Bichir Care 101: Understanding Tank Mates, Diet, Size, Types, Etc.

If you’ve been looking for a unique freshwater fish that’ll transform your tank into a prehistoric paradise, the bichir is a great option!

It’s possible to get different types of bichir with various colors and patterns, so you’re sure to find something that fits your aesthetic perfectly.

However, to keep these amazing fish healthy, there’s important bichir care information that you’ll have to keep in mind. From tank size and mates to diet, it’s essential to be aware of what needs to be done. In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about bichir care.

Species Summary

Bichirs are a tropical species of freshwater fish that belongs to the Polypteridae family. These fish are mostly located in Northeast Africa throughout the Nile River and associated tributaries.

Bichirs live in shallow, swampy waters and can even survive in semi-brackish waters. This makes perfect sense when you consider their build and how they’ve remained unchanged for so long!

Their murky environment has led to poor eyesight, so they rely on other senses such as smell and electricity detection to find food and move around. Interestingly, they also have lungs, which allows them to breathe oxygen from the water’s surface.

It’s tough to sex bichirs when buying them, but unless you’re looking to breed them, this shouldn’t make too much difference.


The average bichir lifespan is 10-15 years in captivity, although some can reach up to 20 years in the perfect tank.

How long these fish live for is greatly impacted by their environment, so be sure to take good care of them to keep them for as long as possible.


Bichirs are incredible fish with a prehistoric appearance. Their bodies are scaly, and they have a series of spiny dorsal fins along the top of their back. This continues right into their tail, which fans out to form a large surface area.

On the front of their head, you’ll see two small tentacle-like extensions that help them smell and detect any electricity in the water. Bichirs have two big pectoral fins that they use to move around and even lift off the bottom to crawl.

Types Of Bichirs

When it comes to bichirs, there are a few common types that you’ll encounter in aquariums. Each type may vary in color, length, and other features.

Dinosaur Bichir

The dinosaur bichir (aka Senegal bichir) is the most popular type for many people. These fish are mostly grey and relatively small compared to other types of bichir. However, you might find lighter grey, pink, or blue varieties that deviate from this.

Albino Bichir

The albino bichir is similar to a dinosaur bichir but white with red eyes. Apart from the color, it’s the same!

Ornate Bichir

The ornate bichir is an impressive one. It’s quite large and normally grows to two feet long. They have a yellow base color with black flecks scattered throughout and the spiny dorsal fins are closer together.

Tank Size

Bichirs come from pretty big rivers, so they require a spacious tank. A minimum would be 75 gallons with 6 feet of length, 2 feet of width, and 2 feet of height. If possible, aim for larger if you’re getting multiple bichirs.

Temperature and pH

Bichirs are tropical fish, so they prefer temperatures ranging between 74 and 86°F with a pH of 6.5–7.0. A heater and filter is essential for keeping the water quality and temperature high, so be sure to invest in these items when setting up your tank.

Tank Decor

Bichirs need plenty of decorations such as rocks, driftwood, and plants for them to hide and feel secure. Additionally, having some fine and smooth substrate will do them a lot of good.

Water Changes

To keep the water clean and prevent disease, it’s important to perform regular water changes. Aim to change 10-20% of the tank water every couple of weeks. This will get rid of any nitrates or other toxins that have built up over time.


These fish don’t need bright lighting, but have some lights on a 12-hour timer. This will create a pleasant cycle and also encourage plants to grow.

Feeding Schedule

It’s best to feed your bichir two or three times a day. They’re not particularly greedy, so stick to the recommended amounts for them.


Bichirs can breathe from the surface, but it’s still important to ensure there’s plenty of oxygen in the tank. A good filter should provide enough, but also consider adding an air pump for extra oxygen.


Bichirs aren’t as delicate as some other species of fish, but it’s best to avoid handling them too much. Try netting them if you need to move them, and don’t overclean the tank either.


The tank should be cleaned regularly, the water quality should be monitored, and make sure to check out your bichir for signs of distress. It’s also important to take them to a vet if they become ill.

Common Problems

Incorrect water parameters can cause fungal and bacterial infections, while poor water quality and overfeeding can lead to fin rot. Be sure to do regular checkups and water changes to avoid these issues.

Other Tips

Make sure to keep an eye on the bichir tank at all times. Predators can be a concern, so have a lid or some sort of protection to stop any intruders from entering. Additionally, keep their tank away from any direct sunlight as this can overheat the tank.


The bichir is an incredibly cool prehistoric fish with a lot of history behind it. To ensure your bichir lives a long and happy life, you need to understand the basics of bichir care.