Large Ornate Bichir in a well-kept aquarium with plants and cave

Full Grown Ornate Bichir: Your Ultimate Care Guide

The Ornate Bichir, an ancient fish species that has thrived for millions of years, can now grace our home aquariums. This guide provides thorough advice on caring for these mesmerizing bichir species.

Dive with us into the world of full grown Ornate Bichirs, who can grow to 24 inches in captivity, for an educational and intriguing journey. These fishes are particularly interesting as they have changed little from their ancestors of the end of the Mesozoic era.

Key Takeaways

  • The ornate bichir is a nocturnal freshwater fish that prefers to hunt and wander at night.
  • It has an elongated body covered in thick, bony plates, and can reach a maximum size of 24 inches.
  • It reaches full maturity in 3 to 4 years and has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, making it a long-term companion.
  • Proper care includes a secure lid and at least a 75-gallon aquarium, a soft bottom with no sharp objects, and a carnivorous diet consisting of bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small fish.

Understanding the Ornate Bichir (Polypterus Ornatipinnis)

Detailed Ornate Bichir swimming in a lush aquarium.

The Ornate Bichir, or Polypterus Ornatipinnis, is a freshwater fish with unique traits and a storied past. These nocturnal creatures, the dragonfish or Ornate Bichir species, are adored for their prehistoric appearance and are common fish which have survived changes from 60 million years ago.

Native to Africa’s Nile and Congo River basins, they thrive in various water conditions. Understanding their characteristics and resilience is key to replicating a suitable aquarium environment.

The Lifespan and Growth of a Full-Grown Ornate Bichir

Full Grown Ornate Bichir featuring a Mature Ornate Bichir showing growth stages in an aquarium.

A slow-growing species, the Ornate Bichir reaches full maturity in 3 to 4 years and typically measures around 20 inches, with the potential to grow up to 24 inches. These fish can live for 10 to 15 years with proper care, offering long-term companionship for aquarists.

Growth and Size

  • Full maturity at 3 to 4 years
  • Average size: 20 inches
  • Maximum size: 24 inches


  • 10 to 15 years (average)
  • Up to 20 years (recorded)
  • Long-term companionship

Comprehensive Care Guide for Your Ornate Bichir

Fully-grown Ornate Bichir in ideal aquarium habitat.

Now, we’re diving into a detailed guide to ensure your ornate bichir. As an aquatic carnivorous creature, this freshwater eel needs a carefully planned environment to flourish. Think of it as giving your bichir the freedom it would enjoy in its natural habitat.

Here’s our comprehensive care guide for a full grown ornate bichir:

  1. Aquarium Setup: Bichirs are known for their ability to escape, so a secure lid is a must. They need lots of swimming space, so we recommend an aquarium of at least 75 gallons. The bottom of the tank should be soft with no sharp objects as Bichir species are bottom dwellers, check the tank water before feeding your adult fish. Also, maintain a temperature between 22 to 30 degrees Celsius and a pH level of 6.2 to 7.8.
  2. Diet: Bichirs are carnivorous and love to hunt. Feed them, particularly the male fish, a variety of meaty foods including bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small fish. However, don’t overdo it as obesity can be a problem.
  3. Behavior and Environment: Bichirs are generally peaceful but can be aggressive towards smaller fish. It’s best to keep them with fish of similar size. Provide plenty of hiding spots with rocks and plants to mimic their natural environment.

We hope this guide assists you in providing the best care for your bichir species, one of which is the largest of the Remember, your pet’s health and happiness, especially an invertebrate or fish like the bichir, lies in your hands. So, follow these guidelines and enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of your freshwater eel.

Caring for the Ornate Bichir – Health Concerns and Solutions

Vibrant Ornate Bichir in aquascape

Despite providing the best care, your ornate bichir might still encounter some health issues, so it’s crucial to identify common problems and understand their treatments.

The health and wellbeing of your full grown ornate bichir relies not only on its environmental conditions but also on your proactive approach to feed your fish, take care of ornate bichir eggs and provide health solutions.

  • Skin irritations: First off, poor water quality can lead to a variety of health issues, from skin irritations to more serious infections. Regular water testing and changes are key to maintaining a healthy environment.
  • Malnutrition: Additionally, a well-balanced diet is crucial to the ornate bichir’s health. A diet lacking in essential nutrients can cause malnutrition, leading to a weakened immune system and susceptibility to diseases. Therefore, it’s important to ensure they’re fed a varied diet rich in proteins and vitamins.
  • Stress: Another common issue is stress, often resulting from inadequate tank size or inappropriate tank mates. Signs of stress include erratic swimming, loss of appetite, and dull coloration. To combat this, ensure your bichir has plenty of space and is housed with compatible species.

It’s also worth noting that while caring for the ornate bichir, regular health check-ups are vital to catch any potential issues early. Look out for changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance.

Common Misconceptions About the Ornate Bichir

Adult Ornate Bichir with question mark in aquarium setting

One common misconception about the ornate bichir, a species of fish native to Africa, is that it cannot coexist with other fish in the same tank. While the ornate bichir is known to be aggressive towards smaller fish that can fit in its mouth, it can actually be kept with other larger, non-aggressive fish.

Another misconception is that the ornate bichir requires a large, elaborate tank setup. In reality, even an aggressive fish like bichir, which may become the largest in your tank, can thrive in an aquarium with plenty of hiding spots such as caves and plants.

Additionally, some people believe that the bichir is a delicate and difficult fish to keep, but they are actually quite hardy and able to withstand fluctuations in water conditions. Overall, it’s important for hobbyists to research and understand the specific needs of the ornate bichir before adding them to their aquarium. 

What Are the Similarities and Differences in Caring for a Full Grown Ornate Bichir and a Great Barracuda?

Caring for a full grown Ornate Bichir and a Great Barracuda requires understanding their natural habitats and dietary needs. Both species need large tanks with secure lids to prevent escape. However, Ornate Bichirs prefer slow-moving waters, while it’s all about the Great Barracuda‘s need for high-speed open waters.


This guide has covered everything about caring for a full-grown Ornate Bichir, from understanding its unique characteristics to addressing health concerns.

We hope it assists you in providing the best care for your aquatic companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some characteristics of the Full Grown Ornate Bichir?

The Full Grown Ornate Bichir, also known as the dinosaur eel, dragonfish or swamp dragon, is a large fish with an eel-like appearance and it is one of the largest fish in the Bichir species. It belongs to the bichir family and can grow up to 38 inches in length.

How should I set up the tank for the Full Grown Ornate Bichir?

You will need a large tank with plenty of space, as these fish can be aggressive. Ensure the main tank water is well-prepared before introducing the bichir, a common fish in central and east Africa, and provide plenty of hiding spots and places to explore.

What should I feed my Full Grown Ornate Bichir?

The bichir is a carnivorous fish that can be fed a variety of foods, including live prey, frozen food, and dried food. However, remember to watch for changes around her genital opening as it might show a possibly serious health condition. Their diet may include earthworms, prawns, mussels, and even mosquito larvae.

Are Full Grown Ornate Bichirs compatible with other tankmates?

While they can coexist with certain fish species, the bichir, a native of central and east Africa, may be aggressive towards other fish in the main tank. Careful consideration of tank mates is essential to prevent any aggression or territorial disputes among adult fish in a Bichir tank.

How can you differentiate between a male and female Full Grown Ornate Bichir?

Males are often larger and may display more aggressive behavior, while females can be identified by the shape of their gills and genital opening, located around the pelvic fins.

Similar Posts