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Senegal bichir - Polypterus senegalus

Senegal bichir - Polypterus senegalus

Scientific name: Polypterus senegalus

Common name: Senegal bichir

Family: Polypteridae

Usual size in fish tanks: 20 - 30 cm (7.87 - 11.81 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 6 - 7.5

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 4 - 18°N (71.43 - 321.43ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 25 - 30 °C (77 - 86°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: Africa

Temperament to its own species: peaceful

Temperament toward other fish species: peaceful

Usual place in the tank: Bottom levels

General care

When setting up the aquarium for this fish remember that it will require a tank with a large footprint, low flat tanks are ideal as the depth of the water is irrelevant when keeping these fish. They are excellent jumpers however and a lower depth of water can compound this problem so always make sure that you have a tight fitting lid to prevent the fish from escaping. The Senegal Bichir also has very poor eyesight but this does not prevent them from exploring the aquarium as they have a very strong sense of smell, a few plants should be added along with some rocks or pieces of driftwood, adding hiding places will increase the confidence of the fish.

Although this species is considered to have a peaceful temperament it will eat tank mates that will fit into its mouth, bear this in mind when adding fish to the tank or they could disappear overnight.


This carnivore will eat anything it can capture, dead or alive. Offer them meaty foods such as prawns, small pieces of filleted fish or even the occasional meal of beef heart. Senegal bichir will also accept flakes, pellets, frozen and dried foods.


The male Senegal bichir has a broad anal fin when compared to the females. Females are also noticeably larger than the males.


Captive breeding is rare for the egg scattering Senegal bichir. The female can lay hundreds of eggs which should be removed from the breeding tank.

Strangely enough it is the male that will scatter the eggs, during spawning he will take the eggs from the female using his anal and caudal fins. He will then fertilise the eggs and spread them around any planted areas. Once hatched the fry will not require feeding until they are free swimming, this should take up to 3-4 days but even then they are not that active so try to position their food within a close distance or they could use up a lot of energy trying to feed.

The fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp.


The lifespan for Polypterus senegalus is 12 years or more, depending on how well it is cared for.


This species can be found all throughout Africa’s rivers and lakes. The Nile River, Lake Chad and Senegal River are just a few of the main bodies of water this fish can be found in.

Short Description

Polypterus senegalus is also known as the dinosaur eel because of its elongated, eel-like body and its serrated dorsal fin that is dinosaur-like. This species, however, is not a true eel. The small pectoral fins of the Senegal Bichir only allow this fish to swim slowly, preventing it from being a better predator. A modified swim bladder gives the Senegal Bichir the ability to breathe atmospheric oxygen.


Bought by from Also thanks to Jitka Kleteckova!

Senegal bichir, picture 1 Senegal bichir, picture 2 Senegal bichir, picture 3 Senegal bichir, picture 4 Senegal bichir, picture 5 Senegal bichir, picture 6 Senegal bichir, picture 7 Senegal bichir, picture 8

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