FAQs on Ropefish
Related Articles: Bichirs
& Ropefish, Family Polypteridae,
Related FAQs: Ropefish 1, Ropefish 2, & Ropefish ID, Ropefish Compatibility, Ropefish Selection, Ropefish Systems, Ropefish Feeding, Ropefish Health, Ropefish Reproduction, & FAQs on:
Bichirs 1, & Bichir Identification, Bichir Behavior, Bichir Compatibility, Bichir Selection, Bichir Systems, Bichir Feeding, Bichir Disease, Bichir Reproduction,
Questions on both reed fish <sys., beh.> and golden dwarf morays
Hey crew! Thanks for being the fantastic resource that you are. I've got
a couple of questions that I would to ask.
I've had this reedfish that hasn't jumped for at least seven years now.
As we speak, he's been swimming around in a open top metre square fish
pond. I'm wondering if you know why this species jumps and therefore how
to avoid it, as I'm looking to add more; knowing that they're communal.
<Are jumpers for sure... Need to keep the water level down a few inches
AND make sure the top is entirely covered in fish tanks... no openings larger than the
diameter of the Reedfish>
Secondly, I'd like to know if a golden dwarf moray, some Allen's damsels
and clownfish would do okay at 28-30 degrees Celsius water temperature,
with a nightly gradual drop to 24-25.
<Mmm, well, you should be okay; though 30 C., 86 F. is about the upper
limit I'd feel safe with>
Thanks for all the help you've given!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Questions on both reed fish, sys.
Thanks for the quick reply. With regards to the rope fish, there are
overhanging plants across the perimeter of the pond, do you think these
might have given it an understanding of the water's boundaries?
<I do think so; but have seen these and Bichirs launch themselves out of
Correct me, but I don't think these fish will try to constantly escape
from their larger residences in the wild for no reason.
<Spoke with a fellow from Nigeria at an Interzoo show one time who was
involved in Erpetoichthys collection... he stated they climbed out of
the reeds onto land at times; in the slow moving rivers when they were
being gathered... Bob Fenner>
Rope Fish Behavior 11/17/12
Hello there! I would like to start off by saying that I love your
website, and I very frequently make use of it. That being said, I have
poured over the Rope Fish section, and I cannot find anything quite like
the situation I have. I have 3 Rope Fish in my 75 gal tank, as well as
one Lutino Oscar,
<Must be hard to get food to your ropes past this Oscar>
one African Knife Fish (Xenomystus nigri), as well as one recently
introduced Albino Bichir. All of them appear to be very healthy; they
eat well, have nice color, and behave as they should- with the exception
of one of my female Ropes. She, like the others, has a healthy appetite,
shows no sign of illness, and behaves as my other Rope Fish do, until
they get fed. Whenever I feed my fish, she tends to get a little crazy-
swimming very rapidly, swirling in tight circles, even swimming upside
down (sometimes still swimming in circles.) This has been going on ever
since I rescued her from poor conditions (starving to the point where
her stomach was hollowed, in addition to Ich, and poor water quality.
The poor girl was gasping upside down, on the brink of death when I
received her.) It has been a couple months since then, and while her
health has definitely improved, I was wondering if this is still
possibly an illness?
<Possibly internal... this species can "come in" (all are wild
collected) w/ quite a bit of parasite fauna>
could she be perhaps a little brain damaged, or maybe it’s her personality
<Could be either, all>
Again, the only time she exhibits this behavior is when there is food in
the tank, otherwise she appears to be the model Rope. My water
parameters are kept vigilantly at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 0 nitrate
<Zero NO3? Wow>
and 7.0 ph (I do a 33% water change every couple days), temp is kept at
a constant 76 degrees F. Diet of my fish include wet frozen bloodworms,
wet frozen brine shrimp, the occasional beef heart, chopped earthworms,
and my Oscar will switch between Hikari Staple cichlid pellets and
Hikari Gold pellets. I will also rarely throw in one or two sinking
shrimp pellets, as my Knife Fish will pick them up, and I rather
surprised this morning to find that one of my Ropes was eating one as
well. Any help is much appreciated, and I thank you in advance for
taking your time reading/responding. –Kylie
<I would continue w/ your stated excellent maintenance routine (and keep
an eye on these fishes, the top secure to prevent escapes). I would not
try to "treat" the system, fishes w/ medicine/s w/o knowing more
specifically what might be going on here. Bob Fenner>
Re: Rope Fish Behavior 11/18/12
Thank you for the advice! My Oscar, LJ, rarely has an issue with the
He/she was in my quarantine tank for a while (29 gal), separate from the
Ropes/Knife, and in the meantime I had him/her feeding off of floating
foods: pellets, and instead of thawing the beef heart or bloodworms
completely, they would be partially thawed, so it would still float.
Now, when they are all living together, he/she expects his food to
float, and so while he/she is busy looking on the top, or when he/she
has/her mouth crammed full of food, I pour the fully thawed food for the
rest of the tank. LJ also won't touch beef heart, oddly enough. Rest
assured I make sure everyone is happily fed!
<I too fed but up bits of beef heart to my Ropefish, many years back, as
a lad, living w/ my parents>
All of my fish are still rather young; two of my Ropes being 9 inches,
and the male just over 7, LJ is at about 4 inches now (I received
him/her at 2-2.5 inches), my Knife is about 5 inches,
<About full size for Xenomystus>
and my Bichir is about 2.5 inches. Everybody seems to coexist very well.
My Ropes are very sociable creatures, and my Bichir sort of joined their
group. Now they all like to curl up together under the fake plants, or
under the fake log decoration or even in the bubble curtain. All of my
fish like to play in the bubble curtain. Dampe, the Knife, will stay in
his cave most of the time, but will venture out every now and again. LJ
will patrol his/her territory whenever he/she doesn't see me, or
rearrange the decorations, or when he/she does see me, he/she will beg
for food. No signs of nipped fins on any of my fish. Oh, yes, I also
have one black apple snail that I'm rather surprised has not disappeared
yet. I'm sure when LJ grows a little more, however, he will.
Morpheel, the Rope in question, was placed in my quarantine tank when I
received her, and I started her with a salt/heat treatment for her Ich.
<A good treatment>
She wouldn't eat for about a week, and considering her stomach was
already hollowed, I was afraid of the possibility of starvation. When
she did start eating, and had filled out, and I was sure that the Ich
had been taken care of, I placed her into my main tank. Do you think
that she should still be isolated? This was about 5 months ago, and I
had my other Ropes for about a month before she was introduced. Also, do
you think that I will need a larger tank when my fish are matured?
<Possibly... what species is the bichir?>
I learned the hard way to make sure my top was secure.
I used to have 4 Ropes, but while I was quarantining Morpheel, I went away
for three days and entrusted their care to my grandparents. When I came
back, I came back to my large male Rope dried onto my carpet. Lesson
learned. RIP lil buddy.
I've had fish almost my entire life, starting with a little goldfish in
a bowl (yikes!).
<How many, if not most of us got started>
I've learned a lot since then. I'm kind of a big fan of fish, and I only
want the best care for mine. With that being said, I put a lot of effort
into ensuring optimal health for my little guys, and I feel like I'm in
like company here. Thanks again for the help! I really appreciate what
you all do here. -Kylie
<Thank you for sharing your experiences, enthusiasm. BobF>
Rope Fish Healthy
Behavior? - 10/14/10
I have a question about Rope Fish behavior as a sign of health. I
don't see any major concerns, but I don't want to be one of the
people writing a question about my fish that just died. I have had the
Rope for six days (9' long). The first three days it was very
active and would swim all around the aquarium and then rest under
something, and then do it again several times while I'm watching.
The last three days it has been barely active. It rests under a
plant/cave and only goes to the surface sometimes for a breath. I have
seen it eat black worms three times, but yesterday it was not
interested at all. It has no other signs of stress or disease other
than it changed behavior. My main concern is that it was the same time
my tank showed a reading of .02 ammonia. I did a 10-12% water change
which brought it to zero for a day. Then again today it is at .01 and I
will do another water change. Here is the background information. I
have a 55 gal. tank that is fairly new. It has lots of hiding and live
plants. I was cycling it with six Giant Danios. I never got any ammonia
readings for two weeks. I then read that this could be what is called
'silent cycling', because the aquarium was heavily planted. I
do not have any sort of air bubbling device, because I assume the
filter dumping water back into the tank, and the plants would produce
enough oxygen. So, now its tank mates are 6 Giant Danios, 1 Iridescent
Shark, and 1 One-Stripe eel 7'(new at the same time). The water
parameters are 77 degrees, PH 7.8, zero Nitrite & Nitrate, ammonia
.01(the last couple days only). Is this just normal Rope behavior? Is
the ammonia the problem? Should I use an ammonia binding agent, or just
keep changing the water? Also, the Eel almost did the exact opposite.
It mostly hid the first three days, and the last three has been
actively swimming through the tank. I don't think they bother each
other, because they will rest under the same cave together. Also, none
of the other fish spend any significant time at the bottom of the tank.
I have done tons of web searches before and after buying anything,
however, if you could point me to a resource that lists healthy and
normal behaviors for fish types, then I would at least know the
difference between healthy and stressed. Your help is greatly
<Hello Nick. In a nutshell, happy Ropefish lurk in caves in small
groups, often with their heads poking out but otherwise bundled up
together in a big ball. Yes, they will side-wind up to the surface
periodically to breathe, but during the day they are essentially
resting. They are most active at night, when they hunt, by smell, for
small worms, crustaceans and insect larvae (these latter making up
almost entirely their diet in the wild). Common stress factors in
aquaria include lack of company (treat them as schooling fish, and keep
at least three specimens); aggressive tankmates (some fish nip their
fins); and lack of the right sorts of food (mostly wet-frozen insect
larvae, chopped seafood, and the occasional earthworm). While ammonia
isn't good for any fish, Ropefish are fairly resilient fish so
should get through the next few weeks assuming regular water changes
and careful feeding. In fact the usual sources of mortality are, in
this order, escaping from the tank and starvation. Forget about plants
as a source of oxygen: unless you have intense lighting, the overall
impact of photosynthesis on oxygen levels in the tank will be trivial.
A good canister or external filter should circulate water sufficiently
well you don't need an airstone. Ropefish are air breathers anyway,
and actually live in swamps, so the Spiny Eel and Danios will be
stressed by lack of oxygen long before the Ropefish. Your Iridescent
Shark is going to be a monster, and has no place in this aquarium.
Please Google "Pangasius hypophthalmus" and take a look at
how big these fish can get. Even under aquarium conditions you can
expect this catfish to reach 20 cm/8 inches within a year, and 60 cm/24
inches within 2-3 years. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? - 10/14/10
Thank you so much for a thorough and incredibly quick response.
<Glad to help.>
The Pangasius cat was a mistake.
I wanted something smaller than a Pleco, so they pointed out some other
options at Petdumb. They said 12' max for this guy. I immediately
saw on the web, after introducing to my tank, that they are giants.
<Indeed. They are food fish, prized for their rapid growth rate. To
be honest, many do indeed get to about 30 cm/12 inches before they die
for one reason or another, but they can and often do get very much
Update: yesterday after work my Rope fish was again swimming actively
all over, and it ate really well. Maybe it just swims a lot when it is
really hungry, and otherwise it just sits at the bottom. Isn't my
tank too small for another two 6-12' Rope fish? (55 gal)
<Not too small at all. I would encourage you to shift the Pangasius
and add the extra Ropefish.>
I'm planning on a bigger tank in the future, but not for at least a
year. Is it possible that the Rope is comforted by the Spiny
<Possibly, but my guess is that because they want the same thing,
they hang out in the same place. Is the Spiny Eel Macrognathus aral?
Most Macrognathus species are quite gregarious as well, and well worth
keeping in groups.>
It likes to stay near it sometimes. Out of curiosity, if my plants
(regular pond weed) grew 6' in the last two days, does that mean
lots of photosynthesis and oxygen?
<Yes, to some degree, but remember plants use up oxygen too, and at
night they aren't photosynthesising, so their net effect is to pull
down oxygen levels. Also, the amount of oxygen produced per plant
isn't that great. So while plants help a bit, and they do absorb
ammonia and nitrate, both of which actions improve water quality, they
don't really do a huge amount in terms of oxygenation. At least,
not unless there's a lot of plants, a lot of light, and a very
small loading of fish.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? - 10/14/10
I would be happy to add Rope fish if I can find them, but I was
concerned by all of the web resources stating no more than 1' of
fish per gallon of water.
<That's a benchmark, and not a terribly accurate one. For a 55
gallon tank, you shouldn't have any problems at all keeping three
Ropefish, two or three medium-sized Spiny Eels, and a school of
suitable dither fish. Maybe even a Bristlenose Plec to help with the
algae. All I'd recommend you do is ensure good water quality via
generous filtration. I happen to like canister filters, but anything
will do, provide the water turnover is brisk, 8 times the volume of the
tank per hour. Because these fish are mostly carnivores, don't
overfeed, and feel free to skip a day per week. Do 20-25% water changes
I already have 37' of fish with the 6 Giant Danios, 1 Pangasius, 1
Macrognathus aral, and 1 Rope fish. And all my fish aren't even
adult size yet.
<Ropefish get to about 30 cm/12 inches or so under aquarium
conditions, and they're pretty thin. Many books say they get to 90
cm/3 feet long, but that appears to be based on an erroneous scientific
record. The biggest ones I've seen are maybe 40 cm/15
Yes, my eel is Macrognathus aral, but everything I read on Spiny eels
state that they don't like each other when they are adults. Is that
incorrect for this particular
one, and can you give me a link to that research?
<Here's the deal. There are two genera in the trade,
Macrognathus and Mastacembelus. Mastacembelus includes things like Tyre
Track Eels and Fire Eels, and yes, these are territorial when mature.
But the genus Macrognathus includes mostly smaller species that
don't seem to be territorial, and happily hang out in small gangs.
It's worth noting that it's this genus that includes all the
species bred in captivity.>
Also, if I get rid of the Pangasius I won't have anything eating
the food that drops to the substrate. Any suggestions for a compatible
<Would strongly recommend an Ancistrus, i.e., a Bristlenose Plec,
since these are the right size and temperament, and unlikely to compete
strongly for the food you want the Spiny Eel and Ropefish to eat. Other
catfish and loaches will be too competitive.>
I've heard some suckers will damage eels by sucking their slime
<Correct. Ropefish and Bichirs are both prone to this, and cichlids
will also peck at their fins. Again, Ancistrus, being herbivorous, tend
to ignore even delicate tankmates, making them especially good choices
and very different to the standard common Plec species. Spiny Eels tend
to get damaged because of abrasive rocks and the use of gravel. So long
as you use smooth, lime-free sand (pool filter sand appears to be
popular in the US) instead of gravel, this shouldn't be an issue.
But once Spiny Eels get damaged, they quickly develop skin infections
and then die.
The bigger Mastacembelus are a bit more resistant to damage from
gravel, but I'd consider sand essential when keeping
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? -- 10/20/10
Update on my Rope Fish condition. It has become increasingly
which I know is how they are supposed to be, but it used to swim all
over the place. Also, it appears to have tiny white bumps all over
Yesterday they were just on its head, and now go down it's body. It
looks almost like salt. I know that this must be some kind of disease.
<Sounds like Whitespot/Ick to me. Treat using the salt/heat method.
Two grammes per litre should do the trick, but Ropefish tolerate
brackish water so you can go up to 6 grammes/litre if needs be, and
this level would be good for treating Velvet and certain other
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? -- 10/20/10
I have read through the article, very informative. Will 2 grammes/litre
harm any of the other inhabitants? Six Giant Danios and one
<No. In fact the Spiny Eel species will probably be healthier if
maintained this way, though the Danios wouldn't like it for more
than a few weeks.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior? 10/26/10
I have been using the salt and heat method to cure my rope fish of the
Ich for six days now. The rope fish has had zero spots for a couple of
days and there are only about three spots total on one of the other
fish. Thank you for the assistance in saving my fish.
<Cool. Remember, the salt isn't killing the spots; it's
killing the free-living stages they produce.>
However, I have a new question. Can either salt or a temperature of 86
degrees cause Giant Danios to go blind?
During morning feeding time they are usually lightning quick and splash
at the surface as they scarf down food. But, today they knew it was
feeding time and went to the surface, but just swam around with their
mouths at the surface until they happened to run into some food.
Sometimes they would just swim right past it and keep trolling around.
<Indeed. But if the eyes aren't cloudy, I doubt they're
blind. Giant Danios are quite jumpy though, and if they hit the hood,
they can damage their eyes.>
Another change in the aquarium is that my Nitrites are at .5, and have
been at least measurable for three days.
<More of an issue.>
Can Ich cause blindness?
<Unlikely, but not beyond the realms of possibility. When the white
cysts burst they leave holes in the skin, and these holes can become
sites for secondary infections. The cornea isn't a favoured habitat
parasites, but I'm sure it can happen. But still, if the cornea was
damaged, I think you'd be able to tell.>
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Rope Fish Healthy Behavior?
Thanks, I guess it remains a mystery. It is almost just like they swim
around at night with the light off, just hoping to eat something at the
surface. Just usually in the day with the lights on, they make quick
and direct hits on the food. I have never seen them jump into the lid
though. Nitrite doesn't cause blindness either does it? Half the
responses on WetWeb suggest people frequently change their water to
dilute the nitrite, and the other half say to stop water changes so
that the bacteria can grow sooner. Do you have any suggestions? Also,
what is the 'freak-out' level of nitrite when I should panic
and move the fish to anything including pots and pans?
<Fish go off their food when water quality drops, so I'd
concentrate on establishing why you have non-zero ammonia and/or
nitrite levels. Sometimes newly established tanks go into a mini-cycle
weeks after you think cycling finished. In itself not a disaster. Stop
feeding, do 20% water changes every day or two, and check the filter is
properly configured and maintained. Common problems include clogged
media and overfeeding. So long as nitrite stays below 0.5 mg/l, your
fish are not in any imminent danger, generally, but some fish are more
sensitive than others. Cheers, Neale.>
Rope Fish Acting Weird 10/11/06 Hi, I
have had my rope fish for a couple years now and it has always done
great. But for the last couple of days it has been acting weird.
Sometimes it acts normal and swims around normal but then it just kind
of floats at the top of the tank. I am worried about swim bladder
disease and wanted to know what I can do to help it. Thank you. Toni
<Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Try
feeding him some live washed earthworms and see if he perks up. These
fish are pretty tough but when they do get sick they get really weird
diseases that are tricky to cure.-Chuck>
Ropefish head pores I was checking out my roper and noticed
some very small holes (pores) along the sides of its head. These seem
to be symmetrical and don't look bad. Are these normal for Ropefish
or is mine diseased? <Good observation. These are lateral line
pores... part of a low vibration sensory apparatus of fishes. Unless
they become enlarged, infected (likely not here) there is nothing to
worry about. Bob Fenner>
Ropefish Help.....I have had a Ropefish for 3mths now... I
have no clue how to properly take care of it. I am really not 100% it
is a rope fish... (can you send a picture) <They're pretty
distinctive, will post one on our website's article on their family
(Polypteridae: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bichirs.htm Give me till
tomorrow> It is acting very strange... one sec it is floating
or sinking very still and it does it for some time then it swims wildly
for 2or 3 sec.s... then back to floating or sinking for a period of
time.. is it dying?... <Probably not... many Ropefish (Erpetoichthys
(formerly Calamoichthys) calabaricus if memory serves) perish from the
travails of collecting and shipping initially... but you've had
yours three months? It's likely just "checking things
out" or even respiring and resting at the surface... they're
facultative aerial respirators...> I was told at the Pet Supermarket
that it was a Ropefish... it looks like the description on the web
page. I have feed it what they told me . Tropical flake food and Freeze
Dried Tubifex Worms. This is what we were told.. Please reply.. and no
he does not have any bused areas marked areas and the tank is very
dull... no other fish.. just it. and a piece of pvc pipe at the bottom
covered in rocks so he can swim thru it... please e-mail me at
yahoo.com or at hotmail.com thanks > <Be chatting, Bob