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Polypterus ornatipinnis

Picture of Ornate bichir
Photo © Sean Evans

Common name:Ornate bichir
Scientific name:Polypterus ornatipinnis
Size:18" (46cm), but sometimes reported exceeding 24" (61cm).
Origin:Central and East Africa: Congo river basin, Lake Tanganyika.
Tank setup:Large tank (suggest minimum 60 x 24" / 152 x 61cm base area), with bogwood smooth rocks and possibly a few robust plants for decor, sandy substrate.
Compatibility:Predatory, will eat small fish. Keep with larger fish such as Knifefish, cichlids, etc. Inclined to bite others of its own species.
Temperature:26-28oC (79-82oF)
Water chemistry:Not critical: fairly soft to medium hard, slightly acidic to alkaline.
Feeding:Carnivore, will eat dead meaty foods such as baitfish, mussel and prawn/shrimp, as well as sinking pellet foods.
Sexing:The anal fin of the male is larger in mature specimens.
Breeding:The male wraps his body around the females genital area, so that the anal and caudal fins form a cup to receive eggs. The adhesive eggs are then scattered onto plants and other surfaces. The eggs hatch in 3-4 days. Larvae begin feeding after about a week, when the yolk sac is used up.
Comments: One of the most strikingly patterned of the bichirs, this species is quite commonly available. It usually commands a high price than other common Polypterus such as P. palmas and P. senegalus. Despite the soft, acidic conditions often recommended for this fish, its occurence in Lake Tanganyika would suggest that water chemistry is not critical as long as the quality is good.

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