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FAQs on Bichirs, Family Polypteridae Compatibility

Related Articles: Bichirs

Related FAQs:  Bichirs 1, & Bichir Identification, Bichir Behavior, Bichir Selection, Bichir Systems, Bichir Feeding, 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,

Central American cichlids and Polypterus senegalus, separate tank with P. ansorgii   6/28/12
you site is a very enjoyable and helpful resource. And I hope you can help me, regarding my fish tank/fish tanks.
Currently I have a 55 gallon tank that contains:
Polypterus senegalus - 8 year old fish, 8 inches and growing, certified bully of the tank.
<Probably a male. Your tank is quite small, and while adequate for a singleton, keep more than one Bichir and you need to provide real space, especially if you have two males.>
I saw P. Senegalus described as "gregarious" in some articles - my fish did not get the memo. He will chase, nip and chew on anything that resembles a Polypterus, occasionally he will snap at cichlids or even at my fingers when I clean the tank (it does not hurt at all, he can't bite through thick human skin).
<Quite so.>
Polypterus senegalus albino - 1 year, 4 inch, certified perpetual victim of bullying (I since provided him many little nooks, where he hides from the bigger guy, but in the beginning - he literally could not get away - Big Polypterus would chase him all over)
Polypterus Ansorgii - 1 year, nearly 10 inches, certified stand-in for piece of driftwood - never bothered anyone, and until recently was not bothered by anyone (now big Senegalus is snapping at him too). Barely moves, always last to feeding (I feed mix of squid, krill and Hikari Massivore Pellets). Recently took to hiding and lost a lot of his color (was gorgeous olive-grey with dark marks, now very washed out - I think because of stress)
<I see. Very likely these other Bichirs are either females or more likely males, and the resident male doesn't like having them in the tank with him! None of the Bichirs is "gregarious" though yes, there are variations in how aggressive they are. On the other hand, Reedfish/Ropefish are very sociable and should be kept in a group.>
3 Amatitlania N. - convict cichlids, all females, perpetually laying eggs.
Electric Blue Jack Dempsey - 1 year old, 5 inch, blind to one eye (he lost an eye, because previous owner kept him with Midas and other aggressive breeds. When I got the poor guy he was barely holding on, so I had to hand feed him back to health), very cautious because of impaired vision. He only now started to chase the smallest of convicts, but only when it tries to occupy his flowerpot shelter, otherwise he is a very gentle fish.
Panaque of some smaller species (Peckoltia?),
<Hmm… no, some Peckoltia may look like small Panaque species, but they are quite different (the spoon-shaped teeth of Panaque are a dead giveaway).>
about 3.5 inches and haven't grown any in a last year. I rarely see him.
<Quite so. Both genera are very retiring.>
Due to Polypterus Senegalus being a bully and Ansorgii needing more space - I'm setting up a second 55 gallon tank to house Ansorgii.
Now the questions are:
1. would it be wise to try to house P. Ansorgii and P. senegalus Albino together? Or will they fight? Or will Ansorgii potentially try to eat Albino, given their size difference?
<See above. There are no guarantees any Polypterus species will get along with another one. That's just not how they work. Two females might bump along with only occasional snapping, but two males will likely be perpetually hostile to one another.>
Right now there is no aggression between them, and large P. Senegalus is snapping at their tails causing them stress. I hope Albino will grow faster once he is in a less stressful environment
<Possibly, but albino anything tend to be weaker than the real McCoy.>
2. I would like to set up something closer to Central American Biotope tank with Amatitlania and EBJD - and P. Senegalus (rather out of place, but will have to be) - but I know that Central American Cichlids prefer harder water.
Will it hurt Polypterus?
<Not especially. So long as the water is wildly hard, you should be fine. Bichirs can thrive up to about 20 degrees dH, pH 8, though softer water is surely preferred.>
Would the inter-Cichlidae aggression (there are a bit of jaw locks going on among convicts) stress him out, once he has no other Polypteridae to chase?
<Doubt it.>
3. If I separate all 3 Polypterids into their own 55 gallon, instead of keeping the bully, will that be enough space for 3 fishes? Can I hope that Senegalus will stop nipping his neighbours? Or will this not provide enough space for them?
<See above.>
4. I saw a suggestion of Swordtails as a dither for Central American tank (stocked with Vieja) - would they make good dither for EBJD/Amatitlania tank too? How many would you recommend for 55 gallons?
<In 55-gallons, you could try a male and at least three females for the best chance of success. You'll soon have a bunch of fry, too. Male Swords are pretty hostile towards one another, and in a small tank like yours, I'd not keep two males, and three males would need at least 6 and probably 9 females to work well, and that'd overstock your tank.>
5. I noticed that Polypterus aggression picked up in a last month - is it because it is summer and warmer temps. and longer days make him more aware of environment? More territorial?
<Any/all of these may be issues, plus sexual maturity.>
Thank you very much for your answers. While this may seem a trivial inquiry - please understand how much I appreciate your knowledge and all the work you do to keep aquarists' community well-educated and our pets happy!
Elena E.
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Blood Parrots, Senegal Bichirs, and Pictus Catfish; Compatibility; Frozen foods 4/16/12
Good day!
First off, I’d like to say thank you to all the volunteers who take time out of their days to help people with their fish; it’s greatly appreciated.
<Ah good>
I have a few questions (well five) that I hope you could answer, or direct me to the link for the information? (I did search your site for a few hours, so I apologize if my questions or similar questions have been asked before. ) But first, a little back ground information.
I have an approximately 3” Senegal bichir
<Wow, small>
that after a month of QT currently resides in my driftwood, sand, Anubias planted 29 gallon with a single male Betta and 8 black Kuhli loaches. (I am aware that when he gets bigger, he’ll eat my loaches, but for the time being,
<And Betta>
they are much bigger than he is, and he’ll only be in there 1-2 months tops) The water is about 80F and the pH is approximately 7.4. I do about 30% water changes every 5 days or so.
Tomorrow I am picking up a 75 gallon aquarium. I am planning on having a 1” sand substrate, with MTS to help keep it aerated, lots of large rocks and probably some driftwood, along with Anubias sp. attached to the driftwood/rocks, maybe some crypts as well. After it is completely cycled (I plan to use filter media from my 29
gallon to help speed it along) I plan on moving Nim (my Senegal bichir) to it.
My first question, my friend currently has my peaceful 5” Blood Parrot (I had to sell my 55 awhile back, she kept my BP so I could eventually get her back, my Blood Parrot was with cherry barbs, blue tetras, gold and moonlight gouramis, and an angelfish before, with no problems), would a Blood Parrot be an okay tank mate for a Senegal Bichir in a 75 gallon?
<Should be>
Are there any temperature/major pH/compatibility issues?
<Mmm, no>
(I bought the Senegal when I was told by a few people they’d be good together, but now I am hearing different from other people, so I would like your expert advice)
My second question, (if one Blood Parrot is compatible with a Senegal), do Blood Parrots do best kept when kept singly, or should I get another Blood Parrot?
<Best in groups>
I just don’t want my Blood Parrot to be lonely, she is quite shy and when I move her to the 75 gallon, her marbled angelfish buddy will be staying behind.
My third, for my stock, I was planning on 1 Senegal Bichir, 1 or 2 Blood Parrot(s).
Then these are the fish species I am interested/plus the number I planned on getting (not ALL the species though of course), could you please give me your opinion as to the compatibility with senegals and blood parrots? (I am so sorry if this has been asked before, please just direct me to the link if that’s the case, I don’t want to waste your time)
<Again, most likely fine together>
~ FOR SURE 4-5 Peruvian/Columbian Pictus Catfish (the Pictus catfish I am interested in getting are sold at about 4” long, and MUCH bigger then my tiny Senegal, I know they are riverian, south American catfish, while bichirs are more from slow bog-like areas, and Blood Parrots, well I don't know what would be their "natural" habitat, but I figure in a 75 gallon, it could possibly work?)
<Possibly... though it will be very hard to get food to the Bichir... the Pictus will eat it all>
~ Pair of Opaline Gouramis (the one’s I want are sold at
about 3-3.5”)
~1 or 2 Leopard Ctenopoma (Ctenopoma acutirostre, the one’s
I like are sold at about 2”, are they better off alone or in a pair?)
~1 Striped Raphael Catfish (sold at about 2")
<And hard to feed, even find this in a 75 w/ decor>
~1 African Feather fin catfish (syno eur., sold a about 3-4")
<Most likely will blend in though hide during the day>
Any other fish that you recommend that would go well with Blood Parrot(s), a Senegal bichir, and a school of Pictus catfish? (if they are compatible of course)
<I suggest adding the new stock over months time...>
My fourth question, I have issues feeding other LIVING insects/ fish/creatures (i.e. meal worms, earth worms, crickets, shrimp, etc) to my fish, and I am a vegan, so I don’t buy/refuse to buy beef heart, tilapia, etc.
<I encourage you to seek out, use a good pellet based staple... Spectrum, Hikari are my favorite brands>
I feed my Kuhli loaches San Francisco Bay frozen brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and blood worms right now (along with shrimp pellets/algae wafers), would that be a good diet for bichirs and the above fish (I’d throw in some fresh veggies for the more herbivorous fish)? Would adding “freshwater frenzy-containing Brine Shrimp, Bloodworms, Cyclops, Daphnia, Watercress and more” be a good idea as well?
<All except the Bloodworms... see WWM re... and they may not take much to the Watercress>
Thank you very much for all your time! Danielle
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Senegal Bichir Question, incomp.  02/08/12
I have a 4x2x2 <Units? O credit> aquarium mainly set up for catfish and loaches. I am considering adding a Senegal bichir.
<Not a good mix>
I would like to start with a juvenile and watch him grow with the rest of the fish.
I am finding it difficult to find information about compatibility with the rest of my fish and would like some information.
I currently have Raphael Catfish, Tandanus Catfish, Hoplo Catfish, Berney's Catfish, Bumblebee Catfish, Clown Loaches, Pakistani Loaches, a small Zebra Loach, Whiptail Catfish, Leopard Bush Fish, Cuckoo Catfish, Severum, Kissing Gourami and a Black Ghost Knife. I already have plenty of lava rock and plenty of driftwood as hiding spaces and a floating plant which the Tandanus loves taking shelter under.
What would be the chances the Senegal would consider any of these fish dinner?
<Too likely>
Are there any in particular which would be an absolute no in terms of compatibility and why? I may consider moving some fish around to another tank if it is only a few which would not work.
<Might well bite any of the non-armored fishes. Bob Fenner>

Jewel Cichlids with an African Brown Knife and a Senegal Bichir?     1/24/12
<Hi there>
I set-up a new 75 gallon "quasi-specie" tank (have had a 45 gallon community tank for years and ready for something different, which will be in my office - a dream I've been nursing for years now, oh yeah!).
New tank has fully cycled (a solid 4-5 weeks). Water is spot-on neutral.
Don't currently oxygenate nor soften. Using a Fluval 405 (wish I had a little bigger).
<Or in addition, better>
I have always wanted a knife fish and think it would be a good idea to start with a Brown African (sounds like they're less delicate then their relatives). I decided on African Jewel Cichlids and one Senegal Bichir as tank mates (I know this may be hit or miss and will keep a careful watch and immediately adjust according to exhibited behaviours). First, does this match make sense?
<Might work w/ all growing together, starting smallish, esp. the cichlids... a couple inches...>
 I understand it may be touchy, but I'll provide tons of hiding spots plus low-light and all will be introduced very young...
<Ah good>
Second, how do I maximize chances of success? I've already added the 5 jewels (is this ok, should I go to 6 to avoid odd-man-out? and would these numbers be ok given that I don't plan on mating them?).
<Depends on what they plan on>

Would I have been better to introduce the Knife or Bichir first (and should I introduce them separately)?
<Not much difference at this size>
I'm going to add a big "rock structure" right before introducing Knife and Bichir so Cichlids think they're in a new area and will maybe be less territorial...?  Will also have a glass tube for the knife. There are already two big drift woods and a big fake plant (red that real plants aren't a good idea with Jewels).
Thanks in advance, your experience and guidance is very much appreciated (as have been your articles for the past several years!!).
<I wish you success. Bob Fenner>
Jewel Cichlids with an African Brown Knife and a Senegal Bichir? Part 2     1/24/12

Sorry, me again... figured I'd send you a couple shots of my jewel cichlids, because I don't find any other "jewel cichlids" online with the same markings near the head ("brain-like" pattern, almost looks like a painted mask). They're stunning looking fish... I also corrected a couple tiny typos below (sorry!).
<Thank you>
<Wow, these appear to be a bit "juiced up"... hormone treated... Will likely lose the blue highlights w/ time (months). Cheers, BobF>


Re: Jewel Cichlids with an African Brown Knife and a Senegal Bichir? incomp.     1/27/12
Thank you so very much for your advise (you guys are an amazing resource!!).
PS: So you don't think it's a problem that I'm not oxygenating the tank?
<Could be>
PPS: I put the Senegal Bichir in (he's around 3.5/4 inches) and a day later one of his fins was missing.

I felt really bad and considered taking him our, but I think they've straightened it out because he doesn't seem worried and is swimming right up to the Cichlids (who are now schooling very closely). I also think it may grow-back (being the bridge to amphibians that he is...). Will keep you posted.
<Where did the fin go? BobF>
Re: Jewel Cichlids with an African Brown Knife and a Senegal Bichir?    1/28/12

I assumed one of the jewels took a chomp at him...
<Then they need to be separated. B>

Baby Polypterus Compatibility    8/9/11
Hi Guys,
Currently I have a 2" Polypterus delhezi, and a 3" Polypterus Senegalus.
<Wow! Small specimens!>
Do you think that a 4" Polypterus Palmas Polli would make a good tank mate for these little guys, or do you think that it might try to eat the 2" ?
<They should be fine together... as long as there's space/habitat and their kept fed>
Thank you for your time and thank you for your informative website.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Corys + Senegal Bichir   8/4/11
Hello WWM!
Thanks for all your help in the past!
I have a 12 inch female Senegal Bichir alone in a 50 gallon, I have put some fish in with it before and they always end up with their tails gone or bitten in half! Not sure why it's so aggressive, I feed it plenty of frozen bloodworms and earthworms. I have 4 half inch leopard Corys and 2 big 3.5 inch peppered Corys, would they be able to live with the Bichir, or would that be a bad idea. Also I've always wanted a knife fish, would any specie of knifefish coexist with it? Or maybe even another eel such as a peacock eel? I really want something else in this tank.
Thanks, Jesse
<Better than Corydoras would be Brochis species, such as Brochis splendens, which are similar in shape and colour, but stockier and do well with medium-sized tankmates. They also tolerate warm water better than Corydoras, so will thrive at the 25-28C/77-82 F Bichirs prefer; most Corydoras, including the two you mention, do of course need cooler water, 22-25C/72-77 F. You must bear in mind though that these are predatory fish, and while their diet in the wild is primarily insect larvae and worms, they do eat small fish given the chance. So anything Neon or Danio size is likely to end up eaten. Brochis, being armoured, should be okay, but adults, not juveniles. Polypterus senegalus gets along well with one Knifefish species, Xenomystus nigri; the widely sold Apteronotus albifrons needs very different conditions and would be difficult to maintain in the same aquarium, and needs more than 50 gallons anyway. Senegal Bichirs are territorial but will cohabit given space, and you should get away with two females or a male/female duo in a 50-gallon tank. Spiny Eels are difficult to maintain and feed, so research them carefully.
Cheers, Neale.>

Black Ghost Knife fish and Bichir are lonely   8/18/10
I have been investigating your forums and information and I find your expertise quite useful.
<Only "quite"?>
I have a particular question regarding my current fish tank. I have a Senegal Bichir (4 in.) and a Black Ghost Knife fish (4.5 in.) in a 30 gal tank, too small for them in the long run for sure, however they are doing wonderfully right now.
<"For now" being the operating phrase. Whilst the Senegal Bichir might be kept in a 30 gallon tank indefinitely, the Apteronotus needs a much larger tank, and soon. Do understand that relatively few specimens survive into middle age, and they die prematurely PRECISELY because they're kept in the wrong environment. People promise themselves they'll buy a bigger tank when the time comes, in ignorance of the fact Apteronotus come from oxygen-rich, relatively cool fast-water habitats around rapids and waterfalls. They have very little tolerance for stagnant water conditions and high nitrate levels. To keep this species in a tank smaller than 55 gallons is, to be frank, dangerous.>
The BGK is very active, even during the day, swimming back and fourth and all over the place especially during feeding times.
<What they do in small tanks.>
The Bichir is the "ruler" of the tank and he goes where he wants with not much of a care in the world (with the exception of a log inhabited by the BGK). Right now the tank seems quite sparse for inhabitants I am looking for possible tank mates that will fit my plans in the long run.
<Least of your problems. Neither of these species needs tankmates, and indeed adding catfish or loaches would be foolish. A school of midwater characins such as Congo Tetras or Bleeding Heart Tetras would make the most sense.>
I plan on expanding to a 75 gallon tank within the next year or so, which makes it important that I choose fish that will work together in a tank of that size. I had a Corydoras Catfish for a while, however I think that the BGK picked on him too much and the Cory didn't make it possibly because he was the little one in the tank.
<Correct. Corydoras are inappropriate to this aquarium.>
Currently I am looking at different tank mate possibilities including an Oscar,
<No. Much too messy. Even in 75 gallons you'd be providing barely adequate conditions for an Oscar and a Bichir, and the poor Apteronotus would eventually die from the poor conditions.>
<No. Too much competition for food. Small Loricariids like a Bristlenose might be okay though.>
<There's really no suitable Loach that you'd keep singly. Most are gregarious, and in sufficient numbers a school of Yo-yo or Clown Loaches would be far too much competition for the Knifefish and Bichir.>
or an Angel fish,
<Requires completely different conditions: still water, much warmer.
Remember, you're keeping Apteronotus albifrons at a MAXIMUM temperature of 24 C/75 F, and anything warmer will soon kill it. The Bichir will be fine at that, as will most midwater characins. Likewise, water turnover needs to be at least 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. For a 75 gallon tank, that's 75 x 8 = 600 gallons/hour. That's a big-ass filter, and Angels will not like the current produced.>
however I am not sure what would work out best and if I could get more than one of those choices for the tank.
<I think you need to do more reading. Understand virtually everyone who buys Apteronotus albifrons kills it within a couple of years. When was the last time you saw a specimen 10 years old and 50 cm/20 inches long?
Paradoxically, what this species needs to survive is very well known, and has been for decades. German aquarists for example have maintained this species for more than 16 years! So why is their track record elsewhere so dismal? Because people assume they're "community fish". They are not. They need very specific conditions.>
I would like to have a number of smaller (7-8 in.) fish as opposed to 4 large (over 12 in) fish in one tank, but I am not sure what the best route is for my tank.
<You certainly could add a school of dither fish like characins that will encourage both the Bichir and the Knifefish to swim about in the open.
Surface swimmers like Giant Danios would also be good. Anything else would be foolish unless chosen extremely carefully. As for catfish, I'd look at either Ancistrus spp. or small whiptails such as Rineloricaria that could be kept in small groups without undue competition. Anything else would be daft.>
Do you have any suggestions on fish species that would work out well for my situation?
Thanks for any and all help,
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Cichlids... more rambling... re... stkg., Polypterus comp.  -- 2/3/10
Thanks again Neale. I like the idea of Congo tetras, but the Polypterus is an ornate.
<Ah, one of the BIG species. This chap gets to around 50 cm under aquarium conditions. I've seen adults, and they're huge, fat things that tend to be kept alone because they're so snappy. A good clue with bichirs is to look
at their jaws. If the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw, then it's likely a fish-eating species. The species that feed mostly on insects and other invertebrates tend to have shorter lower jaws than upper jaws.>
I've known he can't stay in that 20 and he'll be moving into a 75 and maybe onto a 210.
<Well, yes. Certainly something around the 100 gallon mark.>
Reffing hockey games can make you a surprising amount of money.
I looked at those two African cichlids. They are very cool. So basically, the bichir should be kept alone, without any other fish (if I can keep other fish with him right now please give me a few recommendations)
and have fish added as he grows?
<They're best kept alone, or with armoured catfish (like a Synodontis or an L-number Plec). Big, docile cichlids such as Oscars and Severums can work well. In a big tank, a school of Tinfoil Barbs or Bala Sharks can look
stunning in this sort of set-up. It's important to separate the idea that predatory fish are aggressive fish. This is almost always not true, because predators MUST keep a low profile if they're to succeed, so swimming about
causing trouble is the last thing on their mind! Most of the aggressive fish are actually herbivores of omnivores: Mbuna cichlids, Acanthicus adonis catfish, Pufferfish, etc. In any case, Polypterus ornatipinnis is waspish towards its own species and other bichirs, but tolerant of peaceful tankmates it doesn't view as food.>
With the breeding pair, I think they just might stay in their 58 alone and maybe be put in a 75. For the Polypterus would I be worried about the final sizes of Rainbowfish and Congos.
<Both Rainbows and Congos would be dinner!>
How big do those 2 African cichlids get final size?
<Rhamphochromis range from "dwarf" species about 20 cm long up to species over 35 cm long. Although equipped with needle-sharp teeth and huge jaws, they're remarkably peaceful fish by cichlid standards, and only view very small fish as food. Lots and lots of species, so spend some time on Google and reading any Malawi cichlid books you can lay your hands on.
Altolamprologus compressiceps is about 15 cm when full grown, Altolamprologus calvus is usually a bit smaller. They're both specialist predators that feed on cichlid fry in the wild, but can be maintained on pellets and frozen foods just fine. There is a very popular shell dwelling form of Altolamprologus compressiceps less than half the size of the standard species. It's called Altolamprologus compressiceps "Sumbu Shell".
Anyway, these are Tanganyikan cichlids, and much will be said about them in almost any book on Tanganyikans. There are some basic notes on care elsewhere on WWM.
Thank you.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Cichlids -- 2/3/10
Thanks again. I might just get a pretty Pleco to keep algae under control and to eat those dreadful hybrid eggs and keep him with the breeding pair and leave that alone. When talking about large, docile cichlids, does this consider the Rhamphochromis?
<Not really, no. Rhamphochromis requires very specific water conditions, different to those enjoyed by bichirs.>
My LFS has loads of Severums. Some big, some small. My question was not completely answered though, or if it was I didn't catch the answer. Can I keep anything with the Polypterus right now?
<Sure, so long as its not bite sized, not competition for food, not aggressive, and not nippy. And bear in mind the bichir will need rehoming fairly soon. If this was me, I'd save my money for now, and buy something in a year's time when you have a bigger tank. If you want something cheap and fun for now, why not set up a 10 gallon tank for shell-dwelling Lamprologus? "Shellies" as they're called are cichlids, they're fun, they're easy to get, and they're small enough to do well in small tanks.
Great fun fish. 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.>

Pink convicts 11/6/08 I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank with all live plants. I had a kissing Gourami and several angel fish in there for almost 10 years. They all died over the course of the last year. Someone gave me 8 pink convicts and they now "rule the roost". I want to put some other fish in the tank, as they aren't really displaying any typical aggressive behavior. My biggest one is probably about 2 inches long and the smallest is coming up on one inch. A friend who works at the pet store said that the majority of my convicts are female and I couldn't put anything else in with them. Another friend introduced 2 Jack Dempseys to her tank with 9 adult convicts (60 gallon tank) with no major issues after 6 months. Is this a good match up? My husband has a 60 gallon tank with 2 polypalmas and an upside down swimming catfish, also all live plants and natural rock "hidey holes". He has been eyeballing a barracuda for a while now and was wondering if they'd get along. The polys have lived peacefully with several different breeds of fish, but the catfish has killed a couple of the Gouramis recently and seems to be intolerant of even the fish he "grew up with". I don't want to spend the money on the barracuda, if it will just get killed. Any suggestions? <Hello Maria. Convict cichlids are very variable fish, and maximum size in particular varies a lot, in part due to inbreeding. That will be especially true with albino Convicts. That said, I'd expect even females to reach a length of around 8-10 cm/3-4 inches. If they're smaller than that, they're unlikely to be sexually mature, and hence not as aggressive as they can be.  Convict cichlids can be combined with other Central American cichlids of similar size/disposition. Convicts tend to bully "nice" Central Americans like Firemouth cichlids if kept in tanks as small as your 55 gallon system, but in a 200 gallon system I've mixed them well with Firemouth cichlids, Jack Dempseys, Midas cichlids, and Jaguar cichlids. Armored catfish (big Plecs and large Synodontis such as Synodontis nigrita) also work well.  However, you CANNOT keep them with Polypterus species. Polypterus are too mild mannered and get bullied by aggressive cichlids. I've seen people try this, and the poor Polypterus gets its fins bitten off! Polypterus are gentle fish, albeit predatory, and best kept either in their own tanks or in peaceful community tanks with quiet species such as Silver Dollars. Freshwater "Barracuda" are completely and utterly incompatible with Convicts. They are typically the species called Ctenolucius hujeta, a gentle, schooling fish that needs to be kept in a quiet tank in groups of six or more specimens. They are tricky enough to maintain in good conditions, and keeping them with something as aggressive as a Convict would be extremely unwise. Ctenolucius hujeta is a predator, so don't mix it with small fish, but happily eats invertebrates like river shrimps and earthworms, as well as frozen foods. Make sure any specimens on sale are feeding: avoid specimens being given "feeder fish" as these are likely exposed to parasites and bacterial infections that will make your job of acclimating to captivity even harder. Keep Ctenolucius hujeta in a spacious tank; it is a nervous fish prone to jumping and will not adjust to confining tanks. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Pink convicts  11/07/08 Thanks for getting back to me. I have my 8 convicts (2 which have been identified as male) in the 55 gallon tank by themselves. <Hmm... wonder how they've sexed juvenile male Convicts? Most folks would consider that pretty tricky! Inbreeding has removed the bright colours from many fish, and when they're small, you can't really predict which ones will turn into big males! So while you *may* have them sexed, I'd be very cautious and open minded.> Will they still get aggressive even with the low male to female ratio? <Yes.> The 2 Polys have always been separate from the convicts and are going into a 60 gallon tank with the upside down swimming Catfish (so far) and my hubby wants to put a barracuda in the 60 gallon tank with the Polys and the catfish. <You don't put "a" Ctenolucius in anything. They're gregarious, schooling fish. Single specimens are nervous as heck and have short, miserable lives.  By all means get a bunch (minimum: 3) and keep with Bichirs and Synodontis nigriventris (this catfish is also gregarious). These three species are more or less compatible. Just do make sure the Ctenolucius hujeta don't feel confined or threatened.> My question is whether or not the 'Cuda will get along with the Polys and whether or not a 60 gallon tank is too small to add the Cuda. <It should work. Ctenolucius hujeta isn't terribly big (less than 20 cm under aquarium conditions) and easily reared on frozen foods. Because the catfish and bichir feed on the bottom, you shouldn't have any problems getting bloodworms and earthworms into the Ctenolucius hujeta.> The Convicts are in a totally separate tank. <Ah, very good. Cheers, Neale.>

Polypterus senegalus, sys, comp.  9/5/08
Hi all,
I have a question regarding Polypterus senegalus; I've been doing my research and am getting some mixed reports and as always I like to talk to someone in the know!
<We'll do our best.>
I recently saw a trio of albino Polypterus senegalus in my LFS and have fallen in love - I've been wanting some for a while now and at only 4" I would love to have one to grow on. I intend to get a set-up for them (hopefully an African style one with either some reedfish/dwarf spiny eel - I know they're Asian!
<There are Spiny Eels in Africa, both the rivers and the lakes, so you're not really cheating!>
but fire eels and tyre tracks are way too big - an African butterfly, a bush fish or three - get mixed reports about these guys in groups too - any suggestions? - and maybe some Congo tetras).
<All should be fine; P. senegalus is relatively peaceful.>
Now the problem is this; my boyfriend has promised to make me a set-up (well build the cabinet so I can house a couple of tanks in one unit) for the species. Because I'm so excited and the senegalus are small, I was going to keep them in a two foot for a few weeks - a quarantine if you will - while the new set-up is created. I had intended a 4'x18"x18" tank for them. I also wanted 2 senegalus; is this unwise and should I get only the one? Or will 2 be ok?
<Two youngsters will be fine in that take for some months.>
I've read of people mixing different poly species together, but not sure what sizes etc these are being kept in.
<Polypterus are snappy about their caves, so each fish needs its hiding place. But they're not otherwise known for being aggressive.>
Will 2 senegalus cause chaos?? What is the ideal tank size, and I'll attempt some negotiations!
<You should be fine; if the ultimate tank is going to be fairly large, I'd actually get three specimens: there's less chance of bullying, because no one fish can be picked on all the time.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Polypterus senegalus tank mates 9/5/08
Found your website very helpful; had quite a lot of information on Bichirs that I'd not found elsewhere.
We have a 55 gallon tank at work that currently has 3 2" Clown Loaches, 2 Dwarf Gourami, 2 2.5" Kuhli Loaches, 1 4" Senegalese Bichir, and 6 other little fish that will eventually die or be eaten by the Bichir. Not concerned about the little fish as we're transitioning the environment. The Kuhlis may also eventually be food for the Bichir, which will be sad, but not a big concern.
<The Kuhlis will be eaten. I'm not comfortable about leaving fish to their fate in this way. For a start, the Kuhli loaches are armed with sharp spines, and these could easily choke the Bichir. Other fish can carry parasites you're not aware of; harmless to the host at the moment, but dangerous to Bichirs. Finally, there's plenty of experience that says that predatory fish that eat live foods, particularly fish, become more aggressive. If you're planning on keeping your Bichir with tankmates, then you don't want that to happen. So my unequivocal advice is to get the small fish OUT OF THERE!!!>
The tank's fish will revolve around the 3 Clowns and the Bichir, Polypterus Senegalus. I know the Bichir is a mostly friendly and peaceful fish so long as it's tank mates can't be eaten.
<Mostly true, but not always.>
The Dwarf Gourami I really like and I would like to fully populate the tank with an assortment of all their varieties. My concern is that, once the Polypterus Senegalus is fully grown, they might be pushing it on the low end for tank mate size. Do you think this will work, or should I look for a general population that is a little bit bigger?
<If the Bichir has already acquired a taste for live fish because it's eaten the smaller animals in the tank, then yes, these Colisa are at risk.>
A related question. If the Dwarf Gouramis are probably ok, but borderline, should I get rid of the little fish I'm ok with him eating before he does?
Thus maybe habituating him to the shrimp pellets and blood worms I'm giving him?
<Ah, you understand perfectly. This is precisely so. Predatory fish learn what's edible to some degree. So by controlling what's available, you "program" the fish to behave in a certain way. You want to be rearing this Bichir on frozen foods so that it becomes lazy and doesn't think about hunting. If it knows that you dump easy, tasty food in front of him every night, he'll stick to that.>
<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... now chatting re Neotrop. cichlid addn... send to BBs   8/7/08 The reply you sent was most helpful, thanks again. <Most welcome.> My sister saw a fish called "green terror" and took a liking to it. They were not very big, but I think big enough for the Ornate Bichir to leave it be. I know its a neotropical cichlid and it looks very much like the Jack Dempsey. According to your FAQ archive, it seems this fish is fairly aggressive? How big do they get and will they bother the Bichir? <The Green Terror is Aequidens rivulatus. It is a beautiful fish, but as its name suggests, extremely territorial and aggressive. Unlike most South American cichlids, this species is aggressive all year around, not just when spawning. So it tends to be kept with Central American cichlids. To be honest, no, I wouldn't recommend combining it with a Bichir. Bichirs are basically peaceful fish, and I've seen them pecked to death -- literally -- by things as seemingly harmless as Yellow Labs (Labidochromis caeruleus). Cichlids try to drive the Bichir away from "their patch" pecking away at their dorsal fins and lobe fins, leading to secondary infections. Bichirs aren't fast enough to swim away from danger. If you wanted a cichlid for the Bichir tank, look to large, non-aggressive species such as Oscars or even better Severums or Geophagines (Eartheaters).> Thanks once again. <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 puffer fishes 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.>

Dwarf Puffer/Polypterus Compatibility   2/3/08 What a wonderful site you have! I learned so much from browsing! Y'all are doing a wonderful thing! <Thanks.> I'm not new with aquariums but I am expanding my knowledge base and experience. Do you think a single dwarf puffer would get along in a thickly planted cave-filled 55-gallon tank with one of the smaller species of Polypterus? <Absolutely not. Dwarf Puffers -- if by that you mean Carinotetraodon travancoricus -- are persistent fin-nippers. Bichirs are easily targeted by fin-nippers because they are slow, clumsy, and rather docile. The other day I came across a retailer with some Polypterus senegalus with various Mbuna cichlids, and the poor bichirs had their fins bitten down to the bone. On the other hand, an adult Bichir might simply view a small puffer as food, with unfortunately consequences for both. Don't do it!> I plan to have ghost shrimp, Asian clams, the ubiquitous snail, and not much else. If the puffer will eat pieces of the Polypterus, then I'll just have to give him his own tank and put somebody else with the Polypterus. <Indeed.> And can the puffer eat Asian clams or are their shells too hard? <Puffers might not eat the clams outright, but they will attack the siphons, which would equally certainly assure the death of the clam. Besides, Asian clams -- Corbicula fluminea -- are extremely difficult to maintain in anything other than an aquarium set up to their specific needs. They AREN'T scavengers and the THEY WILL NOT survive just by taking "stuff" out of the water. They need feeding every day with some sort of filter feeder food of the type used for corals and the like. In 99.999999% of the cases where people buy these clams, they're dead in a few months. Sure, they die slowly, but die they do.> Not that I drink too much or anything, but people who drink too much alcohol and want to cut back might find that the aquarium addiction is SOOOOOOO fun ... my beer goes flat because I'm talking to all my creatures. <Indeed?> Thank you for any advice you can offer. Take care -- Randi in Ohio <Cheers, Neale.>

Gray Bichir (Senegal Bichir) -- 11/19/2007 I have a 5 inch Gray Bichir all by himself in a fairly large tank. <When considering tank mates, it would be good to know the specific tank size.> Would it be possible to mix some exotic fish in with him? <Yes, most Senegal Bichirs accept large tankmates, only exceptionally there are specimens that take chunks out of fish of a similar size.> I was thinking maybe a black ghost knife fish? <Could work, but success cannot be guaranteed. Something more robust would be preferable.> Or maybe even a needle fish? <Likely food.> I really want something exotic and unboring. <I guess by unboring you mean you want a fish with an unusual shape, an oddball so to say. Larger cichlids would be compatible. Although they do not have a spectacular shape, they are more active and often have brighter colours than most of the fish generally called oddballs. Another Gray Bichir would likely work, too. A more unusual shape would be represented by a large spiny eel, a tire track or fire eel. Given the specimens have an appropriate size, they are robust enough to compete with this smaller Bichir species. They will grow much larger than the Bichir, but cannot seriously hurt him. Be sure to thoroughly research any possible tank mates and provide enough space. We are talking about more than 100 gallons for an adult large spiny eel in the long run. See http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/polypterids.htm and the linked files above, especially the one on compatibility. Cheers, Marco.>

My gray Bichir, comp.  11/19/07 Hello WWM, I bought a gray Bichir about a month ago. <Polypterus senegalus, also known as the Senegal Bichir.> He is doing great growing and eating great. I was wondering what would be a good companion for him (he is aggressive towards his food so I suspect he is aggressive) <This particular Bichir isn't at all aggressive. He hunts by smell, and to localise the food rocks his head from side to side. Because his jaws are quite simple, he can't chew, so to swallow food he has to "worry" it a bit to break it into small chunks. So a lot of what looks like aggression is more likely just plain eating.> A worker at my LFS said he would be good with catfish and cichlids. <Indeed. This is a good species that mixes with anything of comparable size that will leave it alone.> Would a san Rafael catfish do ok? <Not sure what this is. Do you mean the Raphael Catfish, Platydoras costatus? If so, yes, they'd get on fine. But Platydoras costatus is a *sociable* animal and should be kept in groups, not singly or in pairs. When kept alone it is incredibly shy, and you won't EVER see it. It's also unhappy, which is not nice.> Or maybe a upside down catfish with some floating plants. <A school of Synodontis nigriventris would be ideal. Besides being the right size, they're also from Africa, so make sense "geographically". A trio would provide lots of fun without overloading the tank. Floating plants like Indian fern and lily pads make all the difference with these fish, encouraging them to swim about during the day.> Or maybe just a Pleco? <Again, another good choice.> Another thing for you that have gray Bichirs (dinosaur eel as they sell them at pet stores) I found a great new "toy" for them. what I did is I made a decoration just by stacking rocks in a pile and I put an ornament type thing on top. I thought he would just lay on it or avoid it. To my surprise I found him wiggling through the cracks and having a great time. <Absolutely! Fish need to interact with their environment, and in many cases giving them things to explore helps them settle in. Bichirs are basically nocturnal or at least crepuscular fish, and the more hidey holes they have, the more outgoing they will be. Trapped in a bright, open tank they tend to sulk.> Thanks <A great fish. Enjoy! Neale.>

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

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

Compatible Ornate Bichir and African bumblebee cichlid   4/21/07 We have a Ornate Bichir (dinosaur eel) in one tank and we are thinking of getting rid of that tank.  I have a African bumblebee cichlid in a really large tank all by himself. <Not sure what an "African bumblebee cichlid" is. Do you mean Pseudotropheus crabro, http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=2359 ? Always a good idea to use Latin names, saves confusion.> I was wondering if they can be in the same tank??? I think we are just tired of having two tanks. <If the cichlid is Pseudotropheus crabro (maximum length ~9 cm), and given that the bichir is Polypterus ornatipinnis (maximum length 60 cm) then absolutely not. The bichir is a piscivore, and sooner or later will view the much smaller cichlid as a snack. Bichirs hunt at night, when cichlids are (generally) at their most vulnerable. If the cichlid is something else entirely, then provided it is ~30 cm or so on length, i.e., big enough not to be viewed as prey, then non-territorial cichlids and bichirs can be kept together without problems.> Thank you Lisa Brooks <Cheers, Neale>

Feasibility of housing a pair of Polypterus palmas in a 75 gallon   1/27/07 Hello WWM crew, <Travis> I will soon be buying a 75 gallon aquarium that I plan to set up as a West African planted tank.  There will be a lot of driftwood, Bolbitis and Anubias to provide multiple hiding places, and three African Tiger Lotus plants will be allowed to float their leaves on the surface to provide cover and shade. <Sounds very nice>   I wish to keep two Polypterus palmas in this set-up.  But, I have read on your fabulous site, which I have referred to many times over the past three or more years since I discovered it, certain things that make me cautious about doing this.  You have said Polypterus palmas requires an absolute minimum of a 20 gallon, 30' long, aquarium; <About right> furthermore, that Polypterus palmas is perhaps the only Polypterus that can be maintained in groups.  Yet you have also said for other Polypterus species, that a 55 gallon is too small for two, <Mmm, not for palmas IMO/E> and a Polypterus should best be kept in a tank that is at least four times its maximum length. <Yes> Interestingly, one of those old, seemingly outdated, aquarium books one finds in the library said Polypterus palmas is 'best kept in pairs.'  So what do you think? <Have seen this species kept in groups... doesn't seem antagonistic to its own kind... and a 75 should be fine> Am I asking for trouble if I put a pair of Polypterus palmas into my future aquarium? Thank you for your help. Travis <Not at all in my opinion... And I'd add some lively upper water level characoids here... likely Alestes or Phenacogrammus... Do send along a pic please of your set-up once it's all up and going. Bob Fenner>

Bichir compatibility question    10/6/06 Hello WWM crew I am interested in getting a Bichir and I am wondering about any compatibility issues i might have with my established tank. I am currently running a 75 gallon tank with 2 Geophagus, 3 Clown Loaches, 1 Pleco and 1 Flying Fox. The Flying Fox (3" or so) is the only one I'm concerned about the Bichir eventually consuming, but I am also wondering about general compatibility. I'm really interested in these little buggers, but would hate to have anything go wrong. Thank you. David <Mmm, a Polypterus (of not too-big initial size) should go fine with the listed species... neither harming the others... You may have a feeding issue at first... due to the Bichir not being "all that sharp"... but with placing foods right in front... BobF> Mixing Bichirs With Other Things  8/28/06 Can Bichirs and rope live together?  The Bichir is about 7" long and one of my Ropefish is about the same in length but the other one is about 5" in length. and is it a good idea to keep African dwarf frogs in there also? Thank you for your time. < They are both closely related and have similar requirements. As long as they are fairly close to each other in size and are fed often then they should get along fine. The frog on the other hand will be quickly eaten by either one of them the first chance they get.-Chuck>

Mixing Bichirs With Flounders   8/30/06 Sorry to bother you again. What about flounders? Is it ok to mix the Bichir with the flounder? It's small but not that small. <If the Bichir gets hungry enough he may attempt to eat it but the flounder is pretty fast and it may be difficult for the Bichir to get too him. The flounder likes cool temperatures and lots of live food, a very interesting fish.-Chuck>

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

Polypterus ornatipinnis Dr. Fenner: Hi. I've had 2 Bichirs together for almost a year in a 30 gal tank. The biggest one used to attack the small one for a while but both survived. I also have a horn Plecos and a Gourami. Three days ago I bought a 40 gal long tank so my Bichirs could have more space since they are getting huge. The big Bichir is about 8" long and since I moved them to the new tank the smallest has been attacking him to the point of bleeding. I'm very frustrated. Could you give me any advice if there is something I could do or if I should separate them???? Juliana <I would definitely separate these two... they are territorial in the wild and in captivity when kept in too small a system (a forty is small)... and they do get larger... Bob Fenner>

Re: Polypterus ornatipinnis Thank you for answering my email. I'm in the process of setting up the second tank. Juliana <Ah, good to read/hear. Have seen some great Polypterids around the world in Public Aquariums... some that they've had for decades... and even saw a Bichir on a cemetery wall in an ancient Pharaonic setting in Egypt years back... one of my favorite groups of fishes. Bob Fenner>

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

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

Please help Yoshi (a Bichir) Hello, my name is Erin.  I have been active in the fish hobby for awhile, with two 30 gallon tanks, one 10 gallon quarantine tank, a five gallon, and 12 Betta bowls.  I would like to address in issue that has arisen. <Wow!> I have had a fire eel, Astral, a Polypterus delhezi, Yoshi, in a 30 gallon tank for around 3 months.  They seem to be accepting each other just fine and share the same hang out spots for nocturnal fish.  Astral is about 6-7 inches in length, and Yoshi is yet a baby at only 5 inches.  Both take in a several ghost shrimp a day without hesitation, and Yoshi loves his beef heart cubes.  I just got in my ornate Bichir and was shocked to see him already close to 9 inches and quite girthy.  I have another 30 gallon set up with African cichlids, but the tank with Astral and Yoshi is the one with the eclipse hood.  Have you ever known an ornate Bichir to prey upon an Armoured Bichir of smaller size?  I would hate to lose Yoshi in such a way, he is a great fish. Thanks for listening, and I hope to hear back from you.  Erin. <Unfortunately, the ornate Bichirs are reputed to go after others of their species so a mix isn't advisable. Ronni>

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> Polypterus predation  1/31/06 I just stumbled across your site today.  Very informative!  I have dabbled in aquaria for many years, had a fledgling maintenance business (more like a hobby playing with other people's money as I knew nothing of business at the time and learned a great deal about aquaria and business at my expense).   I have often thought of having a good sized aquarium (2-300 gal) well planted, and stocked with feeder white clouds and Neons in large quantities.  I wasn't sure if the Polypterid would be able to easily capture these small quick fish or not.  I guess it's the evil side of me that likes the idea of the normal response of "Gee, look at the pretty fish" followed by "What the heck is that thing?"  as the Polypterid eats one of their pretty little fish.  That and I just love the primitive look of the Polypterids and lungfish.  Any suggestions (that don't include psychiatric help)?  I noticed don't recommend UG filters for Polypterids.  What is the reasoning behind that?  I have typically used UG's with penguin powerheads and have had good results.  Would that create too much current for them to surface and breathe? >> Dear Allen, These fish eat at night when the barbs and tetras sleep. so they will have no problem eating them at all. Except you will not see it eat most of the time. Other than that it will work fine. Lungfish especially also eat some snails in nature, so you may want to consider that as well. UG filters are not ideal because these fish may uncover part of them, and that would make them useless, I would recommend a strong powerfilter instead. Good Luck, Oliver Ornate Bichir   1/31/06 Hi Robert, I'm a big fan, your website has served me very well and kept all the fish I've ever had alive and well. I'm going to purchase an Ornate Bichir to put in my 55 gal. I plan on putting it into my QT tank for at least a month before adding him to the larger tank. The 55 gal has been up and running for several months now, it's planted and uses a Fluval 304 and a Penguin 350 BIO-wheel for filtration. All I have in it right now is a Pictus Catfish about 5 in. The guy at the fish store told me I cannot put anything else in a tank with an Ornate Bichir including other Bichir/eels and catfish. In your professional opinion do think that an Ornate Bichir and a Pictus Cat will get along or should I find the Pictus a new home? Thanks a million, >> Hello Phil, There are hundreds of species of fish you could keep with an ornate Bichir. They are not aggressive fish, so the only think you have to keep in mind is that they are predators. They will swallow any fish that fits in their mouth, including your pictus cat if he is too small. Good Luck, Oliver Mixing Crayfish And Bichirs  4/09/06 Hi, thx in advance for answering my question. I have a 40 gallon tank with (1) 4 ½' Australian blue crayfish, (2) gold Gouramis, (2) pearl Gouramis, (1) Bala shark, (1) Pleco.  I would like to make a Bichir the final addition to my tank, but of obvious reasons there may be a clash between my crayfish and the Bichir.  Do you have any thoughts on how this setup will work? Sincerely Chad < The crayfish will try to eat the Bichir at first depending on the size of each. As the Bichir gets bigger there will come a time when the crayfish will molt and the soft new shell will leave the crayfish vulnerable to attack by the Bichir.-Chuck>

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