Bichir Fish in Aquarium: Setup, Care, Decoration, Feeding

bichir fish_bichir aquarium

Bichirs, ranging from medium-sized to massive, with lengths spanning from 12 to 39 inches depending on the species, necessitate adequately sized aquariums to accommodate their varying proportions. Ensuring the comfort and well-being of these majestic creatures is paramount, prompting the need for spacious enclosures that allow for natural movement and behavior.

Bichir Fish in Aquarium: Setup, Care, Decoration, Feeding

Ensuring the optimal conditions for a Bichir fish aquarium entails a meticulous understanding of its specific requirements. The success of maintaining a Bichir fish aquarium hinges upon the adequacy of its size and the environmental factors within it. By meticulously attending to these details, the growth and well-being of the Bichir fish can be truly remarkable.

Senegal Bichir Tank Size Considerations

The Senegal Bichir, a fascinating species, demands careful consideration of tank size. The dimensions of the tank play a crucial role in providing a comfortable and conducive habitat for these unique creatures. A larger tank size allows the Senegal Bichir to maneuver freely, mimicking its natural environment and fostering healthier growth and behavior.

Ornate Bichir Tank Size Requirements

The Ornate Bichir, renowned for its distinctive appearance, necessitates a tailored tank size to thrive optimally. The dimensions of the tank must accommodate the Ornate Bichir’s elongated body and provide ample space for movement. By adhering to the recommended tank size guidelines, enthusiasts can ensure that these captivating creatures flourish within their aquatic habitat.

Essential Bichir Tank Setup Guidelines

Establishing an appropriate tank setup is paramount to the well-being of Bichir fish. From substrate selection to décor placement, every aspect of the tank setup contributes to creating a suitable environment for these remarkable creatures. Attention to detail in filtration, lighting, and water parameters is essential to replicate the Bichir’s natural habitat effectively.

Water Quality and Filtration for Bichirs

1. Water Tolerance: Bichirs are highly tolerant of various water conditions, but it’s crucial to keep nitrite and ammonia levels in check. While pH levels are not as critical, a neutral pH around 7 is generally ideal. Despite variations in water hardness, bichirs can adapt well as long as water quality parameters are maintained.

2. Regular Water Changes: Weekly water changes of about 25% are recommended to maintain water quality and freshness. This helps remove accumulated waste and replenish essential minerals and oxygen in the aquarium.

3. Freshwater Environment: Bichirs are strictly freshwater species and do not thrive in brackish conditions. Ensure the aquarium remains solely freshwater to provide the best environment for your bichirs’ health and well-being.

4. Suitable Filtration: Choose filtration systems that match the size of your aquarium and provide efficient water circulation without creating strong currents. Bichirs typically inhabit areas with slow-moving water, so avoid filters that generate excessive flow or turbulence.

5. Filter Options: Various filtration systems can be used successfully with bichirs, including undergravel, hang-on-back (HOB), and canister filters. Each type offers different benefits, so select the one that suits your tank size and maintenance preferences.

By maintaining optimal water quality and choosing appropriate filtration, you can create a healthy and thriving environment for your bichirs to thrive and flourish in your aquarium.

Bichir Fish Tank Mates: Choosing Compatible Companions

Selecting suitable tank mates for Bichir fish requires careful consideration to avoid conflicts and ensure a harmonious aquatic community. Compatible tank mates should share similar environmental preferences and exhibit peaceful behavior. Introducing appropriate tank mates enhances the Bichir’s social interaction and enriches its overall aquarium experience.

Feeding Your Bichir: Tips and Recommendations

1. Varied Diet: Offer a diverse diet to ensure your bichir’s nutritional needs are met. While they are strictly predatory, they may accept a variety of frozen and prepared meaty foods. Flake foods are generally ignored.

2. Suitable Foods: Frozen bloodworms, krill, silversides, beef heart, and pellet foods formulated for carnivores and catfish are suitable options. Fresh shrimp, mussels, clams, and white-fleshed fish are also accepted. Always thaw frozen foods before feeding.

3. Caution with Live Foods: While bichirs may eat live fish, it’s generally not recommended due to the risk of introducing parasites from feeder fish. Goldfish, in particular, should be avoided as they can cause vitamin deficiencies. Live ghost shrimp and earthworms are safer options.

4. Feeding Frequency: Young bichirs experiencing rapid growth should be fed daily. Older bichirs nearing adult size require less food and can be fed once every other day. It’s okay for them to go longer between feedings occasionally.

By providing a varied diet and adjusting feeding frequency based on your bichir’s growth stage, you can ensure they receive the nutrition they need to thrive in captivity.

Nurturing Bichir Fish: Essential Care Practices

Proper care is vital for the health and longevity of Bichir fish. Regular monitoring of water quality, temperature regulation, and feeding routines are integral components of effective Bichir fish care. By implementing diligent care practices and responding promptly to any signs of distress or illness, enthusiasts can create an environment conducive to the thriving of these captivating aquatic creatures.

Maximizing Bottom Surface Area in Bichir Aquariums

An essential consideration when setting up an aquarium for bichirs is maximizing the bottom surface area. Bichirs are bottom-dwelling fish, and providing ample space for them to explore and forage is crucial for their overall health and happiness. Tanks with wider dimensions, such as ‘breeder’ aquariums, are preferable over taller, narrower tanks, as they offer more horizontal space for bichirs to roam and thrive.

Choosing Tankmates for Your Bichir

1. Size Compatibility: Bichirs are generally not aggressive but can eat smaller tankmates. Choose fish that are too large to be eaten by your bichir to ensure compatibility.

2. Avoid Territorial or Aggressive Fish: Fish that are territorial or aggressive, such as large cichlids or African knife fish, may harass bichirs. Avoid keeping them together to prevent stress and potential injury.

3. Beware of Toothed Fish: Fish with sharp teeth or those known to bite pieces off their prey, such as piranhas, are not suitable tankmates for bichirs.

4. Be Cautious with Sucker-Mouthed Catfish: Some algae-eating catfish may develop a habit of rasping the slime coating off bichirs’ scales, leading to potential infections. Avoid introducing these catfish to your bichir tank.

By selecting tankmates that are compatible in size, behavior, and dietary preferences, you can create a harmonious community tank for your bichir and other fish. Remember to monitor their interactions and be prepared to intervene if any aggression occurs.

Optimal Tank Size for Different Bichir Species

The size of the aquarium should correlate with the species of bichir being housed. For smaller species like Polypterus mokelembembe, Polypterus palmas, and Polypterus senegalus, a minimum tank size of 30 gallons, preferably in a ‘breeder’ style, is recommended to accommodate one or two individuals comfortably. Larger species demand even more considerable tank sizes to meet their spatial requirements adequately.

Scaling Aquarium Size to Bichir Dimensions

Many aquarists, including the author, advocate for scaling the aquarium size in proportion to the size of the bichir being housed. This approach ensures that the fish have sufficient space to maneuver and exhibit natural behaviors without feeling cramped or restricted. Matching the aquarium dimensions to the bichir’s size promotes a harmonious and stress-free environment for both the fish and the aquarist.

Lighting Considerations for Bichir Tanks

1. No Bright Lighting: Bichirs are primarily active during the evening or twilight hours and do not prefer brightly-lit aquariums. Therefore, it’s best to avoid intense lighting that may cause stress to your bichirs.

2. Suitable Plants: If you wish to include live plants in your bichir tank, opt for low-light varieties such as Anubias, Cryptocoryne, or aquatic ferns. These plants can thrive in dimmer lighting conditions and provide natural hiding places for your bichirs.

3. Water Sprite: Consider adding water sprite (Ceratopteris), which can form dense thickets under relatively low light. Small bichirs and reed fish, in particular, may find security and comfort in navigating through the dense growth of water sprite.

4. Providing Hiding Places: Regardless of the lighting levels, it’s important to provide hiding places for your bichirs where they can feel secure. This can be achieved by incorporating caves, driftwood, or dense plantings where the bichirs can retreat and feel safe.

5. Balancing Lighting Needs: If you decide to include high-light plants that require brighter lighting, ensure that there are still ample hiding places for your bichirs. However, be aware that in such an environment, your bichirs may spend more time hiding, reducing their visibility in the aquarium.

By considering the lighting preferences of bichirs and providing suitable hiding places, you can create a comfortable and natural environment for these nocturnal fish in your aquarium.

Ideal Setup for Small Bichir Individuals

For smaller bichir individuals, typically up to about four inches in length, a 10-gallon aquarium serves as an ideal habitat. The compact size of this tank allows young bichirs to navigate easily and locate their food without difficulty, facilitating their growth and development in a controlled environment. Providing appropriate tank size from an early age sets the foundation for healthy bichir growth and adaptation to captivity.

Accommodating Bichir Growth with Suitable Aquarium Sizes

As the bichir undergoes growth and development, its accommodations must evolve correspondingly to ensure optimal living conditions. For bichirs measuring up to approximately 6 inches, a 20-gallon (long) aquarium serves as an excellent residence, providing ample space for their activities and exploration.

Proportional Aquarium Dimensions for Growing Bichirs

As bichirs outgrow smaller tanks, it becomes imperative to adjust the dimensions of their aquarium accordingly. A general guideline suggests that the width of the aquarium should be approximately twice the length of the bichir, offering sufficient room for the fish to maneuver comfortably.

Ensuring Secure Enclosures for Bichirs

Bichirs possess a remarkable ability to escape from their enclosures, underscoring the importance of providing a secure aquarium environment. A tight-fitting lid is essential to prevent bichirs from leaping out of the tank, ensuring their safety and containment within their habitat.

Decorations and Substrate for Bichir Tanks

1. Swimming Space: Ensure your bichir tank provides ample swimming space along the bottom. Bichirs prefer areas with bottom structures, so consider incorporating driftwood pieces or creating caves with aquarium-safe rocks to mimic their natural environment.

2. Substrate Options: The choice of substrate depends on personal preference and tank setup. Some aquarists opt for a bare tank with hiding spots provided by decorations, while others prefer a sandy substrate. Sand prevents the risk of intestinal blockage, a common issue with gravel substrates, as bichirs may accidentally swallow gravel while feeding.

3. Sand Substrate: Sand is a popular choice as it allows bichirs to sift through it without risk of harm. The fine grains easily pass through the digestive tract if ingested. It’s recommended to use aquarium sand, which is specifically designed for underwater environments and won’t alter water chemistry.

4. Gravel Substrate: While gravel can also be used, opt for large-grained varieties to reduce the risk of ingestion and potential blockages. However, gravel substrates may be harder to clean compared to sand.

5. Tank Decoration: Enhance your bichir tank with decorations such as driftwood, petrified wood, or artificial plants. These provide hiding spots, shelter, and natural aesthetics for your bichirs to explore and interact with.

By carefully selecting decorations and substrate options, you can create a visually appealing and enriching environment for your bichirs to thrive in their aquarium habitat.

Addressing Escape Routes in the Bichir Aquarium

In addition to a secure lid, all potential escape routes must be diligently addressed to thwart any attempts by bichirs to leave the aquarium. The author employs pieces of plastic window screen secured with silicone aquarium cement to cover filter openings, minimizing the risk of escape.

Challenges Posed by Other Species in the Aquarium

Introducing other species into the bichir aquarium requires careful consideration, particularly regarding size compatibility and potential prey-predator dynamics. The Congo Tetra, depicted on the left side of the 10-gallon aquarium, serves as an example of a species too large to be consumed by bichirs, mitigating the risk of predation within the tank.

bichir aquarium

Adaptability of Reed Fish in Aquarium Environments

Reed fish, characterized by their elongated, serpentine bodies, possess remarkable agility and are adept at locating even the smallest openings within the aquarium. Their ability to exploit gaps underscores the necessity of thorough enclosure measures to prevent escapes and ensure the safety of all inhabitants within the bichir aquarium.

Keeping Bichirs Together

1. Species Compatibility: Bichirs of different species can generally be kept together in the same aquarium without significant issues. They are not territorial and usually tolerate others of their kind.

2. Size Consideration: While bichirs can coexist, it’s essential to consider their sizes. Avoid keeping bichirs together if there’s a significant size difference, as larger ones may see smaller ones as potential prey.

3. Monitor Aggressive Behavior: Occasionally, individual bichirs may become aggressive towards others, especially if they feel crowded or threatened. If aggression occurs, consider separating the aggressive individual into its own tank to prevent harm to others.

By selecting bichirs of similar sizes and closely monitoring their interactions, you can create a peaceful community tank for these fascinating fish. Always be prepared to intervene if any aggression arises to ensure the safety and well-being of all your aquarium inhabitants.

Keeping Bichir’s Growth rate

The growth rate and eventual size of a bichir depend on various factors including environmental conditions, food quality and quantity, and genetics. Young bichirs can grow at a rate of 1-2 inches per month under ideal conditions, but this rate may slow down as they reach young adulthood.

As for the maximum size, it varies among bichir species. Here are the reported maximum sizes for some common bichir species:

  1. Erpetoichthys calabaricus – Up to 36 inches (usually smaller in aquariums)
  2. Polypterus ansorgii – Maximum size not available
  3. Polypterus bichir bichir – Up to 27 inches
  4. Polypterus bichir lapradei – Up to 30 inches
  5. Polypterus delhezi – Up to 14 inches
  6. Polypterus endlicheri congicus – Up to 39 inches
  7. Polypterus endlicheri endlicheri – Up to 30 inches
  8. Polypterus mokelembembe – Up to 14 inches
  9. Polypterus ornatipinnis – Up to 24 inches
  10. Polypterus palmas buettikoferi – Up to 14 inches
  11. Polypterus palmas palmas – Up to 12 inches
  12. Polypterus palmas polli – Up to 13 inches
  13. Polypterus retropinnis – Up to 14 inches
  14. Polypterus senegalus – Up to 20 inches (usually smaller in aquariums)
  15. Polypterus teugelsi – Up to 16 inches
  16. Polypterus weeksii – Up to 22 inches

It’s important to note that these are the maximum reported sizes, and aquarium specimens may not always reach these sizes. Additionally, proper care and a suitable environment are essential for the healthy growth and development of bichirs.

Longevity of Bichirs: Factors Affecting Lifespan

Under favorable conditions, including a conducive environment and a diverse, high-quality diet, bichirs stand out as one of the longest-lived species among freshwater fishes. Reports of bichirs surpassing the two-decade mark in captivity are not uncommon, highlighting their potential for longevity. Investing in bichirs is not merely a short-term commitment but rather a rewarding endeavor that can span decades.

Health Challenges: Wounds, Parasites, and Other Ailments

Bichirs exhibit remarkable hardiness and resilience against many common aquarium ailments, distinguishing them from other fish species. Instances of bichirs contracting diseases such as ‘Ich’ (Ichthyophthirius multifilis) are rare, even in environments where other fish are affected by the parasitic protozoan. However, bichirs are not impervious to health issues and may encounter challenges such as parasites like Macrogyrodactylus polypteri and internal parasites such as nematodes.

Recognizing Symptoms of Health Issues in Bichirs

Signs of internal parasites in bichirs manifest in symptoms such as weight loss, decreased appetite, bloating, and in severe cases, the appearance of worms protruding from the fish’s anus. Fortunately, many of these health issues can be effectively treated using aquarium medications containing praziquantel as an active ingredient.

Minor Injuries: Common Occurrences in Bichir Communities

In communal bichir setups, minor injuries may occur, often resulting from competition for food resources among individuals. These injuries, typically caused by skirmishes over food, are usually superficial and heal on their own, particularly if the affected bichir remains in good health. Nevertheless, vigilant monitoring is advisable to detect any signs of secondary infections that may develop as a result of these injuries.

Resilience of Bichirs: Recovery from Significant Injuries

Bichirs exhibit remarkable resilience, often recovering from significant injuries such as fin amputations. As long as the base of the fin remains intact, the fins can regrow. The addition of small amounts of aquarium salt can aid in expediting the healing process for such injuries, promoting faster recovery and regrowth.

Hemorrhagic Septicemia: A Common Health Issue in Bichirs

Among the most frequently reported health concerns in bichirs is hemorrhagic septicemia, a condition that can have bacterial or viral origins and is often swiftly fatal if left untreated. Symptoms of this illness include lethargy, loss of coordination, and difficulty swimming normally. Affected bichirs may exhibit floating behavior and display reddish streaks or patches on their bodies. Prompt treatment with a broad-spectrum antibiotic can effectively address bacterial hemorrhagic septicemia, but viral hemorrhagic septicemia typically proves untreatable and fatal.

Addressing Unexplained Bloating in Bichirs

Occasionally, bichirs may experience severe bloating without an apparent cause. Several factors can contribute to this issue, including intestinal blockage resulting from the ingestion of foreign objects such as gravel. When a bichir swallows a non-digestible object that becomes lodged in its digestive system, it can lead to bloating and discomfort. Prompt intervention may be necessary to alleviate the blockage and restore the bichir’s digestive health.

Addressing Bloating in Bichirs: Limited Treatment Options

In cases where bichirs experience bloating due to intestinal blockage from ingested foreign objects, unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available. Aquarists are left with the hope that the bichir will manage to expel the offending item on its own. However, if bloating is suspected to be caused by intestinal parasites or other internal infections, administering a broad-spectrum antibiotic may be worth attempting to alleviate the condition.

Medicating Bichirs: Exercise Caution with Aquarium Treatments

When medicating bichirs, it’s crucial to exercise caution due to their sensitivity to many commonly used aquarium treatments. While bichirs exhibit resistance to several typical aquarium ailments, they are more susceptible to the effects of various medications compared to other fish species. To mitigate the risk of adverse reactions, it’s advisable to initially administer aquarium treatments at half strength, adhering to the manufacturer’s recommended dosage and schedule.

Escaped Bichir: A Common Predicament

The escape of bichirs from aquariums is a distressingly common occurrence, owing to their exceptional abilities as escape artists. Discovering a prized bichir on the floor, seemingly lifeless and covered in carpet lint, can be disheartening for any aquarist. However, bichirs possess ganoid scales and can utilize atmospheric oxygen, enabling them to survive for extended periods out of water compared to most other fish species. Fitness – Meditation – Diet – Weight Loss – Healthy Living – Yoga

Emergency Response for Escaped Bichirs

In the event of an escaped bichir, swift action is imperative to ensure its survival. Carefully retrieve the bichir and gently return it to the aquarium, taking care to avoid causing further stress or injury. Once back in the water, closely monitor the bichir’s condition for signs of distress or injury, providing any necessary supportive care to aid its recovery. With timely intervention and attentive care, escaped bichirs have a good chance of regaining their vitality and resuming normal behavior within the aquarium environment.

Reviving Escaped Bichirs: A Remarkable Resilience

Despite appearing seemingly lifeless after an excursion outside the aquarium, bichirs often display a remarkable capacity for revival. Even individuals that appear “really, most sincerely dead” have been known to be successfully revived with prompt intervention. The key is to swiftly return the bichir to the aquarium and hope for the best, as their innate resilience can often surprise even the most disheartened aquarists.

An Unforgettable Experience: Albino Polypterus Senegalus Makes a Daring Escape

The author recounts a memorable incident involving a young adult albino Polypterus senegalus that managed to leap out of the aquarium through a small opening. Found wriggling on the carpeted floor the following morning, the bichir appeared dried out, stiff, and lifeless. Despite the dire circumstances, the bichir was returned to the aquarium on the off chance that it was “playing possum.” Fish and Fishing accessories

A Miraculous Recovery: The Resilience of Bichirs

To everyone’s astonishment, the seemingly lifeless bichir began to show signs of movement after a few minutes back in the water. Within half an hour, it was swimming around as if nothing had happened, save for a few carpet fibers clinging to its body. The bichir not only survived the ordeal but continues to thrive in a more secure aquarium environment to this day, serving as a testament to its remarkable resilience.

Embracing Bichirs in Home Aquariums

Members of the family Polypteridae, including bichirs, are becoming increasingly available in local fish stores and are gaining popularity as additions to home aquariums. These long-lived fish, with their fascinating behaviors and unique appearance, are worthy denizens of aquariums when housed with appropriate tankmates. As more aquarists discover the charm of bichirs, they are sure to find a cherished place in the hobbyist’s aquatic world.

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