Bichir Care: Tank Mates, Diet, Size, Types

bichir fish

Are you a fish lover looking to add some variety to your aquarium? Bichirs may be the perfect addition for you.

These unique fish are known for their impressive size and distinctive appearance, making them stand out among other tank mates.

But before diving into bichir care, it’s essential to understand their specific needs regarding diet and tank setup.

This article will cover everything from suitable tank mates to proper feeding habits and the different types of bichirs available on the market.

In this article,  you’ll learn about the size of tank needs, their best diet, suitable tank mates, and more.

Scientific Classification

  • Scientific Name: Polypteridae
  • Common Names: dinosaur eel, dragon fish
  • Genus: Polypterus
  • Family: Polypteridae

Overview Of Bichirs

Bichirs are fascinating freshwater fish that have been around for a long time.

They belong to the Polypteridae family and mainly inhabit Northeast Africa, specifically the Nile River and its associated tributaries.

These fish prefer shallow, swampy waters and thrive in semi-brack environments.

Because of their habitat’s murky waters, bichirs have poor eyesight but rely on their other senses to navigate and find food.

They have an excellent sense of smell and can detect electricity in the water using the ampullae of Lorenzini organs.

Despite being predators, bichirs face threats from larger animals such as crocodiles and hippos.

Regarding feeding habits, they are carnivorous and feed on small fish, insects, crustaceans, worms, and even frogs.

Bichirs reproduce through internal fertilization, where males use their modified anal fin to transfer sperm into females’ genital opening.

Lifespan Of Bichirs


As with any living creature, the lifespan of bichirs can be influenced by various factors.

Bichir aging is affected by diet, water quality, and tank mates. If they are kept in poor conditions or exposed to harmful bacteria, their health could decline quickly.

Therefore, paying close attention to these factors is essential if you want your bichir to live a long and healthy life.

Additionally, feeding them high-quality food will help strengthen their immune system and prevent diseases from taking hold.

By following these longevity tips, you’ll have a better chance of extending your bichir’s lifespan beyond its average 10-15 year mark.

Physical Appearance Of Bichirs

Bichir’s anatomy is unique and fascinating. Their body structure resembles a snake, with scaly skin texture and color variations ranging from dark brown to grayish-black.

The dorsal finlets are one of the most distinctive features of a bichir, extending down their tail which helps them move swiftly through the water.

Their fins play an essential role in their mobility as well.

Bichirs have two large pectoral fins for propulsion, while their pelvic fins help them maintain stability in the water.

Additionally, their eyes are placed on top of their head rather than on the sides like other fish species.

This allows them to easily spot prey above them while remaining hidden among rocks or plants below.

Overall, the physical appearance of bichirs truly reflects their prehistoric origins and makes them a stunning addition to any aquarium setting.

Different Types Of Bichirs

When it comes to bichir species, there are a few popular ones that you’ll see in aquariums.

One of the most common is the Senegal Bichir, which is dark brown or black and can grow up to 20 inches long.

Another popular option is the Ornate Bichir, which has a more colorful appearance with orange and yellow accents on its fins.

When setting up an aquarium for bichirs, it’s essential to consider their habitat requirements.

They prefer hiding spots like caves or driftwood and sandy substrate for burrowing.

Bichirs are carnivores for feeding habits and eat anything from live insects to frozen shrimp.

Regarding reproduction, they lay eggs that hatch into small larvae before developing into fully-grown fish.

To create the perfect aquascape for your bichir tank mates, incorporate lots of plants and rocks while providing plenty of open space for swimming.

Dinosaur Bichir Characteristics

The dinosaur bichir, also known as a Senegal bichir, is a popular species. Its coloring is generally grey and does not reach the same size as other bichirs.

This fish is a favorite for many aquarists, thanks to its easy-going nature and relatively small size.

A varied diet of worms, insects, shrimp, and small fish is recommended for optimal health.

The average size of a fully grown dinosaur bichir is 14 inches, but it can reach 20 inches.

Other types of bichirs may threaten the dinosaur type due to potential competition for resources or aggression towards each other.

Albino Bichir Characteristics

Albino bichirs are a unique species of fish that are highly sought after by aquarium enthusiasts.

One main characteristic that sets them apart from other bichir species is their stunning albino coloration, which results from a lack of melanin in their skin cells.

This gives them a beautiful white appearance with striking red eyes.

Because of this, it is highly sought after by experienced aquarists.

Ornate Bichir Characteristics

The ornate bichir is an incredible and fascinating creature, growing to an impressive two feet in size. They boast a stunning yellow base color, with black speckles scattered around, particularly on the spiny dorsal fin.

Saddled Bichir Characteristics

The Polypterus endlicheri, commonly known as the Saddled Bichir, is an impressively large fish.

These bichirs are the biggest of their kind, reaching up to two and a half feet in length. They are light yellow, with black or dark grey stripes covering their body.

One interesting aspect of the Еndlicheri bichirs is their protruding lower jaw. Though not very pronounced, it is visible upon closer inspection.

Delhezi Bichir Characteristics

The Delhezi Bichir has a form and dimensions comparable to other bichirs.

Its most remarkable characteristic is its eye-catching coloration, and its primary color is grey, but it also features yellow and green dots along with faint black stripes.


The average bichir fish comes in a range of 14 inches in size. It all depends on the type of bichir you select, and other things like care and genetics also affect the size.

It’s important to take note of the bichir size before you purchase. The type of bichir you select will be its primary size indicator.

But other factors such as care and genetics also play a role.

So, no matter what type of bichir you choose, it’s good to be aware of the size range and other factors that influence it.

This way, you can ensure the bichir you get is your desired size.

The growth rate of this species heavily relies on its diet and living conditions.

This species can be intimidating regarding a size comparison as it’s larger than most aquarium fish.

Basic Bichir Care

  1. Bichirs are an interesting type of fish to keep, and understanding the basics of their care is essential.
  2. Tank mates should be chosen carefully, as some fish may be too aggressive for bichirs.
  3. Their diet should include frozen foods, earthworms, and other small meats.
  4. Depending on the species, bichirs can grow from 14 inches to 2.5 feet long, so keeping them in an appropriately sized tank is essential.
  5. There are several types of bichirs, including the Polypterus and Erpetoichthys calabaricus.
  6. With the right care, bichirs can be an enjoyable addition to any tank.

Tank Mates

When it comes to bichir care, choosing compatible species for tank mates is crucial.

These fish are known for their aggressive behavior and territorial tendencies, so finding other fish that won’t trigger these negative traits is essential.

While they don’t necessarily require social interaction with others of their kind, they need enough space to establish their territory without feeling overcrowded.

Some good community tank options include larger cichlids or catfish that can hold their own against the bichir’s occasional aggressive outbursts.

Avoid small or slow-moving fish, as they may become easy targets for the bichir’s hunting instincts.

With careful consideration and planning, a well-thought-out aquarium environment can provide a peaceful coexistence between your bichir and its compatible tank mates.


Bichirs are carnivorous fish and require a diet rich in protein. Their nutritional requirements can be met through live and frozen food options such as shrimp, krill, and small feeder fish.

Feeding frequency will depend on the size of your bichir and its age. Younger bichirs should be fed more frequently (2-3 times daily), while adult bichirs can go longer without eating (every other day).

It’s important to note that overfeeding can lead to health issues such as obesity and digestive problems.

Supplemental feeding options like sinking pellets or dried bloodworms can also be used sparingly as treats for added variety in their diet.

A healthy diet will ensure your bichir stays healthy!

Size And Types

Bichirs come in various sizes and species, ranging from small (around 8 inches) to large (upwards of 2.5 feet!).

It’s essential to consider your tank size when choosing a bichir, as they can quickly outgrow smaller tanks.

Additionally, different bichir species have different growth rates and habitat requirements.

Some species prefer sand substrate, while others require more hiding places like caves or plants.

Overall, research is key when selecting a specific type of bichir for your aquarium and ensuring their compatibility with other tank mates and habitat requirements.

Ideal Tank Size For Bichirs

Regarding bichirs, the ideal tank size is crucial for their well-being.

If you’re thinking of adding these fish to your tank, you’ll need a minimum tank size of around 90 gallons for just one, and yes, it may sound large, but these fish are known for being active swimmers and need ample space to move around comfortably.

Here are some factors to consider when setting up the perfect environment:

  1. Tank filtration: Bichirs produce a lot of waste, so investing in a high-quality filter system is essential.
  2. Decor options: Providing hiding places such as caves or plants will give your bichir a sense of security.
  3. Lighting needs: Bichirs prefer dim lighting, so avoid bright lights that can stress them out.
  4. Water changes and temperature control: Regular water changes and temperature monitoring will keep your tank healthy and stable.

Caring for bichirs requires dedication and attention to detail, but providing them with an adequate habitat is essential for their happiness and longevity.

With proper planning and execution, you can create a thriving aquatic environment for your beloved pets!

Water Parameters For Bichirs

Maintaining proper water parameters for your bichirs is essential in ensuring their overall health and well-being.

Regular water changes are necessary to keep the ammonia levels under control, which can harm your fish if left unchecked.

If you have a heavily stocked tank, aim to do at least a 25% water change every two weeks or more frequently.

In addition, it’s essential to regularly monitor your aquarium’s pH levels. Bichirs prefer slightly acidic water with a pH range between 6.2-7.8.

The water temperature should range from 74°F to 82°F for optimal conditions. For the best results, the water should be classified as soft, and the KH should be within 5-20 dKH.

Remember that sudden fluctuations in pH levels can cause stress and even harm your fish.

Invest in reliable filtration systems that can help maintain stable water conditions by establishing the nitrogen cycle and reducing toxic ammonia levels in the tank over time.

By taking these steps, you’ll ensure your bichir thrives in its environment without the risk of ammonia toxicity or other common problems associated with poor water quality.

Tank Setup For Bichirs

When setting up a tank for your bichir, it’s essential to consider several factors beyond just the substrate.

One key element is the filter system you choose.

Bichirs are known for producing a lot of waste, so investing in a high-quality filtration system will help maintain good water quality and prevent a build-up of harmful bacteria.

Another factor to consider is lighting options.

While bichirs don’t require special lighting like other fish species, providing them with a natural day/night cycle can be beneficial.

Soft LED lights that mimic daylight can create an appealing environment for you and your fish.

Regarding decor ideas, bichirs aren’t too picky but appreciate hiding spots like caves or driftwood. Live plants can also add oxygen to the water and cover your bichir.

We strongly suggest a sandy substrate since it’s what they’re used to, and it’s soft and comfy for them (they are bottom-dwellers, after all)

To keep their habitat clean and healthy, they perform regular water changes.

How often you need to change the water depends on factors such as tank size and how many bichirs you have living in it.

Generally speaking, though, aim to change 20-30% of the water every two weeks.

Common Diseases In Bichirs

Keeping your bichir healthy is essential, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, they can still fall ill.

Here are some common diseases that bichirs may experience and how you can prevent or treat them.

One of the most common diseases in bichirs is Ich, which presents as small white spots on their skin.

Other symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, and rubbing against objects in the tank.

A parasite causes this disease and can be prevented by maintaining good water quality through regular water changes and quarantining new fish before introducing them into the main tank.

Treatment options for Ich include raising the temperature of the water slowly over several days or using medication specifically designed to kill parasites.

Prevention tips include avoiding overcrowding in the tank and not mixing different species without proper research.

Another disease commonly seen in bichirs is fin rot, which affects their fins and tail.

Symptoms include frayed edges on fins, discolored patches, and potential tissue damage if left untreated. Fin rot is caused by bacteria that infect wounds or weakened areas on the body due to poor water conditions or stress.

To prevent it from occurring, maintain a clean environment with consistent water changes and avoid overcrowding in tanks.

If your bichir contracts fin rot, treatment options involve removing damaged tissue or administering antibiotics under veterinary supervision.

Remember to quarantine infected fish during treatment to prevent further spread among other inhabitants in the tank.

Food And Diet For Bichirs

As mentioned earlier, these fish are carnivores and need a protein-rich diet to maintain their health.

It is recommended that you feed them a variety of live, dry, and frozen foods rather than relying solely on pellets or flake food.

When it comes to bichir feeding, variety is key.

Some good options include bloodworms, weather loaches, shrimp, nightcrawlers, and ox hearts.

However, it’s important not to overfeed them as this can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Depending on size and age, you should feed your bichir once or twice a day.

Feeding frequency may also depend on whether they’re juvenile or adult bichirs.

Additionally, you can vary the feeding methods by hand-feeding them or using a feeding stick to stimulate natural hunting behavior.

By providing your bichirs with the right food and feeding practices, you’ll be able to keep them healthy for years to come.

Behavior And Temperament Of Bichirs


Understanding the behavior and temperament of bichirs is crucial to their care.

Bichirs are known for being solitary creatures that prefer to be alone, but they can tolerate other fish in their tank as long as they aren’t seen as a threat.

It’s important to note that bichirs have aggressive tendencies towards any fish they perceive as prey, so it’s best to avoid adding smaller fish into their tanks.

Bichir aggression levels depend on the individual species and size of the bichir.

Some types may display more aggressive behavior than others, so it’s essential to research each species before introducing them into your tank.

Additionally, social interaction with humans is rare among bichirs since they’re primarily nocturnal creatures.

To ensure your bichir feels comfortable in its environment, provide plenty of hiding spots and keep the water quality optimal.

Understanding these key behaviors and temperament traits can create an ideal habitat for your bichir.

Suitable Tank Mates For Bichirs

Finding a suitable bichir tank mate can be a bit tricky.

These fish can be aggressive and naturally carnivores, so any fish of their size or smaller is not recommended.

Bigger fish make much better tank mates, as they can’t be mistaken for food and won’t be picked on.

Some good tank mates for bichirs are Oscars, Flowerhorn cichlids, African knives, Clown Loaches, Jack Dempsey fish, and Silver Dollar fish.

It’s also essential to ensure enough food reaches the bottom of the tank. If the bichir is underfed, this can lead to health issues or increased aggression.

There’s good news for those looking to keep more than one bichir in the same tank.

Although this is a rare practice, they can get along quite well if you have a large enough tank.

Breeding Bichirs In Captivity

When it comes to breeding bichirs in captivity, there is limited information on successfully breeding them.

However, some general breeding practices have been successful for certain types of bichirs.

Environmental stimulation, such as cooler water temperatures and soft acidic water, can encourage spawning behavior in Senegal bichirs.

The male will court the female with a light blow on the head, and this ritual can take up to two days. When fertilized, the female will look for a suitable place to lay her eggs.

Once fertilization is complete, it’s time to remove the parents and start feeding the fry.

Nutritious options like brine shrimp and micro worms are an ideal way to promote their growth.

Ensure they get enough grub and will be ready to go soon!

Tips for Breeding Bichirs:

  • Provide environmental stimuli such as cool water temperatures
  • Offer a diet high in protein
  • Choose bushy plants for egg-laying sites

Breeding bichirs can be challenging but rewarding if done successfully.

It’s important to research specific types of bichir you wish to breed and experiment to see what works best for your setup.

With patience and persistence, you may just witness a new generation of these fascinating creatures come into existence!


In conclusion, owning a Bichir can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for any fish enthusiast.

They are fascinating creatures with unique physical characteristics and interesting behaviors.

However, it is important to ensure they have suitable tank mates and the correct diet to thrive.

While there may be some challenges when caring for Bichirs, such as their potential aggression toward smaller fish, they can greatly add to any aquarium with proper research and care.

Their long lifespan also means they will provide companionship for many years. So if you’re looking for a unique aquatic pet, consider adding a Bichir to your collection!