Physical description: An elongated species having a dorsal fin consisting of 8-10 separate rays. The pectoral fins are paddle-like, and the pelvic fin is located far back of the body. The body color is light brown to brownish gray, and marked with irregular, dark brown to black net-like pattern. The pattern is highly variable and is different for each individual. The belly is lighter in color and the fins have the same pattern as the body.
Size/Length: To 18" (45 cm)
Similar species: Other Polypterus species.
Habitat: West Africa; in marshy, vegetation choked in the Kasai and Zaire (Congo) rivers in Zaire.
Aquarium: A 40" (100 cm) tank with a from 45-55 gallons (170-209 L) is sufficient for fish up to 12" (30 cm) in length. Follow suggestions for C. calabaricus.
Water chemistry: pH 7-8.2 (7.8), 9-18 dH (12), 77-84°F (25-29°C)
Social behavior: Do not combine with small fish as these may be consumed. Combine with other large fish of the upper swimming levels. When confined with other Polypterus species under cramped conditions, fighting may result. Fighting is less likely to occurs in a large tank with plenty of hiding places. This species is peaceful towards large fish. The Ornate Bichir is nocturnal.
Suggested companions: Distichodus, Hemichromis, Heterotis, Cichlasoma, Tilapia, Haplochromis
FOOD: Live; fish, earthworms, Tubifex , insects, frogs; chopped meat; occasionally acclimated fish will accept tablets
Sexual differences: The anal fin of the male is larger and thicker.
Breeding techniques: Use cooler water to initiate spawning. 200-300 eggs are laid on vegetation. The young hatch in four days at which time the parents should be removed. Start feeding with Artemia and later with other small live foods.
Breeding potential: 8. Breeding is difficult and unusual.
REMARKS: Cover the tank well, as there are reports of this species leaving the aquarium, and "roaming" the keeper's home.
Difficulty of care: 6. This large, hardy species will consume smaller fish. This Bichir requires live foods.
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