Aquarium Livestock Pet Care Guides




Tank Temperature:



6.5-7.5; soft water

Tank Requirements:

Tank should have a tight-fitting lid; soft, sandy substrate; driftwood, rockwork, and plants to provide plenty of cover; pristine water quality.


Carnivorous; will eat a variety of foods, including worms, prawn/shrimp, silversides or other baitfish, meaty frozen foods, and sinking pellets.


Bottom-feeders; moderately aggressive, but relatively peaceful with larger tankmates; nocturnal predator; territorial and aggressive towards other Bichirs of the same species; may escape from aquarium, lid highly recommended.


Community safe, with caution; acceptable tankmates include knifefish, large barbs such as Tinfoil Barbs, larger and non-aggressive African cichlids, and medium catfish.

Species Overview

"Polypterus" translates to "many fins", referring to one of their defining characteristics, multiple dorsal spines and finlets. These prehistoric looking fish have long, slender, snake-like bodies with protruding nostrils and large, paddle-shaped pectoral fins, which are used for locomotion. Bichirs (bee-shers), as they are also known, also have a modified swim bladder that is like a lung split into horizontal sections. This is an adaptation for survival in low oxygen natural environments which allows them to take gulps of atmospheric air.

These fish prefer long, shallow tanks. You may see them periodically rise to the water's surface to take a gulp of air. You may choose to minimize the ornamentation in the tank to reduce the likelihood of territorial behavior, but Bichirs will be more comfortable with rock caves or driftwood where they can hide, especially during daylight hours. They are nocturnal in nature and are best kept in tanks with subdued lighting.

Polypterus are not terribly aggressive towards other species and can be kept with other fish that will not be mistaken for prey. On rare occasions, they may accidentally bite a tankmate. They have notoriously poor eyesight, and rely on their sense of smell to find food. They may bump into and miss food a few times before they find it, or mistake a tankmate for something to eat. Despite their poor eyesight and normally slow movement, they can move exceptionally fast when necessary and should not be underestimated. They typically have healthy appetites, and will feed on many types of meaty foods from shimp or carnivore pellets to freeze-dried or frozen offerings.

We always suggest that you do further research before adding a new pet to your tank. What we have provided for you are guidelines and suggestions. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our fish room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or

Recommended Items

Feeding Tongs
Frozen Foods
Feeding Tray
Fine Substrate/sand