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Senegal Bichir

Scientific Name: Polypterus senegalus
Family: Polypterus

About the Senegal Bichir

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Ancient Fish

Care Level: Very Easy. Will tolerate a wide range of water parameters including pH, temperature and hardness. Can tolerate higher nitrate levels than other fish and is hardy enough to withstand the cycling process. Will readily eat prepared foods and has no special care requirements.

Origin: Lake Oguta, Imo State, Nigeria

Compatibility/Temperament: 3, never put these fish with any other species that can fit inside their mouth


Senegal bichirs are extremely hardy in the sense that these often are known to adapt well even in poor water conditions however this should not be encouraged in the sense that fish will actually prefer good water quality rather than living in very poor conditions which can cause consequences to their health. Keeping them is rather easy as they can adapt to various water conditions.

This fish is somewhat not attractive with color ranging from silver gray to yellow brown. This fish is full of personalities and are often entertaining to watch. Shortbodied morphs are now available around the trade although they are often considered as rather deformed fish are not often to be encouraged for sale promotions. Albino and platinum morphs are also available although the latter still commands a very high price due to high demands.

This fish is rather primitive-looking owing to its primitive features and have been known to exist for quite a long time. Its dorsal fin is made up of small fins often called finlets and these are actually rather serrated so it is advisable to handle them carefully or risk suffering cuts around your hands.

Bichirs do not have swim bladders but they do have air breathing organ which acts similarly to lungs allowing them to breathe air on the surface. This allows them to live even in water where oxygen is rather low. In this case, logic must be applied that if the fish is prevented from swimming to the surface, they will eventually die. Tank depth is not of importance. 12 inches height will often suffice however they will prefer a long tank owing to their rather long and slender body shape.

Suitable tankmates are fish that are too large for the bichirs to eat. It is not recommended to mix them with fish that are small enough and will eventually be eaten. Fish with slender or serpentine body shape in particular are very likely to be eaten.

This species of bichir is commonly available and more and more are often seen being imported around the aquarium trade.

To stimulate bichirs to breed, a combination of top quality water, very frequent water changes, soft/acidic water (around a low 6 PH), and careful temperature changes are required. The reason for this is the need to simulate the dry to rainy seasons which occur in their natural habitat; at first cool temperatures (not too cold!) with the water level slightly lower than normal, and then warmer water with as high a water level as your aquarium can go. The anal fin size often is an important factor in determining the gender of the bichir. Males are said to have wider anal fins in comparison to the females. Females lay their eggs in the cup-like anal fin of the male. Juveniles have external gills which will eventually disappear as it matures.

Senegal Bichir Diet

Bichirs are primarily carnivorous and will appreciate fresh frozen and live foods, however, they can be accustomed to eating dried foods such as sinking pellets. They are ambush predators and may stalk and prey on smaller fish.


Can get up to 1 foot, but if placed in an aquarium of over 6 feet, they can grow over a foot.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

75 gallons

Ideal water parameters for Senegal Bichir

The Senegal Bichir should be kept in an aquarium with the temperature ranging from 76 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and a Ph of around 7.

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Senegal Bichir 1
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Senegal Bichir 3

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