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FAQs on Bichirs, Family Polypteridae Behavior

Related Articles: Bichirs

Related FAQs:  Bichirs 1, & Bichir Identification, Bichir Behavior, Bichir Compatibility, 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,

A Polypterus senegalus... doing with Bichirs do most of the time... hang out.

Polypterus senegalus; stopped growing     10/23/13
Hi there.
I have a basically simple question. Have an albino senegalus that seems to have stopped growing. she is currently around 6.5 inches and has not grown in about a year now.
<Is rather small. May well be a (genetically) small specimen, but more likely it isn't eating enough or else some other factor is preventing its growth, such as high nitrate level.>
she shares a 125 gallon tank with a 10 inch jack Dempsey( i know to many this is not ideal but they have shared a tank for two years and often both bichirs share the Dempseys cave with him curling on his floor like pets),
<Hmm...>
a 12.5 -14 inch male depending if you count the tail fin senegalus. 2 bn Plecos (reg female albino male) and 14 giant danios (recent experiment too liven up the tank... there were 24 3 weeks ago was hoping that 4 inch body and speed was enough.. I was wrong).  will be adding 2 more female senegalus when they grow out enough as I am hoping for them to breed
<A challenge. Do read up on this. Polypterus have been spawned in captivity, but they "jump" a lot while displaying and spawning, and they do need quite specific things in the tank, such as Java Moss, for the eggs to be scattered in.>
The tank has live plants and loads of filtration and tons of caves. The bichirs both eat very well. Shrimp pellets, algae tabs (they eat the ones i put in for the Plecos on occasion), Blood worms (Dempseys are sloppy), and beef liver cut very small (the albino loves this).  They also get a dozen feeder guppies dumped in every couple weeks ( I raise them myself in a 40
gallon breeder with my blue florida crayfish so there should be no disease issues to my knowledge)
<Ah! There's one thing you shouldn't have done. No wise fishkeeper uses feeder fish. They provide NO benefits at all, but bring in many risks and variables. A fish that eats and eats but doesn't grow could well have gut parasites like worms... and where do you think they might have got such parasites from? Correct: from their food, specifically, feeder fish.>
Gonna start catching earth worms for them i think also.
<Much better option if you want to use live foods. Basically, live foods should be species that can't/don't carry parasites that can infect fish, so terrestrial prey (earthworms, crickets, mealworms, etc) are the safest.>
My male has always grown consistently. The albino just stopped growing I was not sure if there was a dwarfism in albinos?
<Not that I'm aware of. All Bichirs are fairly big fish, and your species should get to at least 25 cm/10 inches, and often a little bit more.>
Beyond this all my fish are very healthy and happy to my knowledge    Gary
<No single definite answer, but deworming your fish may be prudent, and certainly stop using the feeders. If the feeders brought in something more serious than worms, then treatment may be more difficult. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Good questions and responses from you as always... Enjoying them. B>>
Re: Polypterus senegalus     10/23/13

Will look into deworming have not seen signs of parasites bulging tummy stringy white stool etc. .
<Fair point, but not conclusive evidence either way. If you feel the Bichir looks healthy, not skinny, and the amount it eats is reasonable, then you might elect to observe for another few weeks or months before doing anything. But deworming won't do any harm, so it's a safe precaution with fish that have failed to thrive.>
Already working on the java moss have three large pads attaching to driftwood and slate now. Tyty, G. Owens
Btw are you the same Neale that frequents the tff forums?
<Yes indeed, back in the day. Haven't been around much recently. Spend most of my fish time here! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Polypterus senegalus    10/24/13

ah recognized the "Cheers, Neale." lol used to be on there a fair bit about 2 years ago myself as Binge we discussed my Procambarus Alleni a fair bit and you always gave sound advice.
Thanks again.
<Ah yes, does sound like something I'd say! Anyway, thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

Mystery Bichir Disease 4-13-13
Hello WWM,
<Austin>
I'm sorry to take your time, but I have a suggestion regarding the mysterious deaths that many folks seem to be experiencing. <Sure.>
My 2 year old bichir recently passed away in a much similar manner
(strange behaviour, followed by lack of appetite, then a bruised stomach).  I had mostly fed him shrimp pellets (a mistake) 3-4 times a week. I
noticed him floating at the top of the tank by the heater, which isn't unusual, but he was passing a whole, undigested shrimp and there appeared to be blood around his anal fin.
<Undigested shrimp or shrimp pellet?>
 From there it took him about a week to die.  I don't have my exact water conditions from the time but all other fish (including a smaller female) were fine and still are. I'm thinking that possibly the shell <exoskeleton> of the shrimp is cutting these animals stomachs or intestines when they eat them, leading the bruising (or as one person said exploding stomach).  <An interesting theory. If you think that's the case, then perhaps try a different food regularly and see what happens.>
 Again sorry for not really having a question and probably some poor grammar here and there, but I really hate to hear about this happening often. 
<No problem, maybe this will help somebody solve a riddle in their own tank.>
Thanks for your time, AA
<Welcome - Rick>
Thank you! Bichir assistance, fdg. f'    4/15/13

I know this isn't a question, but I just wanted to let you guys know: Your website is invaluable. The information I received regarding my Senegal bichir when I first got him wasn't accurate or knowledgeable, and would surely have led to a slow and unpleasant death due to malnourishment. He's picked up a lot now that we're alternating him between chopped nightcrawlers and tilapia, with a beef heart snack every few days, and seems a lot more active and cheerful! The advice was also definitely helpful in connection to my other carnivorous fish. Anybody who searches thoroughly can probably find exactly what they're looking for.
<Ahh, thank you for this input. Will share. Bob Fenner>

Re: Thank you! Bichir assistance, hlth. concern       4/20/13
I do have a question about him now, though! I haven't been able to find anything about this anywhere online.
<Let's see>
Like I said, his diet was recently corrected and he seems a lot happier on it. He gets along well with the other fish in the tank (100 gallon, small community, a couple youngish cichlids put there to grow alongside him. They mostly leave each other alone, really only interact when trying to eat the same food,
<Could prove problematical. Make sure the Bichir is getting food>
no fights, just greedy fish) and is reasonably active with lots of burrowing, darting to the top for breaths of air, etc. However, it's his posture that I'm concerned about. He seems permanently bent at his neck. He has no visible sores, bloating lumps or discoloration, and is eating fine.
When he swims, he almost looks like he's running because his bent neck arches back up and his bottom half powers along laterally, making a sort of 'Z' shape.
<Mmm, have seen this in other specimens, particularly the smaller species, like senegalensis>
I haven't got a camera that is capable of capturing a decent picture of him with me at the moment, but I've included a quick sketch of what he looks like when at rest. That bend in his neck doesn't go away, and it almost seems like his head is fused that way. Aside from the worrisome strangeness of his posture, he seems fine, and it doesn't appear to inhibit his swimming capability at all. I'm afraid of what might happen if this is something really bad, though, and if this is something I can fix I'd love to find out what's wrong!
Thanks again for everything.
<I would not be concerned... as stated; this may well be "natural"... Bob Fenner>

do Polypteridae have equivalent of REM sleep?   5/15/11
Hello, I had searched your wonderful site and have not found a clear answer to this question. I could have missed something, and thus I apologize if this question is something you get a lot. I'm starting to wonder if fish experience something like REM sleep in mammals? I know they don't have REM per se but on several occasions I saw what I would interpret as "dreaming":
<I do recall some such study of these and related (Dipneustian) fishes... they DO have REM-type sleep, do dream>
Polypterus endlicheri, 5-6 inches, year old, - often lays on the bottom in front of the tank between 7 and 11 in the morning. When he is active he enjoys slowly swimming in the growth of Val. gigantea or among the driftwood, which I understand is a natural behavior. However, in the morning he lays in a little driftwood enclosure close to front of the tank and opens and closes his mouth and moves eyes. The motion of mouth is not in sync with gill movement (gills move very very slowly). Occasionally he flicks his tail or pectoral fins a bit, but never strong enough to actually move himself.
I'm pretty sure he is asleep during that time, because: 1. he is very active at night and in the afternoon; 2. once when I was yet unfamiliar with this behavior I scooped him into a net to examine closely (I though he was suffocating on a piece of gravel) he was motionless for good 5 seconds and then did a full-body jerk and promptly got out of the net and swam away. Once active he was not doing anything unusual; 3. some fish in his tank are diurnal and get their first of 2 daily feedings at 7-8 am and P. endli is never interested in sinking pellets, even though in the afternoon/evening he is a pig.
So this leads me to conclude that he is sleeping. But is he actually dreaming or mouth/eye/fin movement is something else? Similar behaviors I saw in Weather Loach (now I have 2 and both are doing it) and Betta splendis (when I had it).
What would be a good source to read on fish biology and brain development?
It is not that I just realized the total lack of knowledge I have but I'm amused that my sample of "dreaming" fishes so far does not include any of the large cichlids I have had: Jack Dempsey, Texas Cichlid, Salvini c., Jewel c. It looks like ability of fish to display "dreaming" behavior is not connected to complexity of it's behavior during the active hours. Or it manifests in the way that I cannot recognize.
I had checked the water in both Loach and Polypteridae aquariums and it looks nice - ammonia at 0, nitrates at 0. Water is filtered and temperature is in range for both Misgurnis and Polypterus. Between 7 and 11 am tank pump is on to create current at the surface level (outlet is tilted up). This of course stirs water at the bottom somewhat, but neither fish nor snails seem to be disturbed
Thank you very much for you answer! Elena
<Thank you for your query/speculation. Perhaps a career in neurophysiology is in your future. Bob Fenner>
do Polypteridae have equivalent of REM sleep?   5/15/11
Hello, I had searched your wonderful site and have not found a clear answer to this question. I could have missed something, and thus I apologize if this question is something you get a lot.
<Nope, not been asked before!>
I'm starting to wonder if fish experience something like REM sleep in mammals?
<Supposedly not. There's not a lot of knowledge about how fish sleep. Some clearly do sleep -- parrotfish produce little cocoons in the sand or coral where they can sleep securely for the night, more or less undetectable by nocturnal predators. But others don't seem to sleep in any meaningful way because they need to swim constantly, as in the case of herrings and anchovies. But whether even the sleeping fish experience what we'd call REM sleep is impossible to say for sure, though REM sleep is generally described as being an exclusive trait of warm-blooded animals, i.e., birds and mammals, simply because these are the only animals to have sufficiently complex brains.>
I know they don't have REM per se but on several occasions I saw what I would interpret as "dreaming":
<Perhaps.>
Polypterus endlicheri, 5-6 inches, year old, - often lays on the bottom in front of the tank between 7 and 11 in the morning. When he is active he enjoys slowly swimming in the growth of Val. or among the driftwood, which I understand is a natural behavior.
<Yes.>
However, in the morning he lays in a little driftwood enclosure close to front of the tank and opens and closes his mouth and moves eyes. The motion of mouth is not in sync with gill movement (gills move very very slowly). Occasionally he flicks his tail or pectoral fins a bit, but never strong enough to actually move himself.
<May be a variety of things, including tasting the water, exercising stiff joints, dislodging silt or mucous'¦>
I'm pretty sure he is asleep during that time, because: 1. he is very active at night and in the afternoon; 2. once when I was yet unfamiliar with this behavior I scooped him into a net to examine closely (I though he was suffocating on a piece of gravel) he was motionless for good 5 seconds and then did a full-body jerk and promptly got out of the net and swam away.
<Ah, now, this is tricky. Fish do learn to trust their keeper, and may hold off "fight or flight" behaviours when handled by their keeper, at least for longer than they would otherwise. Also, many fish will "play dead" if molested in the wild, and won't swim away until the last moment. So there may be alternative explanations here.>
Once active he was not doing anything unusual; 3. some fish in his tank are diurnal and get their first of 2 daily feedings at 7-8 am and P. endli is never interested in sinking pellets, even though in the afternoon/evening he is a pig.
<Could be, or simply he isn't hungry enough in the morning to show much interest. Polypterus are dusk/dawn feeders, and it may well be that their feeding behaviours don't kick in until the right times of day. Or he may have learned that he can't compete with the day-active fish for food, so waits until later on in the day or night when he can feed more securely. Many explanations!>
So this leads me to conclude that he is sleeping. But is he actually dreaming or mouth/eye/fin movement is something else?
<I'd guess "something else". These fish have very small brains and limited intelligence.>
Similar behaviors I saw in Weather Loach (now I have 2 and both are doing it) and Betta (when I had it). What would be a good source to read on fish biology and brain development?
<Now, in my opinion the best book is "The Diversity of Fishes", a college-grade ichthyology book that contains just about everything you'd ever want to know about fishes and in a very readable way. It's not cheap, but your library should be able to get a copy, perhaps by inter-library loan.>
It is not that I just realized the total lack of knowledge I have but I'm amused that my sample of "dreaming" fishes so far does not include any of the large cichlids I have had: Jack Dempsey, Texas Cichlid, Salvini c., Jewel c. It looks like ability of fish to display "dreaming" behavior is not connected to complexity of it's behavior during the active hours. Or it manifests in the way that I cannot recognize.
<If dreaming does exist -- and so far as I know there's no evidence either way -- detecting it would be difficult. It's tempting to associate random movements with dreaming because that's something humans do when they're dreaming. We often see our cats and dogs twitch and assume they're dreaming. That may well be the case. But fish have such different brains to our own, and live in such a completely alien environment, that we daren't make the same assumptions. Fish may well need to twitch or move when resting because of the way water works compared to air, and to the way their gills work compared to lung. It's a lot like play behaviour, which is sometimes suspected among certain fish, specifically, the Mormyrids, but is extremely difficult to demonstrate convincingly.>
I had checked the water in both Loach and Polypteridae aquariums and it looks nice - ammonia at 0, nitrates at 0. Water is filtered and temperature is in range for both Misgurnis and Polypterus. Between 7 and 11 am tank pump is on to create current at the surface level (outlet is tilted up). This of course stirs water at the bottom somewhat, but neither fish nor snails seem to be disturbed. Thank you very much for you answer!
Elena
<An interesting question and one for which I have no answer. Like much about fishes -- the dominant vertebrates on most of planet Earth -- we're all reduced to speculating when thinking about their biology. Save for a few tilapia, salmonids and livebearers, you'd be surprised how little we truly know about what fishes do, think, and experience. Thanks for writing, Neale.>

Black Ghost Knife fish and Bichir are lonely   8/18/10
Hi,
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.>
Pleco,
<No. Too much competition for food. Small Loricariids like a Bristlenose might be okay though.>
Loach,
<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,
Steve
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Senegal Bichirs, growth, beh., sys.   -- 12/14/09
How fast would you say a 4in Senegal Bichir to reach full length on average
<These fish grow quickly. Expect it to reach at least 20 cm/8 inches within a year. Maximum size is a bit over 30 cm/12 inches. You'd be very unwise keeping a juvenile specimen in anything less than 100 litres (25 US gallons) and an adult will need something around 180 litres (48 US gallons). These fish are hardy, and provided you don't do something stupid like give them "feeder fish", you can expect a Senegal Bichir to grow quickly, get to a decent size, and live a long time (decades). Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Senegal Bichirs -- 12/14/09
Thanks for answering! I have him in a 40g now I was just wondering how fast I should buy a 75 ^^
<At you leisure, really. Wait until you find a particularly good deal. 40 US gallons is healthy enough, though more space will allow more tankmates and better decorations. But there's no rush.>
thanks for the help
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

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

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

Re: Ornate Bichir; diet, social behaviour... comp., sys.    8/8/08 Hello again, sorry for sending so many e-mails... <Getting used to it!> You mentioned in the previous e-mail that Oscars are good companions, yet when I read the FAQ and profile section for the Oscar, they seem to be rather aggressive. The Ornate Bichir is hardy, but I'm not sure if the Oscar will constantly pester the Bichir, as it is slow compared to the Cichlid. I'm also not sure if the 120 litre tank can hold the Oscar when it grows larger (not sure how fast they grow). <Oscars are territorial and aggressive when spawning. And by community fish standards, they're entirely unsuitable for maintenance with, say, Angelfish! But for a big fish they are relatively docile and work perfectly well with anything they don't view as either food or a rival. They mix well with large, peaceful Polypterus spp.> Also:- <Hmm...?> "Oversized and tough are by-words here. Oscars are messy fishes to put it gently... and destructive toward objects like siphons and tubing in their systems. Outside power filters (more than one) are fine IF they are of the type that pull water into their boxes (versus gravity fed siphons), and even these are better retrofitted with suction cups on their in-tank parts. Canister filters of good design are fine, but must be regularly (as in weekly) removed for cleaning. Ideal arrangements for Oscar systems include outside sump type filtration fitted with external pumps and internal overflows and returns. Whatever mechanical means you set upon, make the filtration easy to maintain and over-size in terms of capacity and flow." <All pretty accurate.> "Heaters, filter parts, tubing... are all just play things to Oscars. Hide, remote, attach with suction cups... anything you want to stay in place... for a while." <Yep.> From the article on your website, they seem to cause problems with the filter equipment. The 120 litre tank I have is run by the "bubblelator" and box filter system with a UV light attachment, that means the Oscar will/might disturb my filter system right? <Oscars will move/uproot/destroy anything they can. Partly its territorial, and partly its curiosity. In any case you need to use robust equipment and put as much as you can *outside* the tank. For example external heaters that you add to the external canister filter return tube works better than sticking a glass heater inside the tank.> Also you mentioned medium sized Severums would be good as well, Heros Severus is quite peaceful from the article and it seems relatively well sized as well as pH range, good to keep with Ornate Bichir? <Would be ideal. Other Heros species likewise, such as the amazing 'Rotkeil' (or "red head") Heros appendiculatus if you can find it. Traded but expensive here in England. But stunning fish.> Thanks. - Gene <Cheers, Neale.>

Weird Bichir behavior -- 06/08/07 Hi, <Hello.> As I understand it, Bichirs should be bottom-dwelling fish, but my 4-inch Senegal Bichir is spending a surprising amount of time at the top of the tank. <Not a problem. For a start, Bichirs are obligate air breathers, and need to gulp air every few minutes.> I'd say he spends about 1/4 of his time at the top, either actively swimming or resting on some floating plants. <If your tank is exceptionally deep, the Bichir may prefer to "perch" close to the surface so he can get a gulp of air more easily. For a 4-inch Bichir, the tank shouldn't be more than 18 inches deep, and ideally rather less.> My guess is that he just wants some more distance between himself and my small Cory & Pleco, but I wanted to make sure this wasn't indicating some bigger problem. <I can't imagine a Bichir being bothered by either of these species.> Other than his love of floating plants, everything seems normal about him - he's active and eating well. <Then probably nothing to worry about. These are delightful fish, one of the nicest of all the Bichirs, and generally hardy and long-lived. Enjoy your fish.> Thanks, -Michael <Cheers, Neale>

Polypterus senegalus, beh., hlth.    5/20/07 Hi <Hello.> My Polypterus senegalus has recently stared to eat the stones in the tank, I was just wondering if this is natural or could there be a problem with my fish? <It is extremely *unnatural*. Bichirs are predators that hunt by smell. So they don't normally eat stones. Are you feeding it enough? If so, what are you feeding it? The ideal diet for Bichirs are frozen bloodworms, small pieces of mussel and prawn, and small amounts of frozen fish such as whitebait. Some Bichirs will also eat pellets. Unless you are breeding your own livebearers, do not use live feeder fish and UNDER NO circumstances use goldfish/minnows bought from pet stores, as these are parasite bombs. If you want to use live food, things like mealworms and earthworms are ideal, being clean and easy to obtain.> Hope to hear from you soon, <Well, here I am.> Dave. <Cheers, Neale>

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