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Polypterus senegalus
Cuvier's Bichir, Senegal Bichir

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Cuvier's Bichir - Polypterus senegalus

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Polypterus_senegalus_3.jpg (16kb)
Photo Credit: Lou Perkins

I have two of these fish, but keep them in separate tanks as they tend to be aggressive towards each other. I've heard that males have a larger anal fin, and it is certainly more pronounced on the smaller of my two. Also that one seems to be the aggressor. Anyhow, both of them are like little garbage disposals and will eat whatever I give them: guppies, goldfish, ghost shrimp, blackworms, bloodworms, freeze-dried krill, and the big girl (I think) even ate my juvenile arrowana of 7 cm...oops! In other words, be careful! The big girl is with a 25 cm redtail catfish, a 33 cm tiger shovelnose catfish and 2 freshwater stingrays. She is 30 cm long and fat like a hot dog. Everyone gets along pretty well, but the shovelnose (buckethead) is a bit of a bear and scares everyone sometimes. The smaller boy (I think) is 20 cm long and lives with 4 clown loaches from 10 to 15 cm, 3 thin line or zebra loaches 7 cm, 2 golden zebra loaches 8 cm, a tiger sand loach 8 cm, a weather loach 18 cm, and a silver arrowana 15 cm. These guys really get along well, in fact if you can believe it once in a while the arrowana will go sit on the bottom with the polypterus senegalus and the weather loach, but only for a couple minutes. Both of them are quite personable and respond to me when I'm near the tank. The big girl will eat from a prong as well, which is required sometimes because of the catfish being so aggressive at feeding times. On a scientific note, this fish has lungs, which means it can also breath air and I often notice them shoot to the surface for a gulp of air. Personally, I believe this fish to be one the greatest species to demonstrate the evolution of fish to reptiles. Look at the jaw, the eyes, the scales, the small foot like fins, and add the fact it has tell me. These fish come from Africa and maybe southern Europe. Also known as a Gray bichir. Anyway, great fish that seem to tolerate other fish of near equal size and temperament, but not each other.

Contributed by Lou Perkins

These fish make great additions to an aquarium of large fishes. They are not agressive to larger fishes, but will eat small fish. They are not territorial. Some people at your pet store may lead you to believe that these fish are like piranhas and will rip all of your other fish to shreds. Others may tell you that these are great community fish. In a way, both opinions are correct. These fish will tear apart fish that will fit into their mouths, but generally take no interest in any other fishes. They like to eat live foods like goldfish and earthworms, but will accept sinking pellets. These fish do grow quite large, so be warned. If you have a pretty big aquarium, with pretty big fish in it, a polypterus may be a good choice. They look wicked cool in the aquarium. They swim and look sort of like snakes. Almost forgot to mention that these fish are hardy. I am not sure if 8.2 is the best pH, but they will certainly adapt to it. These fish are great!

Contributed by Catherine Hain

These are hardy fish and easy to keep. Often found in pet stores, they're wild caught so they will usually only eat live food such as goldfish, minnows, and they love dew worms. Although it is easy to ween them on to pellets and sometimes flakes. Sexing is not that hard, after they reach about 10-12 cm in length. Males are usually skinnier. The male's anal fin is larger and sticks out, while the female's is slender and goes with the flow of the fish.

Contributed by A.J. Labelle

I bought one of these guys from my local aquarium shop around 2 months ago and he went straight into my 400 liter tank. In there I have Silver Sharks, Red-Lined Torpedo Barbs, a Firemouth and around 18 Plecs of all different types. He was about 10 cm when I bought him and 2 months later he's grown about 5 cm. He will eat almost anything. Obviously with the Plecs in there, there is a fair few cockles and algae wafers etc, as well as flaked food, bloodworm and daphinia. He will eat all of that, and virtually nothing that he can't fit in his large mouth will not be devoured. Amazing to watch, rests on Amazon sword plants or on bog wood sometimes, but is very active through the day. Sometimes un-nerves me a little when he comes right to the front of the tank next to me and just stares. On the whole, this guy is a very cool fish and I'd recommend anyone getting one, though they do eat anything that will fit in their mouths and grow large!

Contributed by Tim McKagan

These are awsome fish! I used to have one, but I was not aware of how much these fish know how to get out of their tank, like ropefish. I own one of those, and he's never even looked at ANY of my tank's openings. My old Cuvier Birchir was great. I kept him in a 75 liter as a baby, but beware, these fish get pretty big and I'd reccomend you put them in at least 200 liters of water when they are at a medium size. Then when they get about a foot long, definitely upgrade to about a 350 liter tank. These guys like to eat shrimp pellets and live foods like bugs and such. If you're looking for a really cool fish, and you have a nice roomy tank, DEFINITELY buy one of these!

Contributed by Nate Blanchard

Dragonfins (P. senegalus) are hardy and elegant creatures. Easy to feed and to spoil (they can get very acquainted with only one type of food, so a balanced diet needs to be monitored). I love watching it swimming by using the lobed fins for primary locomotion and their tail for a quick boost. Mostly a bottom-feeder, it doesn't hesitate to shoot up for floaters, though they will occasionally scrounge the bottom for some snacks. Loves to hide, stays amongst the growth of my tank planted tank. One site tells that dragonfins are jumpers and need to occassionally gasp for air, as they also have lungs. Bruce, my dragonfin, often sits over my powerhead just enough to stick it's head out of the water in case he needs a lungful. I have had good success keeping Bruce with a few cichlids (ornate julie, blue ahli, green terror, yellow prince), mollies, swords, tetras and cleaner shrimp. though only 13 cm for now. Caution against keeping any small fish that can fit in a bichir's mouth, it will surely get nipped or even gulped.

Contributed by Raymundo

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