Bichir information

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Matt created the topic: Bichir information

Greetings once again!

The purpose of this thread is the specific discussion of the keeping of Polypterids, also known as bichirs. This is a compilation of personal experiences in keeping this fish, and in researching. All information provided is for educational purposes, and as always the free exchange of information will be incorporated into the thread as necessary. Hope you enjoy the read!

Some general information on Polypterids.

Size: The size of adult specimens will vary based on the particular species. The range of typical adult sizes goes from 10” – 3’ (25cm – 91cm). They have rounded elongated bodies, that flatten towards the end along the vertical axis forming the paddle tail.

Housing: Due to the varying adult lengths of the different species, final tank size will vary. One common feature of tank requirements is the fact that almost every species does not need a large vertical water column. Tank size can vary but 30 gallons (113L) is probably the minimum to house a single smaller species. For larger species, a tank of 150 gallons – 180 gallons (567L – 681L) is recommended. A depth of 8”-12” (20cm – 30cm) is sufficient for all species. Notes on lighting, bichirs are low light loving animals, so bright planted tanks would not be ideal for housing a bichir. Also being nocturnal, it is advised to have some kind of moon light to allow better viewing at the normal times of activity. Filtration is again dependent on the size of the tank, but the general rule of thumb, 5x tank volume per hour turnover for canisters, and 10x tank volume turnover for hang on back, still applies. There aren’t any special filtration requirements. They do well in a wide range of temperatures, from 75f- 85f (24c – 30c). Water parameters should be kept at, 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrites, and between 5-20ppm nitrates. They are very tolerant of a wide band of pH as well, from 6.5 to almost 9.0.

Care: Being as tolerant of the wide band of water qualities, bichirs are fairly easy to care for. They are not purely air breathers, but have a crude lung and can take in atmospheric air, like many of the ancient fish species; this is an adaptation to poor water conditions. All that being said, this doesn’t absolve anyone of not doing proper tank maintenance. Weekly water changes of 50% or more will help keep nitrates in check and keep the fish happy and healthy for the 10-15 years they will live! Care should be taken in tank decoration, since bichirs can dart wildly around the tank if they get spooked.

Diet: Now you have a bichir, what on earth do they eat? Well in the wild, their common prey items include fish, various insect larvae, and invertebrates. They are generally non-aggressive ambush predators as well as opportunistic scavengers. If they find a food item that is too large, they will deathroll it, similar to a crocodile or alligator, to tear chunks off. The key to most successful fish keeping is varying diet and making sure their nutritional needs are being met. They will as a general rule accept most frozen foods including, silversides or lancefish, Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, krill, bloodworms, tubifex worms, squid, beefheart, preferably thawed. As well, they happily accept mussels, shrimp and most fish filets, I personally use tilapia, but just about any is acceptable. Live food should generally be avoided, due to the possibility of disease transmission. Pellets are also a great source of food, floating and sinking both work, as well as algae wafers, though some will eat them and some won’t, that just depends on your particular fish. You can also supplement with vitamins, though only those developed specifically for fish, never feed them human vitamins. In addition to being opportunistic hunters, some species of bichir are also blind and hunt completely by smell.

Species: There are many species of bichir commonly available, these are some examples and by no means a complete list as there are subspecies and some species that aren’t specifically defined.

P. Weeksi (‘week’-‘see’ Bichir) – 20” (50.8cm)


P. Teugelsi – 16.75” (42.5cm)


P. Senegaul Senegalus (‘Senegal’ Bichir) – 12” (30.5cm)


P. Retropinnis (‘Retropinnis’ Bichir) – 14” (35.6cm)


P. Palmas Polli (‘Marbeled’ Bichir) – 14” (35.6cm)


P. Palmas Palmas (‘Palmas’ Bichir) – 13” (33cm)


P. Palmas Buettikoferi (‘Buettikoferi’ Bichir) – 13” (33cm)


P. Ornatipinnis (‘Ornate’ Bichir) – 27” (68.6cm)


P. Mokelembembe (no size data)


P. Delhezi (‘Armored’ or ‘Delhizi’ Bichir) – 14” (35.6cm)


Ropefish (‘Snakefish’ or ‘Reedfish’) – 14.5” (37cm)


Tankmates: There’s much debate on what exactly are the best tankmates, and ultimately it comes down to individual fish personality. Being that bichirs are natural predators, some will be more aggressive than others. Remember there are always exceptions and none of this is hard and fast rules. But some recommended tankmates include, catfish, plecos, silver dollars, eels, discus, angelfish, tilapia joka, oscar, severum, bala shark, tinfoil barb, Chinese algae eater, clown loaches, black ghost knife, elephantnose. Again, this list is not comprehensive, and doesn’t cover all possible species of tankmates, nor does it guarantee compatibility, it’s merely some suggestions of species that can share the tank. A word of caution on tankmate selection, bichirs eat just the same as oscars, if it will fit in their mouth, they will eat it, and sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. I've personally seen my Delhizi eat a tiretrack eel that died, but was also on the small side.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the information and again adding to the discussion we will always include information that is deemed necessary.

cebosound wrote: Waterchange, Waterchange, waterchange... till your knuckles are bleeding. ;) :lol:

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benmcfadden replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

Love bichirs, got a few myself. get it in here

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Matt replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

Edit Tracking:
5/16/12
Added some requested information about behaviors

cebosound wrote: Waterchange, Waterchange, waterchange... till your knuckles are bleeding. ;) :lol:

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benmcfadden replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

good work kind sir

Haku, I knew your were good.
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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

how long must i wait !!! :P

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Matt replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

Continue waiting :P

cebosound wrote: Waterchange, Waterchange, waterchange... till your knuckles are bleeding. ;) :lol:

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Matt replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

OK, done, let me know what you think and if there's stuff that needs added :D

cebosound wrote: Waterchange, Waterchange, waterchange... till your knuckles are bleeding. ;) :lol:

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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

another good read matt liked it .. really didn't know much about them b4 this so all sounds good to me... nut like i said b4 watching them eat would be cool or a death roll!!!

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ehall67 replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

ps about time :P

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Matt replied the topic: Re: Bichir information

I've never actually seen mine deathroll anything. As for them eating, I have to feed him with the lights out so it's kind of difficult to get on film :unsure:

cebosound wrote: Waterchange, Waterchange, waterchange... till your knuckles are bleeding. ;) :lol:

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