Aquarium fish: Reedfish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)
Size: 60 cm
Origin: Africa
Water temperature: 23-30 ° C
Aquarium volume: 400 l

Reedfish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) – freshwater aquarium fish from the multifinned family with a characteristic “snake-like” body.


The species inhabits the slowly flowing rivers and standing waters of West and Central Africa . Prefers muddy and not too deep waters.

Characteristics and disposition

In the natural environment, it reaches about 90 cm in length. In an aquarium, it rarely exceeds 60 cm .

It is distinguished from other multifins with a long, eel-shaped body and no pelvic fins. Olive green coloration, orange-yellow belly. Dorsal fin composed of a series of clearly separated hard rays. An adult male has more of these rays – 12-14 compared to a female – 9-12. During the spawning period, the male’s anal fin is clearly thickened, in the female it smoothly passes and joins the caudal fin.

They have an auxiliary respiratory system – primary two-lobed lungs – thanks to which they can breathe atmospheric air . In the absence of access to atmospheric air, they will simply drown. In the wild, they live in water with a low oxygen content, and even for a long time are able to withstand without it. Young reeds, like amphibians, also have external gills that disappear with age. It is the only species in the genus Erpetoichthys.

The fish are extremely hardy and nocturnal. They have poor eyesight, but a perfectly developed sense of smell. Referred to as “living fossils”. Together with the sturgeons, they are the only living representatives of bone-chondral fish. Recommended for rather advanced aquarists.

Nutrition and feeding

Reed weeds are carnivorous fish and usually do not eat dry food in an aquarium, although there are individuals that eat food for discus fish. Animal-derived foods – live or frozen, such as shrimps, small fish, chopped earthworms, krill, bloodworm, insect larvae, etc. – are the most suitable for them. Their delicacies are tadpoles, small frogs, snails and clams.


The aquarium should first of all be long and wide.

Minimum 150 cm long – depth is of secondary importance. Fish need numerous hiding places. For decoration, it is best to use the roots, dried bark (from a deciduous tree). They can also be plastic pipes with a diameter of about 5 cm, which, apart from the entrance and exit, will be covered with a soft substrate. The tank can be planted with plants that do not require intense lighting, such as Nurzaniec giant, Zwartka, Vallisneria, Cryptocoryna .

In part of the reservoir, it is best to do without lighting at all. Reed beetles do not like strong water current, they feel best in stagnant water. They are experts at escaping from an aquarium that must necessarily be covered. A good solution is to glue reinforcement strips along all the walls of the aquarium. You can also lower the water level by at least 15 cm.

However, the best solution is to make an island in the middle where the fish will be happy to bask. This will reflect their natural environment. Relatively mild species, can be kept in a species aquarium or with other large peaceful fish. Catfish , larger tetras , Severum cichlids, and Skalary will be a good company . Small fish (about 3 cm) that fit into their mouths will be eaten.


The successful breeding of these fish in the aquarium has not been documented. Spawning usually takes place with a simultaneous drop in atmospheric pressure and 1/4 of the water is changed. The male chases the female by biting her tail and anal fin. It even takes several hours. When the female is tired, the male approaches her and starts twitching and hitting his head on the female’s head.

The breathing increases rapidly, indicating the excitement before spawning. Then the fish look for a suitable place to spawn. The male catches the back of the female’s head with its mouth, arranges the anal fins in a bowl where the female spawns, after which the eggs are fertilized and scattered by him.


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