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Erpetoichthys calabaricus
ReedFish, RopeFish, SnakeFish

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Rope Fish - Erpetoichthys calabaricus

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Erpetoichthys_calabaricus_3.jpg (33kb)
Photo Credit: Edson Rechi

Name: Erpetoichthys calabaricus
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: West Africa
40 cm 400 L 8.0 26C


Rope fish can be the best addition to any large aquarium with proper care. Rope fish should be in a minimum 300 liter tank, but a 200 L would suffice as well. Rope fish also enjoy their own species and would like some friends. They do best in groups of 5 or 6. They can grow to be 90 cm in the wild, but in capitivity there is none recorded pass 60 cm. They will do fine with any fish bigger than their mouths, anything smaller will most likely be eaten up! They can be fed a large variety of items: beefheart, bloodworms, earthworms, frogs, crabs, shrimp, feeder fish, etc...anything meaty. Two of my rope fish are confident enough to eat a piece of beefheart right from my hand. This is definitely an interactive fish and conversation starter. They will not, or should not, be tank mates with oscars, red devils, or any other predatory/territoral type large fish. Large goldfish and the same do well. Common names for the ropefish are dragon fish, reed fish and snake fish. Ideal temperature should be between 22-26C but fair well in warmer temps, and pH level slightly acidic at 6.5-7.5. Rope fish are fairly hardy. There have been no recorded cases of them breeding in captivity, but I'm currently trying. They do require some hiding place like rocks, plants and caves. Also sexing ropefish is fairly easy. Males have more "spikes" on their top fins than females, and they appear to be more olive in color. Males generally have between 9-12 "spikes" and females less then 10 with a more of ochre color. There is still much unknown about the ropefish, they date back to the dinosaurs! They have been around a long time. One more thing, if you like ropefish, you may also enjoy Bichirs (pronounced "Bikers"). They are cousins of the ropefish and come from the same native waters, but are less "agressive" than the ropefish and require the same amount of space and food...another easy similar "sea serpent" to care for and enjoy! Hope this info helps!

Contributed by Carole Bernier

Eats frozen bloodworms, shrimp pellets, small fish, worms, beef heart. Peaceful fish suitable to community tanks as long as fish can't fit in its mouth. Likes to be with others of its kind. Tanks must have no holes in the top big enough for them to fit through or they will escape. Can survive for a few hours out of water due to their lung-like swim bladder. Males have 11 to 14 rays in the caudal fin, females have 9.

Contributed by James Foley

I just had to tell two different stories of the Rope fish that I have. One in the past was about 10" and was the sweetest fish in the tank. I never had any problems with him trying to escape. At feeding time or anytime that I put my hands into the tank he would swim to the top and eat from my hand or just be happy swimming around my fingers. I was heartbroke when the tank sprung a leak and I wasn't there to rescue him. For Christmas, my husband bought me a 55 gallon tank and I couldn't wait to get it regulated and find another Rope. I went to the same aquarium shop that I bought the other and was lucky enough to find that they had a small young Rope. Needless to say I am now the proud owner of a 8" escape artist. The second day in the tank he found his way into the filter. Thinking that I had the problem solved I didn't worry to much. The third day came around and missing again, in the filter again. As I removed the top of the filter out he popped and landed in the floor, I was able to save him before the cat got to him. I am proud to say that he has no possible escape routes left and seems happy in his new home. He really likes Neons and Leopard Danio's with blood worms and tubifex worms on the side.

Contributed by Lori Kirkland

There is another way to determine the sexes of reed fish, that I find easier than counting their spines. The males have a clearly broader anal fin, that doesn't 'blend in' with the caudal fin. The females have a pointed anal fin that smoothly joins the caudal fin. They are indeed a great fish, and better escape artists than my shrimp.

Contributed by Dave Crowder

I have 3 Ropes in my tank. They appear to be pretty affectionate. When I had only 1, it would curl up with my Fire Eel. Now they curl up together behind the rocks during the day. They come out for feeding time and are very good eaters. Mine eat frozen blood worms, frozen brine shrimp, and freeze dried tubifex worms. They sometimes go after the algae chips that I put in for my 40 cm pleco. They get along with my two 25 cm Fire Eels, Ghost Knife, Upside Down Cats, Pictus Cats, two 15 cm Green Severum, and Yellow Spiny Eels. I've had mine for about a year now and lost only one escape artist. They can survive up to 4 hours out of the water. I found him in hour five. They are very hardy fish. I would recommend them for a beginner that is willing to do some homework and make sure there are no escape routes.

Contributed by Sam Whittaker

Recently we were moving some of our tanks around and temporaily placed ours in my 200 L Angel tank. This tank was overpopulated with snails (the small ones). After about 15 minutes in the tank he made a meal of about 20 or so snails! So, if you have a problem with small snails, try one of these guys! They have a personality all their own! Watch out for small fish though. Mine has already claimed my little neons. He also really likes frozen bloodworms.

Contributed by Donald Leydig

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