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Family: Anabantidae

Common Names: Leopard Ctenopoma, African Spotted Leaf Fish, Spotted Climbing Perch, Leopard Bushfish, Spotted Ctenopoma

Origin and Habitat: Congo River basin in Africa. Occurs in habitats from fast-flowing rivers to quiet still ponds but shows a preference for still even stagnant waters.

Compatibility/Temperament: Though not aggressive, it is predatory by nature and should not be kept with smaller fish [see comments under Description]. It is also shy and retiring, so fish larger than itself may disturb it. In a larger tank it can be kept in a group provided all fish in the group are introduced at the same time to avoid territorial fights; otherwise, an individual fish in a 55g or larger aquarium works best, with a group of Congo Tetra, medium peaceful barbs, non-aggressive catfish as possible tankmates. Aggressive cichlids are not suitable tankmates as this fish will not easily defend itself.

Leopard Ctenopoma Diet

A carnivore eating small fish, amphibians and insects in its habitat, this fish may only eat live foods at first but most report success with frozen krill or ocean plankton, prawn, bloodworms; some will take floating pellet food. Live earthworms, mealworms and insects would be ideal treats.


Very slow growing to 8 inches though in captivity more frequently seen around 6 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

48 inches in length, such as a standard 55g.

Ideal water parameters for Leopard Ctenopoma

Soft to medium hard (< 15 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.5) water, temperature 24-28C/75-82F.


Hardy and long-lived (up to 15 years), this is a suitable fish for aquarists who want to venture into the more unusual species. This fish goes under several common names in addition to Leopard Ctenopoma, including African Spotted Leaf Fish, Spotted Climbing Perch, Leopard Bushfish and Spotted Ctenopoma. Although closely related to the true climbing perches (Anabas species), it is not known to leave the water and traverse land.

Primarily an ambush hunter, it will lie motionless usually at the edge of a plant thicket and pounce on unsuspecting prey. This fascinating behaviour can be observed in the aquarium if live food is provided. The fish's resemblance to a floating leaf (hence one of the common names, leaf fish) is for camouflage while stalking its prey.

A well-planted aquarium with a dark substrate, very dim lighting (this fish is naturally more active at dusk and dawn), and minimal flow from the filter will suit this species admirably. Bogwood arranged to provide hiding places is appreciated by this fish. The tank should be well covered, as this fish will jump. As noted under Compatibility, this is a predatory species and it can swallow fish up to 1/3 of its own size, so tankmates must be carefully selected. The fish periodically "yawns" similar to the true leaf fish, during which the size of the mouth is quite apparent.

Though difficult to sex, males have spines behind the eye (on the gill covers) and at the base of the caudal (tail) fin while these are less well developed on females; these are not easy to see however. The fish is an egg scatterer and does not practice parental care. Reports of spawnings in aquaria are few.

In common with all the species in the suborder Anabantoidei, this fish possesses an auxiliary breathing organ called the labyrinth, named because of the maze-like arrangement of passages that allow the fish to extract oxygen from air taken in at the surface. The fish must use this accessory method, and it allows the fish to live in oxygen-poor muddy waters. To accommodate this, the aquarium must be kept covered to maintain warm moist air above the surface.

Although this fish mimics the leaf fish, it is not closely related to the species in the genera Polycentrus and Monocirrhus; nor is it in the genus Anabas (true climbing perch) although it is occasionally seen as A. acutirostris which is invalid. The species was described as Ctenopoma acutirostre in 1899 by J. Pellegrin. The genus name comes from the Greek ktenos meaning comb, a reference to the comb-like spines on the gill cover; the species name is from the Latin for long nose.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: jeaninel, Byron

Fish Organism Marine biology Terrestrial animal Adaptation
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