I have owned a violet dragon fish for best part of 6 months. Not at all aggressive, eats blood worms and prawns mainly. The fish is very responsive to anyone who approaches the tank and gets on well with all it's tank mates. Just now he shares a tank with an upside down catfish, three silver dollars, two tinfoil barbs, two Colombian sharks, a rainbow shark and a pictus catfish. All is well, although he sometimes struggles for food because of the way his tank mates hoover up the food. He is about 18 cm long and I am uncertain what his maximum tank size will be.
First of all I'd like to express how misrepresented the polypterids have been. Anyone who has ever owned one will agree that not only are they "voracious predators", but they are more comparable to a puppy (that you can't cuddle). Since I walked by my bichir's tank in the fish store and he peered at me with those sweet lil eyes, I just couldn't contain myself. He settled in very quickly with my two Violet Gobies and a Bristlenose. Now he flutters around the tank gobbling up spirulina (yes I mean algae pellets!), bloodworms and beefheart, and makes the after dinner trip to the waters surface for a gulp of air, trailing little bubbles behind him. He follows me across the front of the aquarium curiously, and flares his dorsal rays. In my experience and opinion the Senegal Bichir, especially, is just as personable as any cichlid. Do some research one their care, adopt a bichir and spread the good word!
I had 2 of these fish but recently one of them jumped out of the tank and died. I then discovered that it is a great escape fish as the opening is only a small gap in-between the lid and my tank! The remaining one seems to be enjoying swimming and does not need any companions. It is a great fish that eats anything including flakes and small fishes that can fit into its mouth! So beware not to put your precious small fish into the tank. Also try not to place ferocious fishes such as cichlids as the bichir's beautiful fins and tails will be nibbled by them!
I have had one of these fish for three years and already it is about 30 cm long. They like to eat small goldfish, which I breed in a separate tank. They like to have a rock cave or a large piece of driftwood to hide in. They are not very hardy, and not good for beginners. I feed them bloodworms a few times a week, remember not to let them get into the gravel. They like a pH of around 7 so you should regularly check this. If you are thinking of getting one, make sure you talk to your fish shop staff to find out what tank setup you should use. I reccommend them to experienced fish owners who are looking for a more interesting and challenging fish.
Also more commonly known as the Senegal bichir. Bichir is pronounced like "biker". This is not a beginner's fish. The bichir is a very interesting addition to any aquarium. They fair the best in at least 200 L aquarium but 300 L is better. They can grow up to 90 cm in the wild. Tankmates that are best are large passive fish bigger than it's mouth. Not too much is known about them, so petstore owners will tell you they are non-aggressive fish which they do seem like, but it couldn't be farther from the truth. They prefer live foods and will eat anything that will fit in their mouths and feed mostly at night. Food you can feed include: beefheart, bloodworms, earthworms, ghost shrimp, small goldfish/feeder fish, tubifex, anything meaty. They do not see well and rely on their sense of smell to hunt their food. The very second some food is in the water, they know it. Bichir is a fairly hardy fish. They are freshwater and also fair very well in a brackish tank which is similar to their native environment. They are egg laying fish and are farm raised. These, just like their ropefish cousins, can be escape artists so a tight cover is needed and they can even hide in your filter when smaller. Ideal pH should be slightly acidic 6.0-6.5 range and temperatures between 25-32°C is ideal. Sexing is fairly easy with experience. Males have wider anal fins than females. They do differ from the ropefish. Ropefish fair better in groups as to where the bichirs do not. You can have more than one in a single aquarium, but must provide ample hiding places like rocks, driftwood, caves and plants or they will become territorial to each other. On the other hand, they can be kept with ropefish fairly well if provided enough food. If you will keep more than one in a single tank, make sure they are of similar sizes...a larger bichir will eat a smaller one. Also, another important fact to remember is bichirs need to come to the surface for air once in a while, so a lower tank is preferred than higher ones. Having the water level slightly low will be great for two reasons...harder to escape the tank, and for them to reach air easily. If you do find your bichir on the ground, pick it up and put it back in even if its looks dead...you may be surprised. They can survive out of the tank for a little while but not nearly as long as the ropefish. Also, best time to feed your bichir is at night. Turn out the lights, put in your feeder fish a watch it feed! I naturally named my biggest and first bichir Harley! :O) Enjoy!
I have a Senegal Bichir (Polypterus senegalus). Presently he is only about 10 cm long and is a very active fish and very interesting to observe. During the daytime he behaves himself and spends most of the time swimming about through the rock caves and plants I have in my 500 litre tank, and occasionally goes out on patrol of the entire tank. When the lights are on he keeps to himself and doesn't hassle any of the other fish in the tank...but when the lights go out he puts on his nasty face. Despite his rather small size, the first night I got him he devoured 7 neon tetras (the LFS must have been skimpy with the feed bag) and now he averages about 3 neon's a night. I just came back from a 3 day holiday and noticed that he took a few shots at the larger rosy barbs in the tank but didn't fair too well...yet. The larger fish in the tank like my rainbow fish, black ghost knife, Distichodus sexfasciatus, and Bala Shark are totally ignored by the bichir, but as this fish grows one should certainly be aware that it will eat anything considerably smaller than it during it's nightly hunts and the feeder fish will have to be larger as the bichir grows. This very unique looking fish is one tough unit which also breathes air with it's lungs...he survived a new tank cycle with bad water conditions with flying colors. I would recommend this fish to anyone who wants a semi-aggressive community tank with similar sized fish. I've started a 150 litre guppy breeding tank to keep this fellow fed. It's a good idea to keep a fair amount of smaller fish in the tank with the senegalus to keep everyone happy. This ancient looking critter is one of my favourite fish and is very enjoyable to keep! He isn't the biggest fish in my tank, but he already has the most respect from the community. I don't think this fish would do too well with overly aggressive fish as it seems to be fairly tranquil and laid back. During the day even the smallest neons swimming in his face don't seem to get a reaction...night time is different. ;)