Senegal Bichir

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Species group:

Other common names: Grey Bichir; Cuvier's Bichir; Dinosaur Eel; Nigerian Senegalus Bichir

Scientific name: Polypterus senegalus

The basics:
The Senegal Bichir is an eel-like fish which is native to slow moving, heavily vegetated rivers in tropical Africa. They are popular, though challenging, additions to home tanks in that they are famous for their ability to escape, and can be quite territorial. The Senegal Bichir uses its sense of smell for hunting, as it is does not have great vision. To enhance smell, it has external nostrils which protrude from the nose. The Senegal Bichir has a modified swim bladder that allows it to gulp air from the surface of the water periodically, thus functioning as a lung. It is interesting to watch it dash to the surface in an aquarium for breathing. A distinctive feature of this fish is that it can remain out of water for nearly indefinite periods of time, if the skin stays moist.

The Senegal Bichir has an elongated body, matching in depth and width. It is a silvery brownish-grey in color. Typical of the polypterids, a serrated dorsal fin extends along its body up to the caudal fin. The pectoral fins are found just behind the gill openings and are responsible for the Bichir's locomotion. This lends the fish a slow and graceful appearance. Generally reaching about 14 inches, this is one of the smaller species among the Bichirs. It has a small head and resembles a lizard with the gaping mouth and small-set eyes on either side.

12-20 inches

Grey Bichirs are predatory by nature. They will not spare any live or dead animal that can be swallowed or torn apart. The only impediment is its speed. The pectoral fins let it cruise very slowly. Even its best spurts of speed do not let it catch fish of average speed. However, with time and opportunity, smaller fish will eventually be eaten. Thus, fish smaller than 3 inches do not make good tank mates.

The tank should have a minimum size of 30 gallons. For bigger fish, 50 to 80 gallons is advisable. The tank is decorated with rocks and bogwood. Bichirs may accidentally swallow gravel while feeding. To prevent this, a sand substrate may be provided. The height of the tank is not as important as the floor space, which should be plentiful. However, there should be a gap at the top allowing the fish to gulp air. These fish can escape quite easily. Hence, the aquarium has a secure lid. If allowed to escape, the fish will go quite a long distance before drying out and dying.

77.00-82.00 °F


110.000-200.000 mg/L


favorite fish, Awesome Creatures, personable fish, snakelike fish, Cool Primitive Looking


proper tankmates, aggressive bichir, decent sized tank, exceptional escape artists, chemical levels


air breathing capability, poor eyesight, lobed pectoral fins, primitive look, night light

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