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Main Index > Detailed Fish Profiles > Miscellaneous species > Reedfish or ropefish
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This page will give a completely detailed profile of the selected fish, from A to Z. The profiled fish will be chosen randomly by Badman, and will come from the complete genre of tropical fish. New profiles are added on a regular basis. If you would like to submit a profile for the site please contact me. Don't forget to let us know you experiences with this fish by filling out the



Erpetoichthys calabaricus

Erpetoichthys calabaricus



    An ancient species that has become common in the trade they are related to Bichirs and have similar needs.
Quick stats:
    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: Up to 35" (90cm) Total Length
    Tank: 55+ gallons
    Strata: Bottom
    PH: 6.0 to 7.5
    Hardness: Soft to hard. dH range: to 22.0
    Temperature: 79°F to 86°F (26-30°C)


    Family: Polypteridae
    Order: Polypteriformes
    Class: Actinopterygii
    Genera: Erpetoichthys
    Species: Calabaricus

Common name:

    Reedfish, Ropefish

Image gallery:

    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    Africa: Cameroon and the Niger river. Ogun River mouth in Nigeria to Chiloango River in Congo Brazzaville
    Reedfish at fish base

General Body Form:

    Long and snakelike, there are no Ventral fins. The dorsal fin is broken up in a series of ten or eleven individual small finlets which is usually not extended so rarely seen. The anal fin is similar with the males having twelve to fourteen rays and the female nine to twelve

Erpetoichthys calabaricus

    Not a striking fish the body is basically green, with the exception of the belly being yellow and the Black spots at the base of the pectoral fins
Erpetoichthys calabaricus

    The most important aspect of keeping the reedfish is a very tight fitting cover, they are escape artist and will fit out of the smallest holes. If they do manage to escape they have been known to survive for several hours out of water and it may be possible to save it if found in time. The aquarium should be heavily planted and provide plenty of hiding areas among roots or driftwood. Good filtration and the addition of some sea salt is beneficial. Try to keep a minimum of two fish. Generally peaceful and will get along with most fish, try to avoid keeping them with large Cichlids. The reedfish is a nocturnal eater and can be easily fed on crustaceans and insect larvae and can adapt to the more meat like available foods such as tubifex, bloodworms and earthworms. They will eat smaller fish if given the chance

    Heavily vegetated Swamp or marsh areas of the Niger river delta



Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Mylo
There is a rope fish in my 55 gallon tank. He rarely hides and is quite active. Never had a problem with jumping or escapism. But plan to fortify lid. I warn you I have had a pictus cat as well as a large golden gourami turn up dead with a large hole in their belly. Perhaps he was not getting enough food. But all the other fish are smaller and I truly suspect Mr. Roper is the guilty party. You've been warned.

From: Jerry I.
I have three ropes one male two female the female stay together n male is a lonesome.. I have a five by five platform is center of tank bout one half an inch from water surface with dwarf hairgrass surrounding a two inches surface on sand I middle growing they all when sit up there and relax couple times a day i fed my rope ghost shrimp and they eat neons they leave rosy alone.
From: Some1fishy
I have two of these gals.. I think they are gals, bought together, it is very hard to count their spines! They are about 14 inches now. My tank is well covered, but I still hear an occasional thump from when they try to jump out. Mine hide behind a large rock that I have covered with Java moss. They seem very smart- they will breath the bubbles from the bubble screen sometimes. It is lovely to watch them swim in tandem also. I feed them after I turn all lights out because the other fish are quicker eaters than they are. Their tank mates include gourami's, a 6 inch angel, 5 tiger barbs, a cory cat, marbled hatchets, pleco, and khuli loaches. They have eaten my clown loaches, and another cat that apparently were small enough, but I have seen the khuli loach lying next to them. So funny, and such personality! My daughter calls them the "leviathans", but their names are "Orky" and "Nessie" after the famous seamonsters.
From: Jack Elias
I have had the pleasure of having one of these fish for a long time, somewhere between 16 and 18 years. I had no idea this fish lived that long. I came across this site while looking for information on how long these fish live. My fish has been very easy to care for and is the only inhabitant of a 32 gal tank. I feed it both live and dry foods, the latter being shrimp pellets or freeze-dried tubifex cubes stuck to the inside of the glass. The live fish are Guppies obtained from a neighbor when she thins out her tanks. I can put 50 or 60 guppies of all sizes in the tank and all but a few will be gone in a few days. The smart and fast ones last a little longer but will be caught in time. This fish is an accomplished escape artist and I have had to make a custom lid for the tank with absolutely no means of escape. It did get out once and when I found it it was pretty dry but I put it in the tank and it recovered. I have a submersible heater so only it's cord and 3 air lines need to go through the lid. I especially enjoy the personality of this fish. It greets me when I enter the room and if I splash my finger at the top of the water it will come up to greet me.
From: Sarah Smith
I have three of these in my 55g with my unpaired angelfish and a dragon goby. They are doing great! I've had them about a year and lucky too as my tank does not have a cover and they've never tried to escape. They eat everything I give them from flake to bloodworm to algae tabs. I would love to figure out the breeding of them, but so far do not have the tank space to try. (soon!) They are the coolest fish ever!
From: Susie
I just bought two of these fish less than a week ago and they are truly amazing! My poor male somehow was wedged into the filter and died, but my female is as lovely as ever. She's swimming around and will rest in my hand. I have found that real driftwood makes the water smell bad, so I prefer the look alike driftwood. They are great. The only Issue I have with them is that so far they have not eaten, but from what I have read things will be OK.
From: Brian Friend
Awesome, awesome, awesome fish !!!! Although , This is the second time owning this fish . The first found a small hole in the hood of the tank while I was out of town and died on the floor . : ( I was able to find two more several months later . Their names are cheech and chong . They are the most fascinating creatures ever. I have caught my self literally watching them for hours at a time . They are a little bit aggressive with each other though . I'm assuming they have no teeth because they bit each other all the time , but never ever leaves marks . I also have other fish in the tank as well as a fire belly newt . The male reed fish ( chong ) loves the newt so much I think he's having a love affair with it . It also seems that the female ( cheech ) is a little bit jealous of it too . I could go on and on about them ,I love them so much . I highly recommend having them . As others have said , make sure all holes are closed up in your tank. You will get very much attached to them and if anything would happen to them , it's like loosing a dog .
From: Kyle
This fish makes for great fun! its pretty easy to take care of, feeding on almost any live food(i.e. crickets, bloodworms, and tubifex worm cubes). this fish does jump but if it gets out it can live for about 8 hours on a hard floor(on carpet its gone)out side of the water. It does breath air and will drown if it cant get to the surface. They like groups but can be kept alone or with other mid-sized fish. Keep in a 45-55 gallon tank with the water about 2 inches from the top of the tank. I'm trying to breed mine but it seems be harder than it sounds. But these are fun fish and bring hours of joy!
From: Nadene
Well..... I've had 2 of these fish for about a week now and they are nightmares but fun! they seem to like getting into our pump which we have now had to block off, and yesterday one escaped, I found him on the floor in my living room, so I ran to him quickly and picked him up and put him back in the tank. The only piece of advice I have for anyone that has these fish is to keep all holes sealed other wise your little friend may escape and although they can survive for a few hours you might not be around!!!
From: Alex
I have kept two of these marvelous fish for easily a year now. It is great fun to place drift wood(not waterlogged) in the tank and have them crawl up and over it. I have found that they adore shrimp pellets oddly enough. They will also eat small crickets given the chance. Simply put the crickets in the water and they should drift towards the glass wall(If they don't cep them out) this is a fun trick once your ropefish have learned to eat effectively from the surface. You can easily train them to do this by putting freeze-dried bloodworms on the surface. The blood worms will stick to the side of the glass at the water-line and the ropefish will cruise along the class and chomp down on the bloodworms. Once they have learned this, they readily accept crickets when they see them. Mine are out in open water constantly, maybe holing up in a cave for a minute or two every 20 minutes. As mentioned in before articles, keep your lids closed and duck tape or seal all filter gaps, or heater opening in the lids. They relish live earth worms. Feed them earthworms weekly or bi-weekly as available. You will see a big boost in energy and in willingness to be seen. I keep mine with a 6 inch Polypeterus senegalus, a 12 in Polypeterus orntapinnis, a African Butterfly fish, a Brown Knifefish, a unicorn blood parrot fish, and a Red Tail shark.
From: Brad Janzen
We recently got 2 of these fish and they are entertaining when they come out. Because they are nocturnal, they don't often come out during the day. When they do it is a treat! They seem to get along with all our other fish (which includes some blue rams).
From: James Hay
This fish is great! I have a small one sharing a tank with a Gray Bichir, Rainbow Snakehead, African Knife and some Synos. Never had any problems with this fish at all and it is very easy to feed. My Rope likes eating frozen bloodworm and some chopped up prawn. Two words of warning tho, try not to startle them as I've found that they panic and try to jump out of the tank and secondly make sure there are no gaps in your lid as they will find them and crawl out!





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