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FAQs on Ropefish Systems

Related Articles: Bichirs & Ropefish, Family Polypteridae

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

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

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

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

Questions on Ropefish; sys.      7/28/13
Hey, I'm sorry to bother you with a question again. But the lone Ropefish in my pond, has not jumped for about the last 5 months now. I've been itching to try getting more Ropefish, but I've heeded your advice and not done so.
I wonder however, would it make sense to line the perimeter of the pond with a barrier, so that the Ropefish are able to jump, but not beyond the pond's walls? Something in this sense.
<Ahh; a good idea>
If this seems like it could work, the pond is of the dimensions 1 square metre with a foot of height.
<Mmm, too shallow>
 What minimum length would you think this rim could be; and what height could this water by maintained at?
<I'd make this pond deeper if practical... by a half foot to a foot... and have the barrier/edge come up at least another half foot in addition>
Once again; thank you so much. Hopefully more Ropefish can be picked up to accompany the sole non-jumper in the pond.
Regards, Bryan.
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Questions on both reed fish <sys., beh.> and golden dwarf morays      6/4/13
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.      6/5/13

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 all containers>
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>
Thanks again,

Ropefish substrate   4/23/2011
Hi Crew,
<Hello Dave,>
we recently purchased two rope fish and have them in a forty gallon tank.
We know this will be too small in time so we want to properly set up a 130 gallon tank that we just purchased for them.
<Sounds good.>
We haven't purchased any equipment for it yet and would like some input as to what the Ropefish will require.
<Fire away.>
Our first question is what is the best substrate for the fish?
<Fine gravel or plain smooth silica sand (often sold cheaply as pool filter sand).>
We have searched on the site and have found pros and cons to all the different types and cannot make a decision. We would like a lot of plants in the tank and we know these fish like to burrow so we think a silica sand or a peat soil would be preferential to the fish.
<Well, Ropefish dig rather than burrow. Yes, they will uproot small plants, so forget about dainty little plants! But sturdy things like Amazon swords, potted Cryptocoryne, giant Vallisneria etc all do fine. If all else fails, use epiphytes like Anubias and Java fern that are attached to bogwood.
Floating plants are extremely helpful and will reduce the risk of these fish climbing out, something they're very prone to doing.>
Our personal preference would be a nice fine red/blue sand (as we have seen in a tank at Petland) to make the bottom look pretty
<Ugh! Fish HATE artificial coloured sands. By all means used these for art projects and the like, but they have NO place in the aquarium. If nothing else, bright colours make fish colours look dull by comparison. There's also a tendency for fish to fade their colours if the substrate is bright or unnatural. Finally, fish simply don't like unnatural colours they can't blend in against. The best choices are fine gravel or a smooth silica sand.
Some artificial sands are NOT suitable for use with burrowing fish because they're abrasive. Carib Sea for example describe suitable sands as being "soft belly safe" meaning they're good with fish that sit on the bottom all the time.>
but we have concerns over cleanliness as this substrate cannot be cleaned with a siphon.
<Hmm, no, quite the opposite. Dirt can't sink into sand, so instead it sits out in the open. If you have good filtration and do regular cleaning, this isn't a big deal. In tanks with gravel dirt sinks between the grains.
People think their tank looks cleaner, but it's really a case of sweeping the dirt under the carpet.>
We also think the peat would look nice, be good for the plants,
<Peat does nothing at all for plants. This is a myth going back decades, and still mentioned by some of the less progressive retailers. Peat contains no nutrients at all, which is why it's used for growing plants that must have zero nutrient soils, such as Venus' Flytraps. Aquatic soil, by contrast, does contain nutrients, though not nitrate, and can help plant growth. But you can get perfectly good results with plain gravel or sand, so long as every so often you dose the tank with fertiliser or, better still, stick fertiliser pellets into the sand or gravel around the roots of each clump of plants.>
and be great to keep the water conditioned properly for the fish,
<Again, the value of peat here is much misunderstood. Peat leaches out acids that reduce pH, but this is rarely helpful in freshwater fishkeeping.
Ropefish do well in most water chemistry, and aren't fussed whether the water is soft or moderately hard. Steady water chemistry is MORE important, and having peat in the tank will make keeping a steady pH less easy. So why bother?>
but our concern is if it would keep the water dirty and plug up the filters prematurely as well as not being able to clean with a siphon. Is it necessary to be able to siphon the substrate or should that not be a concern for us. Now depending on what substrate you suggest what would be the proper filtering system to go along with it?
<Your main problem with Ropefish is they WILL escape out of any aquarium they can. So, for example, a hang-on-the-back filter would be a stupid idea! Probably the best filter would be a decent internal canister filter that requires only a small hole in the hood for the power cord. In a big tank you may need one filter at each end of the tank.>
We have also done some research on heaters and were contemplating about using a heater below the substrate. Is the benefits worth it because if there is a problem with the heater the whole tank basically has to be torn down. Also if the fish like to burrow could it potentially get to warm for them being so close to the heater? Any all advice will be greatly appreciated!
<No real advantage to an under-tank heater or in-substrate heater. A plain vanilla heater is fine but ALWAYS use a heater guard around the heater -- Ropefish WILL burn themselves on heaters without a heater. These fish are amazingly suicidal, and it's really, REALLY important you pre-empt these possible fatalities ahead of time.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Rope fish hlth., env., reading    2/21/11
I have done quite a lot of research on the web.
I have owed <owned> several reed fish, a few have escaped, but most died from an Ick like disease.
This seems to cause a thickening of the slime coat and I can see silver patches and it just gets worse from here, eventually leading to death.
<Quite common source of mortality... mostly borne by effects of capture...>
I have three new ones that I am treating with Maracyn 2 and they are fine now.
Once placed in the community tank they seem to become ill after a few days.
I have not tested my water quality,
because I have a healthy, happy discus fish.
<... Erpetoichthys have other requirements>
I was told if my discus was healthy they water should be.
<See fishbase.org or just WWM re>
In the past when I tested my water it was clean and stable. None of the other fish in the community tank bothering them.
Do you have any suggestions, or should I return them to the store if I notice them becoming ill again?
Thanks so much;
<And read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm
and the linked files above, and here:
Bob Fenner>
Re: rope fish    2/21/11

> <Quite common source of mortality... mostly borne by effects of
> capture...>
> I have not tested my water quality,
> <?>
> <And read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm
> and the linked files above, and here:
> http://fishbase.sinica.edu.tw/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=4830
> Bob Fenner>
Umm, Linda?

Re: Questions Regarding Rope Fish   8/5/09
Dear Sir,
Just wanted to thank you for the kindness and for caring, and for taking the time to reply to my questions. Your website is truly awesome and very-very informative. If I may speak personally here, it is really a boon and a gift for beginners and learners like me. Thanks again !
<Happy to help.>
Sir, just wanted to request you for one last favor ( please forgive me if I'm bothering too much ) I've attached 2 pics of the tank in which I've housed these 6 Ropes. It will be a great help if you can kindly have a look at the same and guide me if the aquascape looks ok for them. I've tried to imitate a 'forest-floor' like environment for the ropes, with plenty of hiding caves, pipes etc I've even ordered a few catappa (ketapang) leaves for them ( to make the water slightly acidic and to enhance the forest floor look )
<Looks quite nice in terms of hiding places. I'd actually recommend silica (lime-free) sand rather than gravel, but apart from that, no obvious problems. If you can, adding floating plants would reduce the risk of them jumping out, and would encourage them to swim about during the day.>
Sir, please guide me if I can have them as it is in this aquascape or do I just keep one big clay pot as a cave for all 6 ropes and leave the rest of the base empty with just the gravel for them browse around. I'm asking this because 2 of my ropes are pretty big and I'm afraid that they may find the tank too cramped up with the pipes, driftwood, rocks etc...
<Ropefish are gregarious, and seem to like sharing hiding places. So while there should be other caves available, I wouldn't be concerned if mostly they just bundled up together in one cave.>
Please guide me and help me decide between the existing aquascape or the empty one with just one cave. Kindly let me know if these fish (in the wild) like open spaces with very few hiding caves or do they live in such cramped environment with many caves.
<If you add some floating plants for shade, you could add some characins.
Congo Tetras are ideal if you have space, but anything else in the 5-10 cm size bracket would work, too. Just avoid "nippy" species that would bit the fins of your Ropefish.>
Thanks again for all the help and for showing the way to beginners like me. Lots of Regards and Care to everybody there, Kush
<Cheers, Neale.>

Questions Regarding Rope Fish, hlth., fdg., sys.     8/3/09
Dear Sir / Madam,
I hope all is well !
My name is Kush and I'm from India.
I have 6 Rope Fishes in a 3 Feet ( 40 Gallon Tank ) with plenty of hiding caves and pipes for them. Just wanted to request you to kindly guide me on a few questions that I have regarding these wonderful fish.
<Fire away.>
Sir, one of the Rope Fish that I purchased recently, seems to have a eye problem. I can't say that its eyes are cloudy, but it looks more like a "white dot in the center" of both the eyes.
<Often mechanical damage. These fish are burrowers, and in tanks with gravel can injure themselves. Smooth silica sand is better. But smooth gravel usually works okay, too. In any case, treat as for Finrot, and hope for the best.>
All other ropes that I have, have clear and beautiful eyes. Is this some kind of an eye disease ? If yes, how do I treat this. Somebody suggested to use Tetracycline in the tank water, as this could be a Bacterial Disease - just wanted to know if this is safe and effective, and how much dosage is recommended. Also the only Tetracycline I get here are Capsules labeled as Oxy tetracycline - is this the same as the normal Tetracycline ?
<An antibiotic should work safely, but observe the fish, and if possible, treat it in its own quarantine tank.>
Another of my Rope Fish has a few White Spots on its body. They look a little (very little) protruding (like very tiny ulcers) - I have a feeling that its Ick (White spot disease) - I have raised the Temperature to 31C
and added a little salt. The fish seem to be comfortable but they still have the white spots. Kindly guide me on treating this.
<The salt/heat method should work well. Ropefish live in slightly brackish water sometimes, and they have a good tolerance for salt. 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt per gallon (3.75 l) of water should work well. It will take 1-2 weeks to wipe out all the parasites.>
Regarding Nutrition for my Rope Fish, I feed them Live earthworms everyday, and they really eat them well. Just wanted to know if this is ok for them as a standard diet.
I'm not able to 'train' them to eat anything else. I fed them Chopped prawn meat and pellets, but they don't even touch them.
<They will eat chopped prawn and other seafood eventually. They hunt by smell, mostly at night. So offer the food in the evening, and if necessary, starve them a couple of days before adding these foods.>
I worried that they aren't getting any vitamins in their diet and wanted to know if there is any way, I can make them ingest some vitamins.
<Variety is the key! If you have earthworms, prawns, mussels, bloodworms, squid, and small piece of white fish (such as tilapia) you have a nice, varied diet. These fish will eat most fresh or wet-frozen foods, though
they have little interest in dried foods or pellets.>
Will adding some vitamins directly to the tank water be effective ?
Lastly, Just wanted to know if my current tank ( 3 feet - 40 Gallons ) be enough to house these 6 Ropes that I have or do they need a larger tank.
<Should be fine. These fish rarely get above 45-50 cm in captivity. Your main issue is escaping: these fish VERY COMMONLY escape from fish tanks. A secure lid is essential. In the wild they move across land at night, from one pond to another, like eels. They are very, very good at squeezing through tiny holes. Be careful!>
Kindly guide me on the above questions, Sir - I really have nobody else to guide me. Thanks for reading and for caring, Lots of Regards and Wishes, Kush
<These are wonderful fish. Do see here:
And follow the linked articles for more. Good luck with them! Neale.>

Ropefish, Really not a Brackish Fish  3/18/07 Hello everyone, <Hi Andy, Pufferpunk here> I want to start by thanking you for providing such a valuable resource to fish/aquarium enthusiasts like me!!   <We try our best!>   Here is my issue:  I am in the process of transferring my Colombian Sharks to brackish water in a 55gallon tank with 2 emperor 400's for filtration.  The water parameters are great except for the hardness.  I'm not sure what the exact measurement is but the hardness is very high.  I have been slowly adding salt to raise the salinity and it is still very low (1.007 SG).  In this tank I have: 2 Colombian sharks (only about 3 inches each), 2 spotted puffers, and 2 mollies.  All the fish seem to be doing well.  Then, I added a Ropefish and he died within 3 days.  When dying, he was jerking violently around and then pausing, jerking again, pausing.  He did this until he was dead.  It was very sad.  Thinking it may have just been a sick fish to begin with, I went and purchased another to replace him.  I have been doing 25% water changes bi-weekly because I know the aquarium is not established yet.  Two days after getting the second Ropefish, I purchased another from the same store to give the second one company.  Now, the Ropefish purchased after the first one died had just done the same thing (jerking violently, laying on his back, dying, etc).  I noticed what looked like some blood marks on his stomach also.  He then died.  Anyway, needless to say, I'm quite distressed at these poor guys dying and now feel it is something I'm doing wrong.  I'm pretty sure the 3rd Ropefish is next unless something is changed.  Please help!  Any advice is greatly appreciated!  Again, the other fish are doing fine. <It sounds to me like the fish are suffering from osmoregulation problems, from being placed in brackish water.  Did you do a very long acclimation?  Ropefish are generally considered a freshwater fish & are best kept in freshwater.  Raising any fish from FW-BW requires a slow drip acclimation of raising the container they are in by .001/hour.   I hope you are aware that eventually you will need to upgrade the fish you already have, to a much larger tank.  The GSPs require a minimum of 30g each.  The Columbian sharks can grow to 18" & require at least a 125g tank (which actually is only 18" wide). ~PP> Thank you again for your assistance, I do appreciate it. Andy, Cincinnati, Ohio

Rope Fish Tank Size  9/15/06 Hello, <Hi Ren, Pufferpunk here> Just wondering, I have a rope fish (around 4 inches long, male) with two African clawed frogs (pretty small themselves at the moment, maybe 1 and a half inches) in a 20 gallon tank. I know the tank is going to be small in the long run but they seem to be doing fine for the time being. I was just wondering, what size tank should I save up for? <Since these are social animals, they are best displayed in multiple numbers together. I would keep at least two to a tank. That being said, I'd save for at least a 40 gallon tank.  I'd keep the frogs in the 20g.  They get large (around the size of your fist) & will eat anything they can fit into their huge mouths!  ~PP> Thanks a lot, Ren. (P.S. He has dens/caves too)

Ropefish I live at college and all we're allowed to have is fish, so I decided to bring my tank with my Ropefish and a few others.  Recently, my Ropefish escaped during the middle of the night. <Very common... aquatic Houdini's...> I'm not entirely sure how, because I felt that I had covered the tank very well, but needless to say, I've now closed practically every square centimeter of the tank.   Anyway, when I awoke in the morning, the janitor came by and said "Hey, did anyone lose a lizard?"  I followed him to a closet where he had it sitting inside an empty Gatorade bottle (Poor thing).  He was sitting in a circle, so I had to cut open the bottle to let him out.  I immediately put him back in the tank, where he struggled for a while to remove some whitish residue that had been building up around his head and part of his body.  Now though, he just sits at the top of the tank in a half circle, with his head and tail end pointing downward, and his midsection partially out of the water.  Though it has only been a little under a day since I found out about this, it would like to err on the side of caution, particularly because I can't stand to see an animal die, especially on what it most likely my error.  If you have any recommendations that you could give me, I would greatly appreciate it. <I have seen many Ropefish incidents as you cite... among them my own. I would leave the animal as it is for now, and hope that it recovers (many do). If yours develops red sores and/or obvious fungal (white, mycelious) patches, I would elevate the system temperature (to about mid 80's F.) and prescribe an anti-microbial (likely a Furan compound). Bob Fenner>

My new Clown Knife & Ropefish I just purchased a Clown Knife (about 6"). I put him in a 25 gallon hex with a Rope fish and they seem to be doing fine. I've been told that both can grow quite large. Do you think they'll be ok or should I return them. <Return them....   My clown knife grew to a length of 25 inches long! It is now living quite comfortably in a 650 gallon tank...  It was originally living in a 150 gallon tank but outgrew that!  The clown knife will reach 18 inches long in about a year and a half, this fish will NOT be able to live in a 25 gallon tank.   As for the Ropefish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) These fish will get over 36 inches long as adults... and require a 90 gallon tank.  So, that to will not be able to live in a 25 gallon tank. I suggest you do some research before purchasing fish, there are many fish that will do quite nicely in a little 25 gallon tank.  Many of them are just as interesting as these fish.  Trust me it's no fun having a fish that is in a tank too small for it.  These fish are sick all the time, and you have to constantly be changing the water to keep up with the waste output.  Good luck. -Magnus>

Ropefish setup question Hi Bob, <Hello Bryan> I somewhat impulsively purchased a Ropefish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus, ID'd thanks to your excellent page on Polypterids).  The folks at the pet store told me that he ate regular tropical flake food (which I was skeptical of but I guess I really wanted to fish) I've had mixed success raising fish that require live food in the past. <Yes... I'd like to see the people who told you this live on flake food for a while> Anyway, not knowing what to do, I bought some cubed freeze-dried Tubifex.  He doesn't seem terribly interested in these, even when I hold them in front of his face.  I wedged them under some rocks and they stayed put for about 20 minutes before floating.  I don't want to just leave them in there if he's not going to eat them. <Not likely to accept... You might try some earthworms if you can dig them up, buy them from a "fishing store", or mealworms... or chunks of cut up beef...> So my question is, can you describe a setup for feeding these guys?  Are we talking live worms in a feeding cone? <Larger worms, cut meats (once accustomed to the latter they take same with gusto>   Is it best to feed them at night or in the morning? <Toward dark is best>   Do they prefer their food near the surface or at the bottom? <The bottom>   Is there anything I can put in the tank in the way of habitat (pipe, whatever) that might make him happy and ease the feeding situation? <Like plants, driftwood, perhaps a bit, length of plastic pipe> Any help you can render will be greatly appreciated by me and, I presume, my Ropefish ;) Happy holidays! <You as well my friend. Do try the live worms, mealworms (larval beetles) for now... training the Rope on to cut meats. Bob Fenner> Bryan

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