Polypterids an introduction and primer 4.0

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beblondie

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Care of young
Young bichirs, in this example P.senegalus as they breed in captivity and are now being farm raised and are the most readily available subjuvenile of the bichirs and the cheapest ( $5-10) range and they are incerdibly small when we buy them 2''-3'' is about normal .

This is how I raise them, there are certainly other ways. I use the step up system, in other words small fish small tank as it grows I move it up to bigger tank. Its a three step process I use they start off in a 10 gallon tank with the water level reduced to about half the tanks volume,
fine gravel or sand for the substrate and silk plants for cover and to float in. I use a sponge filter. At this stage they are fed bloodworms and baby brine, shrimp, chopped squid and very small silversides. I feed small portions a few times a day. This isn't possible for many but try feeding in the morning and again at night, between now and 7" they are undergoing their greatest growth and are constantly hungry.

When they reach approx. 5'' I add a small power filter and raise the water level to approx 2 inches under the trim frame. At this size they are
bigger, foods include small feeders, ghost shrimp, bloodworms earthworms etc. They stay in this tank till 7-8'' at which point I move them to a 20 gallon long for final growout. These steps allow the bichir room to exercise but still small enough so its easy to find/catch food. Of course if I get a bigger specimen 5-6'' they would go into the 10 gallon then move up to the 20 long this gives me time to watch for any signs of illness. Remember many bichirs are wild caught quarantine is a good habit to get into.
 
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beblondie

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Tank size
Bichirs do not need a great deal of water depth in their tanks, 8 to 12 inches is actually sufficient for any of the species. The minimum tank size for a single small species of bichir is a tank with a footprint of 36''x12''x16'', your standard 30 gallon tank. However bigger is almost always better so if you're looking to primarily house bichirs listed below are some tank sizes to consider for the smaller species:
30 gallon 36''x12''x16'' (this is the minimum size for 1 smaller species bichir)
30 gallon Breeder 36x18x12''
33 gallon Long 48x13x12
40 Gallon Breeder 36x18x16
40 gallon Long 48x13x16
50 Gallon 36x18x18
75 Gallon 48x18x20
125 Gallon 72x18x22 *See note
150 Gallon 72x18x28 *See note

For the bigger species:
120 Gallon 48x24x24
180 Gallon 72x24x24

The above are fairly standard sized tanks and should be available through your local stores

*note The difference here is in the depth of the tank 6'', unless you feel the need for the
extra depth the 125 is the better/cheaper choice.
 
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beblondie

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Lighting
Bichirs are low light loving animals, if you want plants plan on low light loving plants 1watt-1.5 watts of lighting is sufficient to grow many plants without disturbing your fish. And since many species of bichir are more dinural and nocturnal than others. Consider accessory lighting that simulates moonlight this will allow viewing them in a more natural lighting when they would be out and about.
 
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beblondie

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Filtration
I recomend multiple filters one on each end of the tank and each rated for five times the tanks volume per hour ie. 50 gallon tank fifty x ten = 500 so each filter should turn half of that per hour or 250 gph minimum, 300 gph is fine. I use canister, hangon and sponge filters. With HOB (hang on back) filters, measure exactly the opening needed for the intake and outflow and cut the opening with a utility knife (vinyl) or jigsaw (hard plastic). With canister filters simply drill holes run the intake and outflow tubes through them and you will have only a small notch with the heater power cord in it. If you plan on using a tank with a sump and internal overflow cover the top of the overflow leaving only the slots open otherwise the bichir will wind up in the overflow.
 

beblondie

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Heaters
I recomend submersable heaters rated at 2 1/2 -5 watts per gallon, depending on the location of the tank. Bichirs prefer high 70's to mid 80's water tempurature. I recomend titanium heaters instead of glass as they are unbreakable. I also highly recomend either placing the heater in your sump if you use one or at the very leasta heater guard, you can buy one or make one.
 

beblondie

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Water chemistry
In their natural occuring range in West and Central African rivers, lakes and swamps bichirs are found in water conditions varying in pH values between 6.5 to almost 9.0. Water hardness varying between 2dH to almost 20dH. Tempuratures ranging from mid 70'sF to mid 80'sF
with a dissolved oxygen content between 3.3 parts per 1000 by volume and 2.50 parts per 1000 by volume. 3.3 parts per 1000 by volume is common in aqauria kept at 75 F. These water parameters will flucuate thruought the year as dry season gives way to the rainy season and rivers rise and swamps flood often lowering water temps for short peroids of time .As you can see they are tolerant of a wide range of water
conditions.

Brackish bichirs?
Bichirs are freshwater fish and, though some are found in rivers near where they empty into the ocean, the water they inhabit is fully fresh.
Polypterus ornatipinnis and Polypterus e.congicus are sometimes found in Lake Tanganyika which has hard, alkaline water but are rarely, if ever, found in the lake itself. Instead, they inhabit the swampy areas where river water empties into the lake proper.
 

beblondie

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Tank set up
Bichirs are low light loving fish as many are nocturnal and some diurnal. The tank needs a secure top or lid with any opening plugged as some species are escape artists and others can jump well. The water level needs to be 2-3 inches below normal as bichirs need to breathe air from time to time. The substrate should be sand or finely crushed gravel. driftwood with short bushy plants attached or anchored under it.
In general I find it hard to have live plants as bichirs tend to uproot them searching for food, floating plants are a good option though, I silicone silk plants to nylon needlepoint canvas and bury it in the substrate in one square foot sections makes it easier to remove to clean and rebury in the substrate. One last point no sharp edges bichirs tend to move close to things and sharp edges remove slimecoat.
 

beblondie

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Bichir biotopes

African River
West and Central Africa are full of rivers. Within each of these river systems are
numerous biotopes -- this description will focus on species found in slow-moving
sections and side streams.

Water:
pH 6.9-7.2,
3-8 dH,
temp;75-81F (24-27 C)

Tank:
The tank should be furnished with wood for hiding places, and fine gravel or sand for a substrate.
The lighting should be muted, and the water should have a slight current.

Plants:
Bolbitis heudelotii , Anubias, Vallisneria, Eleocharis.

African Swamp
The waters support a variety of species and vigorous plant growth making it an ideal subject for a biotope aquarium.
Reedy plants line the shores of waterways

Water:
pH 7.2-7.8,
2-8 dH, 7
Temp:70-75F(21-24 C)

Tank:
The tank should have fine gravel, sand, or clay for a substrate.
Dense vegetation and floating plants help recreate the natural setting.
Use submerged wood to provide hiding places.
The lighting should be bright and the water should be clear.

Plants:
Bolbitis heudelotii, Ammannia, Marsilea, Eleocharis, Anubias, Nymphaea, Water
African Swamp
 

beblondie

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African Plants

Simple floating plants
Azolla africanas (tropical Africa)
Azolla nilotica (Eastern africa)
Azolla pinnata (africa)
Azolla filiculoides 9Africa
Salvinia natans (Northern Africa)
Ricciocarpus natans (cosmopolitan)
Ricca fluitans (cosmopolitan)
Lemna gibba (cosmopolitan)
Lemna pauciocostata (cosompolitan)
Lemna minor (cosmopolitan)
Lemna Angolensis (cosmopolitan)
Wolffia arrhiza (middle and south africa)

True floating plants
Eichhornia crassipes (egypt)
Eichhornia natans (africa)
Trappa natans (eastern africa)
Utricularia vulgaris (north africa)
Utricularia platytera (nigeria)
Utricularia neottioides (africa)
Utricularia stellaris (africa)
Utricularia flexousa (africa)
Utricularia foliosa (africa)
Utricularia exoleta (africa)
Utricularia gibba (africa)
Utricularia neglecta (africa)
Najas minor (africa)
Najas pectinata (africa)
Najas falciculata (africa)
Najas graminea (africa)

Ferns
Ceratopteris thailctroides (cosmopolitan)
Bolbitis heudelotii (ethiopia-south africa)
Marsilea diffusa (tropical africa)
Ceratopteris cornuta (africa)
Ceratopteris pteridoides (cosmopolitan)
Ceratophyllum demersum (africa)
Ceratophyllum submersum (cosmopolitan)

Mosses
Riccia fluitans (cosmopolitan)
Leptodictyum riparium (cosmopolitan)
Riccia rhenana (cosmopolitan)

Rosette plants
Anubias hastifolia nigeria cameroon ziare ghana togo
Anubias afzelii (senegal,guiena,mali )
Anubias congensis (west africa, congo river)
Anubias nana (west africa, congo river)
Anubias lanceolata (west africa, congo river)
Anubias nana (west africa, congo river)
Anubias frazeri (west africa, congo river)
Anubias coffeeolia (west africa, congo river)
Anubias barteri (west africa, congo river)
Anubias giantea (west africa, liberia cameroon ivory coast)
Anubias heterophylla (senegal,cameroon)
Anubias pyaertii (senegal,cameroon)
Anubias gilletii (west africa)
Blyxa radicans (africa)
Blyxa orzettrum (africa)
Crinum calamistratum
Crinum natans (cameroon)
Crinum tortifolia (africa)
Eleocharis minima (tropical africa)
Eleocharis parvula (africa)
Aponogeton distachyus (south africa)
Aponogeton abyssinicus
Aponogeton pusillus (africa)
Aponogeton boivinianus
Aponogeton ulvaceus
Aponogeton madagascarensis
Aponogeton longiplumulosus
Aponogeton capuroni
Nymphaea alba (algeria,tunis)
Nymphaea lotus (east africa)
Nymphoides indica (tropical africa)
Vallisneria spiralis (central and east sudan)

Plants with long stems
Brasenia schreberi (west africa)
Hydrilla verticillata (cosmopolitan)
Hydrocotyle vulgaris (northern africa)
Hyrgrophila corybosa (senegal)
Myriophyllum spicatum (central africa)
Myriophyllum verticillum (africa)
Nesaea pedicellata (east africa)
Nesaea crassicaulis Africa)
Potamogeton perfoliatus (africa)
Potamogeton crispus (africa)
Potamogeton lucens (africa)
Potamogeton natans (africa)
Potamogeton malaianus (Africa)
Potamogeton schweinfurthii (africa)

Stem plants
Ammannia gracillis (tropical africa)
Ammannia senegalensis (senegal)
Bacopa crenata (africa)
Bocopa monnieri (africa)
Lagarosiphon major (south africa)
Lagarosiphon muscoides (south africa)
Lagarosiphon cordofanus (africa)
Nitella gracilis (cosmopolitan)
Ranalisma humile (west africa)
Elatine macropoda (east africa)
Limnophila indica (africa)
Ranunculus delphinifolius pond plant
Zosterella dubia star grass
Otelia alismoides (tropical africa)
Lindernia parviflora (africa)
Lophotocarpus guyanensis (tropical africa)

Reeds
Sparganium ramosum
Lilaeopsis mauritiana

Cosmopolitan Plants
The following plants are considered cosmopolitan(found everywhere)

Simple floating plants
Ricciocarpus natans (cosmopolitan)
Ricca fluitans (cosmopolitan)
Lemna gibba (cosmopolitan)
Lemna pauciocostata (cosompolitan)
Lemna minor (cosmopolitan)
Lemna Angolensis (cosmopolitan)

Ferns
Ceratopteris thailctroides (cosmopolitan)
Ceratopteris pteridoides (cosmopolitan)
Ceratophyllum submersum (cosmopolitan)
Ceratophyllum demersum

Mosses
Riccia fluitans (cosmopolitan)
Leptodictyum riparium (cosmopolitan)
Riccia rhenana (cosmopolitan)

Stem plants
Alternanthera sessilis
Nitella gracilis (cosmopolitan)

Plants with long stems
Hydrilla verticillata (cosmopolitan)
Potamogeton acutifolius
Eichhornia crassipes-Water Hyacinth
 

beblondie

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Bichir breeding
Breeding seasons in the wild of species I could find listed on fishbase.org

Polypterus senegalus senegalus
June and July -CHAD,-- basin
August, thru Oct. -Gambia,-- gambia river
Aug. thru Nov. -Senegal,-- lower senegal river
June thru Nov. -CHAD ,--no location given
May and June, --upper white nile river
there seems to be no mating from Dec. thru April in the wild or at least not reported or
recorded.
P.Bichir bichir March thru November in-CHAD
P.lapradeiJuly thru Sept in- GAMBIA
P.lapradei July thru Oct -- senegal river
P.delhezi - no reports
P.endlicheri--May thru Aug --cotre d'lvoire- Bandama river
P.endlicheri--Sept-Oct -Chad-Chad basin
P.endlicheri--July-Aug-Sudan --White nile river, Khartoum
P.endlicheri--July-Nov-Chad
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Courtship
I have seen this courtship behavior in P. polli and P. delhezi and P. senegalus and P endlicheri. I find this the most interesting part of the the mating ritual as it is shared by most members of the Polypteridae family. Courtship begins by the male breaching the surface from once to several times. Followed by him arching his body putting up his dorsal finlets in full display and slowly descending through the water to the female. Coming up from behind her he gently nudges her sideways with a series of headbutts and gentle nips while the female remains motionless as the male gently caresses the females ovipositor area with his anal fin till eggs are released. He uses his anal fins which are now shaped like a cup to capture the eggs, fertilizes them and releases them then the process begin again.This may go on for several days.

The fish
Sexually mature male and female. While bichirs can be sexed at 7-8 inches. It may take a year to six years to reach full sexual maturity depending on the species, this is shown on the males by a greatly swollen anal fin and on some species a dark border on the anal fins margin. On the females which are generaly larger than the males you hould notice a swelling of the abdomen. This is caused by the eggs of which there can be be over 300. Those species found sexually mature at 1-2 years include P.senegalus, P. polli others such as P.ornatipinnis and P.endlicheri mature at 4-6 years of age.

The tanks
One should have a soft sandy substrate and several low bushy plants such as Java fern (Microsorium pteropus)This is the breeding tank. This is where the eggs will be laid (hopefully) and a good secure cover (see courtship above). The second tank for hatching and raising the fry. This tank should have no substrate and use sponge flters. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE this will work on a consistent basis. Large breeders on fish farms often use hormones to induce breeding.

The Process
I've seen courtship behavior after a regular water change. However let's try and simulate more natural enviroment. I could just have frisky fish, during the dry season the water temps are in the high 84 to 86 with a PH value avg. 6.0. But come the rainy season temperatures decrease to 60's to low 70's degrees with the PH increasing to to closer to 7.0 and the water softness increases so in order to try to duplicate this we add softer water (distilled) and raise the tempurature to mid 80's that should start the mating process providing all parties are ready and willing there was a mention of adding several drops of saltwater adding trace elements which encourages breeding .

The hatching tank
When the mating is concluded remove the plants with the eggs or any eggs you may find scattered about as quickly as possible and place them in the hatching tank .This tank should be kept at 82 degrees with a PH value between 6.5 and 7.0.If things have gone well you should see hatching within 60-90 hours . The young resemble tadpoles and will adhere to plants and rocks, and live off yolk sacs for approx 6-7 days after which they will need feeding.

Foods include:
baby brine shrimp
finely chopped bloodworms
mysis shrimp .
It is sadly at this time death rates increase do to fighting and canibalism if possible the fry should be seperated in individual containers for several weeks or raised in a tank with lots of Java fern (Microsorium pteropus)to hide from eachother. Once they reach approx.4 cm the odds of survival increase -Anne

Sources include
jurassic fish--Kodera et al
aqualog Polypterus--Frank Schafer
fishbase.org
 
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