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Polypterus senegalus

Picture of Senegal bichir
Photos © Sean Evans

Common name:Senegal bichir, Cuvier's bichir, Dinosaur eel
Scientific name:Polypterus senegalus senegalus
Synonyms:P. arnaudii
Size:12" (30cm), but can reach 16" (40cm) in the wild.
Origin:Africa: East, West and central.
Tank setup:Larger tank (suggest 48x15"/122x38cm base area), with bogwood and a few plants for decor, sandy substrate.
Compatibility:Predatory, keep with larger fish.
Temperature:25-27oC (77-81oF)
Water chemistry:Fairly soft, slightly acidic (pH 6.5-7) ideal, but not critical as a wide range is well tolerated.
Feeding:Carnivore, feed live foods and dead meaty foods such as earthworms, cockles, mussels and frozen fish such as silversides or whitebait. Will also eat sinking pellets. Bloodworm, krill, etc can be used for juveniles.
Sexing:The male has a wider anal fin.
Breeding:The male may pursue the female for several hours before spawning occurs in a bushy plant. The female will deposit several weakly-adhesive eggs at a time. The young should be separated into small containers as they grow, to avoid them eating each other.
Comments: May show aggression towards others of its own species, but less so than some other bichirs. Like most bichirs, they have a reputation for escaping from tanks, so use a tight-fitting cover. Will eat small fish.
This is the most wide ranging of the Polypterus. Three subspecies are said to occur: P.s. senegalus, P.s. meridionalis and an un-named subspecies which lives in the Nile river system.

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