that they can go so long.  He also doesn't seem to be wasting away physically.  I guess I will just keep trying and hope for the best?
<Read where you were referred, and do one of the listed processes to get water that is more suitable, less NO3>
  I am finding it challenging to bring the levels down on the his former tank, but am keeping at it diligently as I would like to eventually return him to it until he grows out of the tank. 
Thanks for the links as well!!!
<Welcome! BobF>

questions regarding new baby bichir, ID, sys., diet...    9/27/12
I have previously owned bichirs, and currently own a delhezi bichir and Senegal bichir (separate tanks). in my third tank, I have recently gotten a baby bichir. he looks like a saddled bichir but I am not sure. (see attached pictures). His personality is very similar to my first bichir, which I believe was saddled. He is very energetic, and likes to sit on top of the plants, or squeeze between the heater and the tank wall. He looks like he is hunting, but he is in there alone. Can you identify him for me?
<Looks like some sort of Polypterus delhezi to me, but the photos aren't terribly sharp. Also, please do note we specifically ask for images no bigger than around 500 KB a piece -- sending 7+ MB of images clogs up our e-mail account and takes a while to download.>
In addition, what would be suitable tank decor for a baby bichir? What decor do they seem to like? (my other two bichirs are duds and sit on the bottom)
<None of the Bichirs are terribly active; that's their nature. Generally, go for a smooth substrate (so as not to scratch them when they root about) and plenty of shade. Live plants are ideal, especially floating plants. If you use plants that root themselves in the substrate, choose robust species not easily uprooted, such as Giant Vallisneria or Amazon Swords. Otherwise, epiphytes like Java Fern and Anubias are ideal, and also happen to tolerate shade well.>
Also, what would be a good diet for a baby bichir? I'd prefer not to handle raw meats/fish.
<You may prefer not to, but if you buy a Bichir, that's what you're getting into. Fresh or frozen cockles and strips of tilapia fillet are two ideal foods, being inexpensive and Thiaminase-free. Mussels and prawns may be used, but sparingly because they contain Thiaminase, and long-term, too much Thiaminase can and does cause serious health problems. Live river shrimp and earthworms are good foods for subadults and adults, while very small juveniles may do better with things like bloodworms. Most specimens can be weaned onto good quality pellet foods such as Hikari Sinking Carnivore pellets.>
I heard that feeding live goldfish was bad,
<Extremely bad.>
does the same go for feeder minnows/tuffys?
Are there any frozen foods that would be good for him?
<See above.>
He doesn't seem too into pellets, and the store where I purchased him said he had quite a few fish.
<Not a good sign. Sadly, in the United States especially, there's still a huge ignorance about the dangers posed by feeding live fish, especially minnows and goldfish, to carnivorous fish. Here in England aquarists keep the exact same carnivorous fish and never touch live feeder fish. Since we're all buying the same tropical fish exported from the same countries, it's a mystery to me why American aquarists (and significantly, American retailers) insist on using live feeder fish known to be Thiaminase-rich and riddled with parasites. If you must use live feeders, choose a safe livebearing species, deworm them, and then breed from them your own feeders. Gut load before use. But as I say, there's absolutely no need to do this, and doing the alternative and using fresh/frozen foods will be cheaper, safer, easier, and less likely to cause problematic behaviours such as aggression.>
I just want this little guy to have the best life he can, and I'm willing to do almost anything to make him happy, he is already a very special fish.
Thanks so much and have a great day!
<Glad to help, Neale.>

Dinosaur Bichir 11/22/10
Dinosaur Bichir (gigantic fish crammed into 55 gallons; blind Iridescent Sharks; the usual)

Hi, I have a Dinosaur Bichir
<Polypterus senegalus, an excellent aquarium fish.>
that I got along with 2 Iridescent Sharks and two Balas and a large Pleco.
<In 55 gallons! Not a chance. Iridescent Sharks (Pangasius hypophthalmus) get to at least 75 cm/22 inches in captivity. They also grow extremely rapidly. Do please use Google and see how large these fish get. The photos will astound you! Bala Sharks (Balantiocheilos melanopterus) get to a good 30 cm/12 inches long, and require a good 55 gallons PER specimen.
As for the Common Plec (Pterygoplichthys pardalis), these get to about 45 cm/18 inches within two years and while a singleton might be crammed into 55 gallons, the result would be a murky, messy aquarium.>
They were all in a 55 gallon tank when I notice all the fish but my Dinosaur Bichir got Ick. I got the tank cleared of Ick and the next week one of the Iridescent Sharks had an eye missing.
<Unfortunately extremely common when Iridescent Sharks are kept in tanks too small for them. They bash into the glass, damage their eyes, and the result is blindness. This is so very common that it goes beyond a joke. Seriously, when I hear someone has an Iridescent Shark in captivity, I ASSUME that the poor catfish will be blind. Let me be crystal clear here -- Iridescent Sharks are NOT fish for the home aquarium. They're a food fish, with the size and growth rate you'd expect for a food fish. Anyone who buys one of these fish either [a] hasn't done any research at all or [b] has a 500 gallon aquarium in which to keep it.>
I watched the tank closely and didn't see and fish fighting however all the fish but the Dinosaur Bichir came down with a bacterial infection. Finally got the infection under control and then noticed that my Dinosaur Bichir was eating the fins of my sharks.
<Hmm actually pretty uncommon behaviour. Polypterus senegalus feed almost entirely on insect larvae and worms, and don't normally bite larger fish. They are territorial though.>
I switched the food to bloodworms hoping this would help not only with her trying to eat my other fish but with tank water clarity. I have tried for 6 months to get the tank clear and it seems like it just wont balance out.
<Of course not! You have fish for a 550 gallon tank in 55 gallons of water! Seriously, this is NEVER going to work. You need to sit down, think about what you're trying to achieve, and then take back the MANY fish you can't keep. In 55 gallons you could safely keep the Bichir, perhaps a Bristlenose Plec, and then a nice school of Silver Dollars or Australian Rainbowfish. That'd been lovely. Everyone would have swimming space, and you'd have a tank that was healthy, pretty, and easy to keep. What you're doing at the moment is just plain unworkable.>
I have live and fake plants and plenty of hiding spots. I decided that maybe the common denominator was my Dinosaur Bichir so I took her out and put her in my 40 gallon tank which I new everything was balanced and has a bushy nose Pleco in.
<Both eminently compatible species ideally suited to 40 gallons of water.>
Within 2 days my 55 gallon tank is sparkling clear however the 40 gallon is horribly cloudy. Why do my tanks do this is there something wrong with my Dinosaur Bichir ? the ph levels are spot on however the nitrate/nitrite and ammonia levels always are high in the tank with the Dinosaur Bichir.
<Overfeeding, overstocking, under-filtering likely a combination of all three.>
Is there anything that can be done about this?
Also my Dinosaur Bichir seems to prey on the injured or weaker fish even though she is eating plenty of blood worms, should I get her some feeder fish?
<Of course not. Feeder fish are possibly the worst thing you can feed predatory fish, second only to poison. Polypterus senegalus should be given a staple diet based around insect larvae and worms: earthworms are excellent, bloodworms mostly water so less nutritious though useful. Slivers of tilapia fillet and shelled cockles are also excellent and Thiaminase-free. Once a week you can also offer chopped mussels or prawns, but these contain Thiaminase so must be used sparingly.>
Thanks Misty
<Misty, Misty, Misty I've rolled my eyes a few times while reading this. I'm detecting lots of enthusiasm but not too much research! But don't worry, I was there once. There's an art to keeping big fish and oddballs, and that art depends upon planning. The Bala Shark and the Iridescent Sharks have to go, you have no way of keeping them. I'd lose the Plec, too. Then sit back, think about what you're trying to create. Feel free to write back if you want some tips on stocking. In the meantime, read here:
There's a nice photo of a 75-gallon tank set up for Polypterus, a school of Congo Tetras, and some other African oddballs. Lovely, isn't it! Cheers, Neale.>

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.>

Polypterus ornatipinnis; tankmates, diet   3/14/09
Hey WWM/Neale,
<Hello again,>
Its been awhile since I've sent any e-mails for your advice. I'd like to say thanks for your useful tips in your replies. For a beginner like me and my sis who had no experience in keeping Ornate Bichirs or Plecos, a year has passed and all of them are doing fine, the Bichir reaching nearly a foot long.
<Sounds great!>
The reason for this e-mail is for some advice regarding further info on Ornates and Plecos. Firstly, like the large Ornate I have, I was once again given 2 more approximately 2-3 inch Ornates together with a 20 gallon tank. Apparently the owner did not want to risk these Ornates dying as a quite a handful of fish they kept in the past, so they handed it over to me. I am aware the tank isn't big enough and they will eventually outgrow it, but for now they have ample space to swim about and I added two 6 inch PVC pipes for them to hide. The last time I asked, you advised not to keep more than 1 Ornate together unless the tank was really big and many have said that as well due to their habit of biting. But some fishkeepers I've asked have said otherwise and they can be kept together. Both seem comfortable with each other at the moment though. Thoughts on this?
<As is often the case "your mileage may vary". Or put another way, there may be multiple factors involved. Sex is clearly likely to be one, with male fish often more hostile towards one another than they are towards females, or females to other females. I'm not aware of Bichirs guarding their eggs, but males may still be short-tempered with one another simply because in the wild they'll be competing with one another for access to mature females. Other issues may include competition for hiding places, aggression at feeding time, and aggression caused by the use of certain types of food (live food, particularly "feeder fish", does seem to increase aggression when predatory fish species are being maintained). So there is probably a suite of factors involved. If you can sex your Bichirs (possible, by looking at the anal fin) you could opt for a group of females, and then ensure the tank was big enough for all the fish to have hiding places, and then to make sure only dead foods were used so that their more competitive instincts weren't encouraged. But these are all guesses; the reality is that Polypterus ornatipinnis is a solitary fish in the wild and doesn't tend to work well in groups under aquarium conditions.>
Secondly, just some further info on Ornates. How long do they live? I heard 10 years but many have said they don't know.
<Surely well over 10 years. Even the small species like Polypterus palmas will live for longer than 12 years. My guess would be that a Bichir like an Ornate would have the potential to live 20+ years, particularly if not kept too warm and given a balanced, not too fatty diet.>
Are there sub-species of Ornates?
<None mentioned at Fishbase.>
Once read a magazine that recognised 4 sub-species that grows to different lengths. And about feeding them like the last time I inquired, I successfully fed the 2 small ones pellets. But the foot long Ornate seems to be Â…rather fussy.
<Diet does change in the wild, adult fish being essentially piscivorous compared to the insect-eating juveniles. Since they hunt by smell rather than sight, live fish aren't required, but lancefish, mussels, squid and the like would be viable options. Also, virtually every Bichir or every size adores earthworms!>
Most of the time it opts to starve itself till we give it fish (some 5 days at a time!) and were not sure if it eats the pellets we feed it. One person advised me to starve it till it accepts pellets since most do that. Is this a good tactic?
<Can be. I'd not use pellets for Bichirs because of issues with constipation; while acceptable now and again, I'd honestly recommend a more varied diet than this, with a good deal of seafood and white fish, taking care of course over the Thiaminase issue.>
How long can an Ornate go without food?
<Adults likely have to do without food for a month or more during the dry season.>
Will it remain defiant on its hunger strike till it perishes?
<Depends what you offer it.>
I certainly don't want it to die because it is picky about what it eats!
<Earthworms. Very nutritious. Do collect from an "organic" garden though; pesticides are an obvious danger otherwise. I deliberately don't spray my garden for precisely this reason.>
And finally, how do you tell about male and females among Ornates if you're given a random specimen?
<Juveniles are essentially identical, but sexually mature males have a much larger, broader anal fin (almost square in shape) compared to the much smaller and narrower anal fin of the female (more rectangular).>
That's all for Ornates. Finally, just a few questions regarding a certain species of Pleco: The Bristlenose/Bushy-Nose Pleco. I was planning on getting one or two to put it with the 2 small Ornates, but not before I sort a few things out before deciding. The profile on WWM says it tolerates alkaline water, but can it tolerate more acidic conditions as my tank water tends to get acidic instead of basic?
<In common with practically all Loricariidae, the Bristlenose Plec (Ancistrus spp.) is good across 5-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8.>
And because of its small maximum size as opposed to the potentially large Ornate Bichir, will they become compatible or will the Bichir �bully� it around?
<An adult Ancistrus might be okay, but it could be considered edible, and even if not swallowed, could still jam the mouth of a hungry Polypterus ornatipinnis. So I'd actually be looking at one of the Loricariids around the 30 cm size range, like a Gold Nugget Plec (Baryancistrus spp.), a Sunshine Plec (Scobinancistrus aureatus), or the excellent L001 (Pterygoplichthys joselimaianus). if you have the space, a Royal Plec (Panaque nigrolineatus) or an Adonis (Acanthicus adonis) would be even better.>
Also, is it as hardy as common Plecos (I have leopards, I think)?
<Yes. Common Leopard Plecs (Pterygoplichthys spp.) would be ideal tankmates too.>
The Bristlenoses are rather expensive and I don't want them to die if I were to purchase them. Also, how long do they live?
<Ancistrus catfish can live for as long as 10 years. The larger Loricariidae much longer, likely several decades. I have a Royal Plec who is 15+ years old and not even half grown.>
I apologise for the unusually lengthy e-mail. Take your time in answering it and thank you very much.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

A question regarding my Senegal bichir   3/13/09
Dear Crew, I am Avaneesh from Bombay, India. I have figured out that your site is actually quite helpful.
My Senegal bichir has stopped eating much... the last time he ate something was yesterday. Just a pellet and he even spat it out. I am worried about my bichir, what might be its problem? He moves around quite properly but seldom eats. My other fish, a Green Terror and a Salvini Cichlid do not trouble him and they eat properly.. Water parameters are quite good, temperature 26 degree C, Ph value 7, ammonia 0
what may be the problem?
<Greetings. Polypterus senegalus is a predatory fish, and this species rarely eats pellets. The best foods for this species are fresh or frozen foods. Depending on the size of the Bichir, you can feed bloodworms,
earthworms, small pieces of chopped fish and prawn, krill, and so on. They don't need live foods, but earthworms are extremely good foods for them, and usually tempt specimens into feeding properly. Because they hunt by smell (their eyesight is very poor) you may have problems mixing them with
cichlids; Cichlasoma salvini for example eats very similar foods in the wild, and I would expect this cichlid and the bichir to compete in captivity. Feeding at night would be one solution, since cichlids for the
most part sleep at night time. Personally, I'd be watching the Aequidens rivulatus like a hawk! These are very mean fish, and Senegal Bichirs are docile, even gentle, fish that are easily bullied by aggressive cichlids. I have seen cichlids bite all the fins away from Bichirs! You may find keeping the Bichir in its own 125-litre aquarium much more satisfactory.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: A question regarding my Senegal bichir   3/13/09
thank you for your reply..I have tried earthworms and they have really encouraged its eating..Thanks a lot!
<Glad this worked! Few predatory fish say "no" to earthworms. Nature's perfect food? Cheers, Neale.>

Bichir question 11/13/08 Hi. I hope this is the correct area for this question. Sorry, my Internet knowledge is fairly limited.  I have two young bichirs that I purchased in February. One is a Polypterus delhezi and the other is a Polypterus palmas butikoferi. While the delhezi has doubled in length and girth, the butikoferi hasn't grown at all as far as I can tell. Still only about 4 inches long, and not much thicker than a pencil. They're together in a 30 gallon tank (with a 75 for future use), which gets twice monthly cleanings. I feed them a combination of frozen silversides and Hikari carnivore pellets. The delhezi is a pig, so I frequently get to see him eat, but I have yet to actually observe my butikoferi in the act of eating. I'm assuming she (I have no idea of actual gender) must eat something, as she is still alive. I would think that the delhezi is hogging all the food, except I always overfeed, and have to clean extra silversides out the next morning.  My questions are these: do palmas butikoferi grow more slowly than other species? I can't find much info online about "gold dust bichirs" in general. Or is there some non-communicable disease that might slow down growth. Are there maybe dwarves in the bichir world? She seems otherwise healthy. Thanks, Danielle <Hello Danielle. There are a bunch of things going on here. To start with, while Polypterus species generally grow slowly, Polypterus delhezi is noted for having a rapid growth spurt when young, getting to 20-30 cm quite quickly, but then growth rate slows down considerably. Polypterus palmas has a slower, more uniform growth rate. There are is considerable variation in temperament between different Polypterus species, with some being much more aggressive feeders than other. Polypterus palmas is a comparatively mild species, which is one reason that the Polypterus palmas species complex has become popular with aquarists. I suspect that there is some bullying going on in the tank, and part of the problem may be that the Polypterus palmas just can't get enough to eat. Using small food items (such as bloodworms) would help by making it difficult for the larger Polypterus delhezi to hog all the food. It's worth mentioning that Polypterus palmas feeds extensively on insects and crustaceans in the wild, and the calcium present in unshelled crustaceans such as krill is especially important because it helps these fish to produce their hard scales. In fact bichirs across the board do best when given a diet rich in calcium, though in the larger species frozen whitebait and lancefish should provide this in the form of bones and scales. Next up, do always remember the golden rule: if (non-green) food isn't eaten in 5 minutes, remove it! Messing up water quality isn't going to help the situation. I suspect that the problem here is social, and these two fish will need to be either put into a much bigger tank, or else kept in different tanks. Cheers, Neale.>  

Re: Bichir question 11/13/08 Thanks so much for the info. I'm definitely going to try the bloodworm suggestion. If that doesn't work, then I'll separate them. <Suspect this may be on the cards anyway, but certainly worth trying alternative foods. Bichirs don't normally "play nicely" with each other, and all species can exhibit some degree of snappiness as they mature.> But will that be setting me up for aggression issues later on if I try to reintroduce them? <Almost certainly yes; once territorial fish have established their territories, adding rival fish to the tank, particularly smaller/weaker ones, tends to work out badly.> They get along fine (other than possible food fights) now. Thanks. <Bichirs are really best kept one to a tank. Possibly in a larger group you might dilute aggression, and if none could hold a territory, then no-one becomes the bully. This is why fish in retailer's tanks often seem peaceful: they're overcrowded. This isn't always viable in the home aquarium though because of water quality issues. Life may be easier for you to put one Bichir in each tank and be done with it. Cheers, Neale.>

Ornate Bichir, mainly comp.   8/04/08 Hello WWM crew. I'm quite new to this hobby and the reason why it began was because of a gift which was a single Ornate Bichir. We have been keeping it for about 4 months now and it is probably the hardiest denizen in the aquarium (about 120 litres). I've got a few questions regarding it:-1) I read that Suckermouth catfish tend to suck on Bichirs when they get larger and my aunt who encountered this problem said it was fine. <Mmm, sometimes Loricariids will do this... and it can be harmful> So far the 3 suckermouths in the aquarium have done no such thing, is it safe to continue (they are slightly smaller than the bichir, which is about 6 inches)? <Likely so; I'd just keep an eye on all> 2) Bichir seems to have strange bouts of "insanity" as while it remains placid most of the time, it sometimes to swims like a madman around the aquarium's walls, as if trying to fight its own reflection. Is this typical behaviour or is there something wrong? <Not unusual... and it may indeed be reacting to its own reflection as you state. I would cover one end of the tank with dark paper (on the outside) to discount reflection> 3) I understand that Bichirs are bottom dwellers, but I don't know what type of fish would be compatible in this same tank. <Most anything that will not bother the bichir, nor is slow, small enough to be ingested by it... Your tank is not very large for too much...> I worry because of pH, behaviour and growth rate. My sister wanted pufferfish, but I read that they tend to nibble the bichir's pectoral fins. <Yes...> Any suggestions? <Perhaps some Rainbowfish, medium sized barbs, medium sized gouramis...> That's all that I have for now, thank you for your time. - Gene <Welcome! Bob Fenner>

Re: Ornate Bichir, comp. and now fdg. as well    8/5/08 Hey Bob/Whom it may concern, its me again. Thank you for your reply. Regarding the compatibility, you mentioned 'medium' sized gouramis. I know that the Giant one is out of the question, so would Trichogaster trichopterus be good tankmates? <For Polypterus ornatus, you might get about with T. trichopterus, but P. ornatus is a big fish when fully grown, and not all T. trichopterus get as big after years of inbreeding as once they did. T. microlepis or even T. pectoralis would be better. But actually, I'd suggest one of the Anabas or Ctenopoma species. Similar to gouramis, though a trifle more aggressive and territorial. I combined C. acutirostre with P. palmas with great success for many (~12) years. The Asian Climbing Perch Anabas testudineus is a great animal if you track it down; very characterful.> If so, how many do you recommend and will they be aggressive to the others? Oh, and the last e-mail I sent I had neglected to mention that the Bichir shares the tank with a bulky approx 3 inch long feeder fish carp that grew too large to be consumed. <Trichogaster are somewhat gregarious though males can be aggressive; Ctenopoma and Anabas are somewhat more pushy, but again, the males more so than females.> I read in one of your articles that feeding feeder fish is a bad idea for Bichirs, <Bad for all pet fish. Contrary to "the wild", feeder fish are disease-ridden and nutritionally unbalanced. There's also some good reports that feeding live food tends to make predators more aggressive.> so the best is probably worms (frozen)? <Earthworms and river shrimps are loved by Bichirs. But since they hunt by smell, not sight, almost anything that smells right will be accepted.> But I'm afraid if I switch, my Bichir might not adapt to his new diet. <He will. Even if you need to starve him a few days.> Continue with feeder fish? <Nope.> Thanks once again for your time. - Gene <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ornate Bichir; diet, social behaviour   8/6/08 Hello WWM crew, how is everyone doing? Thank you for you last e-mail. <Most welcome.> I'm not sure now if my 120 litre tank can support one Ornate Bichir together with a Snakeskin Gourami (as mentioned in the previous e-mail), if it can I have to track down the snakeskin because the aquariums in my area commonly sell Trichogaster trichopterus and giant gouramis. <Long term the P. ornatipinnis is going to need a bigger tank than 120 litres. It's maximum size in the wild is 60 cm (about 2 feet) and even in aquaria you can reasonably expect 45-50 cm. I've seen adults and they are big, chunky fish. But short term, both are air-breathers and should thrive in this tank while small.> (Is this a snakeskin Gourami? www.aqua-fish.net/show.php?h=snakeskingourami) <Yes; not the prettiest Gourami, but hardy, reasonably large, and peaceful.> If I can't get my hands on this species, get three spot gouramis? <You can certainly get them; I just can't guarantee they won't be eaten. As I said, P. ornatipinnis is a big fish.> Moonlight Gourami is really hard to find as I've never seen it being sold in any of the aquariums in my area. <OK.> Besides barbs, gouramis, climbing perches and rainbowfish, any other species that you have encountered personally that goes well with Ornate Bichirs? <Pretty well anything around 20 cm upwards, non-nippy, and deep bodied enough the Bichir won't view it as food. Spanner Barbs, Tinfoil Barbs, Silver Dollars, Distichodus, Clown Loaches, various catfish are all possibilities... but your tank is way too small for these. You're going to need at least 250 litres for the Bichir alone once its fully grown, and even at ~30 cm it'll be a squeeze in a 180-litre tank.> Thanks again for you time. - Gene <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ornate Bichir; diet, social behaviour   8/9/08 Hello, its me again. Once again in need of advice (sorry). <Hello,> Couldn't find Snakeskin Gourami or Heros species (seemed to be sold out), so was thinking back on Oscar. But I went to the aquarium and saw a good sized silver Arowana, not a bad price too. But was wondering to myself, silver Arowana's swim on top and ornate bichir swim at the bottom, so would it be compatible ( read the pH for it and Bichirs were quite similar)? Arowanas and Bichirs can work; Osteoglossum spp. are best, Scleropages spp. can be much more aggressive.> Also, is 120 litres enough to keep a silver Arowana? <Not a chance. 750 litres (200 gallons) is the recommended size. They are open water fish that are sensitive to poor water quality and water chemistry changes, and they also need masses of swimming room.> What about Chitala Chitala? Are they placid enough to be placed with Ornate Bichirs? <Wouldn't recommend it; Chitala chitala is potentially very aggressive. Much better off with a smaller species such as Apteronotus albifrons or Xenomystus nigri.> On with Tiger Oscars. I saw the aquarium selling another type called "Blood Oscars", the only difference was visible was the red on the tigers being orange. Is it another species? <No; yet another artificial variety.> I was thinking of getting an/or 2 Oscars, but still unsure. What type of pH do they do best in, more acidic or basic? <They prefer soft and slightly acidic, but like most South American cichlids they're adaptable provided water quality is good. Anything up to pH 8, 20 degrees dH is acceptable.> Do they eat the same foodstuffs as an Ornate Bichir? <Pretty much. Wild Oscars are omnivores eating most anything from small fish to plant material including fruits, but their staple diet are "crunchy" things like crayfish, crabs and snails. That's why they have such strong jaws!> How fast does it grow and live compared to the Ornate Bichir, as I don't want one growing too fast and then bullying the other. <Oscars grow very rapidly. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/oscars.htm > About my Ornate Bichir, I find it getting too attach with a log we added in about 4 months ago when we got it. The Bichir tends to flap its little pectoral fins and retreat into the log every time we approach the tank. <Pretty normal. These are nocturnal fish in the wild, and only when completely at ease will they swim out in the open. Providing plenty of cover (e.g., plastic plants or floating plants) will help here.> After I cleaned the aquarium today, it still retains its aggressive attitude if we move its log to clean underneath (trashing, darting around quickly, splashing water). Is this normal for the Bichir? <Yes.> If it isn't, how do I get it to be not so dependant on the log, or do I let it continue? <Paradoxically, fish tend to be more outgoing the more hiding places they have. So concentrate on providing lots of shade and lots of caves. Eventually the fish will feel as if he is always close to shelter, and consequently will swim about in the open more readily.> I also saw an aquarium selling bloodworm/or some sort of worm cubes, can I feed the bichir these? <Yes, they love them. But with big specimens (30 cm+) you may find he has trouble catching them before the filter sucks them apart, so be careful. Chopped seafood (frozen, from the supermarket: mussels, prawns, squid) provide the ideal staple. Cut according to the size of the fish. Your Oscar will thrive on this too.> Sorry if there are many questions, but thanks once again Neale/whom it may concern. - Gene <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ornate Bichir; diet, social behaviour   8/9/08 Hey again, thanks for the quick reply. <You're welcome.> You mentioned food from the supermarket, fish, squid etc. Assuming I'm changing the Bichir and possibly the Oscar's diet to fish, squid and bloodworms, do I just wash the fish and squid from the supermarket, chop them into appropriate pieces, stick them on a stick -or use chopsticks- and leave it in the aquarium for them to feast? <Pretty much.> Also, how many times a day do I feed them this way (assuming the Bichir is around 6 inches and Oscar either smaller or similar)? <As with any fish -- no more than they consume within 30 seconds to a minute. Large predatory fish are best fed daily (or two, very small, meals per day). Either way you're aiming for your fish to look healthy but not fat, so use your eyes and nitrite test kits to check you're doing it right! A healthy fish will be lean, with a just convex belly but certainly not like it's swallowed a ball! If you detect nitrite in the water, you're definitely overfeeding.> About Oscar growing fast, the Bichir seems to be growing slowly at the moment <Normal...> so is it likely the Oscar will outgrow the Bichir quickly and disturb it? <Likely not.> I'll keep the plastic plants idea in mind to make the Bichir feel more secure, I don't think the Oscar's tendency to rearrange things would be too much of a problem, filter might be problematic though... <Use aquarium silicone to glue the plastic plants to a slate or piece of glass. Bury said slate or glass under the gravel. Problem solved.> Oh yeah, my sis and I also keep some guppies (not same tank with Bichir). Though I help to look after the guppies, she mostly tends to it. We've got about...6 pregnant ones at the moment and 5 males, both kept separately. Do mother guppies eat their own babies? <Not deliberately, but in a small tank with insufficient floating plants for the babies to hide, yes, it happens.> And do we keep each mother in her own spot so we can remove them after they give birth? <I'd tend to leave the female alone for a week or two to fatten up before placing her back in the main aquarium. But don't put the female in a breeding trap or breeding net! Fish hate them. Much better to use floating plants. Same effect, less stress.> My sis is also curious with guppy compatibility. Is guppy compatible with small Pufferfishes or tetras? <No and no. Fancy guppies are useless at swimming and everything seems to nip them. Pufferfish would be a complete no-no, and I can't think off-hand of a tetra I'd trust 100% with Guppies.> What other fish can you recommend that can be kept with guppies? <Just Guppies. They are so inbred now they are neither nor easy to keep. Best kept alone. If you must mix them with something, go with harmless Corydoras species.> Is it possible that a 3 inch feeder fish grown too big goldfish/carp will bother them if kept together? <Juvenile Carp generally tend to ignore livebearer fry; I have a tank with Limia nigrofasciata fry and a few juvenile (3-4 cm) Carassius carassius and they get along reasonably well. The Carp lose out at feeding time a bit though. Mixing livebearer fry with anything bigger is not a good idea though.> Once again, thank you for your time. - Gene <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ornate Bichir; diet, social behaviour   8/14//08 Hello, its me again, how's it going? <Well, it's going, anyway.> Finally decided to get an Oscar -or 2- to keep with the Bichir. The only problems with getting 2 of them is a) Since many have said it is almost impossible to tell the gender of an Oscar, we are afraid if we get 2 males they will engage fights and b) If they spawn we don't have an extra 2 tanks for the Oscar and the fry themselves. I heard that -word of mouth- Oscars can be told apart from dark blotches of colour on their pectoral fins? <Never heard of this, and certainly wouldn't rely on it! But its your tank, your money...> Feeding feeder fish is a no-no, but is feeder shrimp safer? <Should be. Earthworms are my favourite choices for settling in new fish. All fish love them, and the soil inside them is rich with minerals as well as fibre. No risk of disease if collected from an organic garden.> On guppies, is there anything to keep in mind about conditions and such for pregnant guppies? We have 6 of them in around a 1 gallon tank and one of them looks really bloated up. We are afraid to keep it back in the 30 litre tank of 5 males as the males might eat the fry after they give birth. <Add lots and lots of floating plants. Makes a huge difference with all livebearers. Guppies are notorious for eating newborn fry.> Also about conditions of the water. pH is important to keep track right? <Yes; whatever the pH is, it should at least be stable. pH 6-8 is fine for Oscars, but what they don't want is variation. That's why I tell people to concentrate on the carbonate hardness, not the pH. Provided the water has adequate carbonate hardness and isn't overstocked, the pH should be stable automatically.> The 120 litre tanks seems to get acidic very quickly for some reason but fish are always doing well (for some unknown reason). Though we don't like to take chances, why does it get acidic so quickly while the 30 litre tank gets basic quickly? <Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsoftness.htm In particular understand the several factors that cause ALL aquaria to become acidic over time; the best you can do is resist this by slowing it down/minimising the sources of acidity.> Thanks. - Gene <Cheers, 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>>

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>

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>  

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