Quick Care Facts
• Care Level: Easy • Temperament: Semi-aggressive • Maximum Size: 18"
• Minimum Tank Size: 90 gallons • Water Conditions: 75-82° F, KH 5-12, pH 6.5-7.5
• Diet: Carnivore • Origin: Africa • Family: Polypteridae
• Species: Bichirs • Aquarium Type: Large-Bottom-Dweller
Senegal Bichir native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.
Senegal Bichir are widely distributed across Africa, where they can be found living in a variety of slow moving shallow waters including: swamps, marshes, lakes, estuaries and small tributaries. They can grow upwards of 18 inches in length in the wild, but generally only grow to about 12 inches in the home aquarium. They are considered a semi-aggressive species since they will eat fish small enough to fit in their mouths, but will not bother larger fish species.
The majority of Senegal Bichir available within the aquarium hobby are farm raised specimens that do very well in the aquarium environment when provided proper water conditions and aquarium size. Bichir have several interesting adaptations, which include a divided swim bladder and primitive lung. These adaptations the fish to take in oxygen from the air, allowing it to survive out of water for some time, provided it is kept moist.
Like Ananbantoid species, they will actually drown if denied access to atmospheric air. Young bichirs even have amphibian-like external gills which are lost as the fish matures into adulthood. These adaptations along with their amphibian like behaviors of hiding during the day and hunting at night, exhibit a clear link between the modern bichir and amphibians.
How to successfully keep Senegal Bichir in the home aquarium.
An ideal aquarium setup for an adult Senegal Bichir will have a foot print of 6 x 2 feet or larger, a soft sandy substrate and a mixture of smooth rocks, plants and driftwood. Due to the shape of the Senegal Bichir and its swimming habits it is important to provide an aquarium with plenty of depth and length, with the height of the aquarium being less important.
As a nocturnal species, the Senegal Bichir will appreciate areas of the aquarium that are either not brightly lit or are shaded by vegetation or driftwood. Proper tank mates for the Senegal Bichir should be large enough to not be considered food (anything small enough to fit in their mouth), but not so aggressive that they will harass the Bichir. Senegal Bichir are adept at finding their way out of aquariums and onto the floor, thus a tight-fitting aquarium cover is needed.
Senegal Bichir do well with other large semi-aggressive tank mates including larger South American and African Cichlids. They do not do well with aggressive Cichlids or Cichlid large enough to view the Bichir as a food item. In general, hobbyists should have no trouble keeping Bichir in their home aquarium, as they are a very hardy species that has been successful in nature for millions of years.
Feeding & Nutrition
How to properly feed Senegal Bichir and provide a healthy diet.
The Senegal Bichir is a carnivorous species that will consume a variety of meaty foods both in the wild and the aquarium environment. Essentially the Senegal Bichir will see any other fish or invertebrate species in the aquarium that are small enough to fit in its mouth as food. However, in order to provide them the vitamins and minerals that they need to support a healthy immune system they should not be fed a diet solely of feeder fish.
A good diet for the Senegal Bichir will have a variety of meaty foods including: earthworms, prawns, mussels, raw shrimp and various types of feeder fish like silver sides and lance fish. Some Bichir have been known to accept commercial meaty pellets and wafers, but generally they do best with live or frozen foods. They should generally be fed 1 to 2 times per day an amount of food that they will consume within 5 minutes.
When first added to the aquarium, Bichir are more likely to feed with the aquarium lights off or dimmed as they are a nocturnal species. Being a nocturnal species with poor vision, the Senegal Bichir has developed an excellent sense of smell which they use to locate food in low lighting conditions. Feeding them with the aquarium lights off gives them an advantage over tank mates who use eyesight as a primary method of detecting food.
Click or Tap Photos below for Full Size Photos
Click or tap the images below to view full size images, then click or tap off the image to shrink again.