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Bichirs are living fossils belonging to the Polypteridae family. They are a sister family of ray-finned fishes that have developed similar characteristics such as a pair of functional lungs and the Ampullae of Lorenzini (organs that can sense electricity, also known as electroreceptors).

They belongs to the genus Polypterus, which means ‘many wings’ – given due to their look. There are about 12 species in this genus recognized as Bichirs all from freshwater systems of tropical Africa.

Tank Setup

They are quite large and sturdy fish that require specific water parameters and large tanks.

  • They prefer softer waters
  • Temperature 72-82°F
  • Neutral pH (between 6.5-7.5)

Tank substrate is an important choice. Gravel can be an option, however, is not usually found in their natural environment. Sand is the best option.

They are not too fused about tank decoration, so you can add anything you prefer. Plants can be very useful, as they provide cover from light.

You should leave some air space above the water at the top of the tank to allow your fish to breathe. As they can survive in low oxygenated water quite easily, they don’t have specific filtration or aeration requirements. However just like any other tank they still need a good filtration system to get rid of the toxic chemicals produced from leftover food.

Don’t forget to put a tight cover on your aquarium as they will probably jump or crawl out of your tank.

Tank Mates

These fish are quite good tank mates providing the fish you put in the tank don’t fit into their mouth!

They usually do well with larger fish, so think Oscars, Blood Parrots, Flowerhorns, large Barbs, Knifefish, medium and large Catfish, and large peaceful African Cichlids.

Bichirs are quite slow-moving, so can have some problems with fast active tank mates stealing their food. As bottom-dwelling fish, they might starve as other fish can steal their food before reaching the bottom of the tank.

Remember though, they are predatory fish. So smaller fish and other non-fish inhabitants are discouraged as they will be eaten. They tend to hunt at night and by morning you might notice some of your smaller fish are missing.


Bichirs are nocturnal predators. They are carnivorous fish and enjoy eating small vertebrates, crustaceans, insects, and other small fishes.

It is better to feed them with live food rather than pellets or artificial food.

Feeding them live food will bring out their natural predatory behaviors. They are slow eaters and you can feed them bloodworms, frozen shrimps, small fishes, and small pieces of meat such as ox heart, or earthworms.

Care Level:Intermediate
Color Form:Species dependent
Lifespan:15-20 years
Size:10-30 inches
Minimum Tank Size:90 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater
Compatibility:Large cichlids and catfish


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