Tropical Fish for Freshwater Aquariums: Ornate Bichir
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Ornate Bichir, Captive-Bred
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Ornate Bichir, Captive-Bred (Polypterus ornatipinnis)

Quick Stats

Care Level Moderate
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Color Form Tan
Diet Carnivore
Water Conditions 77-83° F, KH 1-12, pH 6.5-7.5
Max. Size 2'
Origin Captive-Bred
Family Polypteridae
Minimum Tank Size 180 gallons
Compatibility View Chart
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Overview

The Ornate Bichir, Polypterus ornatipinnis, is considered the most attractive of the Bichir group. It is a Lobe-finned Pike, a freshwater fish originating from Africa. As with other members of the primitive Polypteridae family, the Ornate Bichir has the unique ability to survive out of water. With a lung-like paired swimbladder and gills to help breathing, the Ornate Bichir can spend short periods of time on land, but must soon return to its water environment for adequate respiration.

The Ornate Bichir does best in a large "oddball" aquarium, densely planted with numerous hiding places, and a sandy bottom. This species is semi-aggressive in the fact that they will swallow any fish or invertebrate that they can fit into their mouth. Be careful in choosing passive tank mates for the Bichir, as they are very passive towards other large fish. However, they are aggressive towards their own kind, and only one should be incorporated into an aquarium, unless the aquarium is very large. Prone to jumping, a tight, well-sealed aquarium lid is required.

Eggs are deposited on clumps of vegetation; however, breeding in the hobbyist's aquarium setting is not common.

Approximate Purchase Size: Medium: 2-1/2" to 3-1/2" Large: 3-1/2" to 4 1/2"

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Customer Testimonials

Christie Thompson Livermore , CA

I have had an Ornate Bichir for a couple of years now and I would have to say that this is my absolute favorite fish. Some of his tank mates include several different kinds of catfish, Bala Sharks, Jellybean Parrotfish, freshwater flounders, and five turtles. He gets along with everyone extremely well unless they are bite size. Our turtles love him and he doesn't seem to mind their occasionally clumsy behavior. When I purchased him he was about 4 inches in length and now he is about 10 inches long. He is friendly, interesting, and docile. He doesn't hide often and is fun to watch. I would highly recommend an Ornate Bichir to anyone who wants a large fish who is not too aggressive.
Matthew Blankenship Washington , DC
I have two in a 45-gallon tank. So far I have had no problems with keeping them with other fish. They are easy to take care of, and in a year they grew from 4 inches to a foot. They are healthy and doing well so far. These are good fish!
Nick Nguyen Cypress , CA
I purchased an Ornate Bichir and a Sengal Bichir two and a half years ago. These fish are among the easiest species to care for. I keep them in a 50-gallon tank. The tank is pretty barren - it consists of gravel, stones, and driftwood. I keep the water neutral, a pH of 7.0. I keep the water at eighty degrees Fahrenheit, and the lighting at medium. Bichirs aren't picky eaters - I feed mine earthworms, crickets, mealworms, goldfish, guppies, and beef heart. My Ornate Bichir adds an attraction to my tank. I recommend these fish for aquarists of all ages.
Jonathan Ischia Melrose , MA
From my experience with this species, they vary widely in size and coloration. As youngsters they need adequate cover to adjust to newly captive surroundings. However, as they grow a little older, they become very hardy and adaptable to tank mates (as long as size isn't edible) and water conditions. Once owned one sold in pet trade as a Chevron Snakehead - had Desert-Storm-type camo colors. He eventually shared space with a 3-foot Spectacled Caiman, and was not afraid to snatch mice from the jaws of his roommate.
Damon Krick Bremerton , WA
I was lucky enough to care and raise a Polypterus Ornatipinnis for a ten year period watchin it mature from a three inch worm to a massive 18"LG by 2" peaceful big guy. Although not to be trusted with fish he can gulp down, he got along well with a variety tropical fish as he grew and moved from the 40 gal breeder starter to a planted 50gal acrylic hex, and ultimately 180gal big fish only setup. He loved frozen beef heart, mysis shrimp, and sinking carnivore pellets, and recognized me when it was feeding time. After many trips out of the tank and 4' fall to the floor this guy hung in there. Even once he was almost totally dred out and he survived. BEST "FISH" FRIEND I have ever had a chance to raise. Highly recommended if you can give him the space he needs, ultimately 120 gal or larger.
1-5 of 5 testimonials

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