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Polypterus ornatipinnis
Ornate Bichir

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Ornate Bichir - Polypterus ornatipinnis

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bichir1.jpg (34kb)
Photo Credit: Shawna in CA

Name: Polypterus ornatipinnis
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: Africa
60 cm 350 L 7.8 26C


Polypterus ornatipinnis can get up to about 50 cm. They are nocturnal predators, eating small fish and aquatic frogs in the wild, but in captivity some will eat almost anything like shrimp pellets, frozen krill, frozen beefheart etc, but some will only take live foods such as feeder goldfish and ghost shrimp. Some of the bigger ornatipinnis such as the one in the photo above will eat small crayfish.

Contributed by (no name given)

Polypterus ornatapinnis are fascinating, very primitive, nocturnal, predatory fishes that will obtain lengths of up to 65 cm in the home aquarium, and lifespans exceeding 25 years. The best substrate for these fish is sand, with plenty of hiding-spots, and sturdy plants...the aquarium dimensions are best long and wide, rather than tall. A secure, weighted top is essential when keping these fish, as their frequent breaching for air, and occasional jumps put them at high risk of leaving the aquarium. Diet should be highly varied, and include such items as small feeder fish, krill, earthworms, shrimp, beefheart, and even sinking carnivore pellets. Be aware that as predators, no fish small enough to fit into the mouths of ornates bichirs are safe tankmates. Plecostomus and other algae eating species will sometimes take advantage of the bichir's somewhat sedentary nature and damage the bichirs scales by sucking on them with their rasping mouth-parts. Water should be fresh, pH 6.5-8.0, temp: 22-28C. I currently keep nine P. ornatipinnis ranging from 18-53 cm long each, and they are among my favourites in my Polypteridae collection consisting of 35 fish, representing 9 species/subspecies.

Contributed by G. A. Christian Bilou

I have had one of these fish for about two years now. He's getting rather large and eats only live foods, which include minnows and ghost shrimp. Mine doesn't like guppies or goldfish. As long as they are fed, they can surprisingly be kept with other larger fish, I kept mine with cichlids and then with mollies and he never attacked them.

Contributed by Jojo

The polypterus is a great pet fish; I say pet, because he really does bond with his owner. Mine would come to the glass and stare at me when I tapped, eat from my hand, and was a complete angel in the community aquarium, never bothering the big blue gourami, the 6 rainbowfish, the 18 cm sailfin pleco (it was in fact the pleco who eventually became aggressive), or even the neon and rummy nose tetras even though they could have been an afternoon snack for him! This is true, and the Poly was over 20 cm long! Note that I introduced him after the community was well established, and I raised him for about 4 months in a separate tank with only a Betta (they also got along very well). Give the bichir a big tank, lots of hiding spots and places to explore, and he will be a delightful pet.

Contributed by Alex Lambert

The Bichir is a cool fish! Adapts well to new environments, and gets along well with other fish. He isn't really aggressive, but he can hold his own with any fish. He is also pretty active, mine loves swimming around in his 480 liter home with Oscars, Pacus, and a Red Devil. My Bichir will also take a goldfish if given the chance. His spikes kinda look prehistoric. Great choice for any semi-aggressive tank.

Contributed by Paul Zamora

I have had my Polypterus ornatipinnis for just over a year and he is great. He's just under 30 cm long and he eats almost anything: sinking pellets, beef heart, blood worms, small snails, comet goldfish. He even ate four 6 cm australian rainbows that I thought were too big for him. He eats frozen food while it's still frozen. Aside from a good appetite, he loves to swim laps in the tank when it gets dim, but is shy in full light. He lives peacefully in a 250 liter with a black ghost knife fish, three 8 cm Bosemani rainbows, and some mystery snails.

Contributed by Keith Weiser

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