How to Keep Your New African Rope Fish  Aqualand’s inside info on Erpetoichthys calabaricus

 
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African Rope Fish Factoids

Origin

Tropical Africa

Sexual Differences

Immaterial.  Not bred in captivity.

Temperature

75 to 80o best 

Attitude

Jumps if left uncovered.  More active at night.

Schedule

Nocturnal predator

Security

Really loves caves

Foods

Picky -- shrimps, worms, insects, fish

Water

Add salt

LA
Ropefish lazing out.

LA Pic
He's a cute looking little ropefish with some tough scales.

LA Pic
Deceased ropefish that jumped out yesterday.  Not so cute.

LA Pic
Our ropefish mouth is large enough to eat chunks of nightcrawlers (and neons).

LA Pic
Some people think ropefish nose projections make them look "snaky."

 

Origin.  All ropefish come from Africa.  None breed in captivity.  As a result, their price never drops.

LA Pic
We're seeing these little guys today.  Maybe someone out there is breeding them?

LA Pic
Some ropefish now come in about the size of a nightcrawler.

LA Pic
Here's four of these smaller ropefish in a 4-inch sandwich box.

LA Pic
The ropefish's shape certainly increases their snake similarity.

LA Pic
Are ropefish cute?  Or just different?

Appeal.  Snake lovers can’t resist these guys.  Ropefish look like a foot-long snake.  Those two little extensions on their nose really add to their snake-like look.  Snake haters can easily resist them.  Ropefish look and move like underwater snakes.  They are not.  They are not eels either (which they also resemble).  They are true fish.  However, unlike regular fish, they breathe atmospheric air.  They absorb their O2 via their intestines.  Their surface breathing trait may contribute to their tendency to wander out of their tanks.  They love to bail out and boogie at night.

LA
Ropefish in groups eat better than singles.  Probably the competition.

Foods.  Consider ropefish a picky eater.  In our experience, these guys seem to prefer live worms – tubifex, earthworms, blood worms, or glassworms.  Ghost shrimps also make tasty snacks.   They also like the frozen versions.  After thoroughly inspecting them, they eagerly eat smaller chunks of nightcrawlers.  (Snip them with scissors.)  They also eat frozen brine shrimp and any fish they can catch after you turn the lights off.  They will eat frozen beef heart and other formula foods. They will not eat flake foods – regardless of brand.  Most learn to eat sinking cichlid pellets.  Last but not least, they also enjoy ghost shrimp, rosy reds, and neon tetras.  Large ropes will eat swordtails.

LA
Most ropefishes loaf on the bottom.  That rosy red on the left gets more food than they do.

Poor Competitors.  You drop their food in the water and all the other fishes eat it before your ropefish even knows it’s feeding time.  They just sit there looking unbright.  (Because they are.)  Put their food in right before you hit the sack.  Once you turn off their lights, your ropefish has an advantage.  They can smell the food.  They “bump” it a few times before gulping it down.  That’s why it’s amazing they can catch live fishes.  Must catch them while they snooze.  We occasionally see them hit fast -- like a bass.

LA
Ropefish fare best when kept by themselves.  No competing other species, that is.

Poor Mixers.  Faster fishes eat their lunch.  Larger fishes intimidate them.  Rougher fishes bully them unmercifully.  Ropefish have absolutely no way to fight back other than running and hiding.  Luckily they have those tough ganoid scales.  And since they eat small fishes on the night shift, you need to mix these guys carefully.  Gouramis make a good mixer.  Swords and moons tend to disappear.

LA
Several ropefish share the same "den."  They like the security of a cave -- even a 4" flower pot.

LA
Dropping some California blackworms brings ropefish out of the woodwork.

LA
Sharing a cave with a pike cichlid (fellow aquatic troglodyte)

LA
After a while, your ropefish will come out at all times.

LA
Especially if you feed him a chunk of nightcrawler.

Caves:  Provide your ropefish with a choice of caves.  They like to curl up in their caves then come out and prowl for food starting somewhere around dusk.  Several will bunch together in one cave.

LA
Wholesalers bathe their ropefish in an all-purpose, greenish water that kills external parasites.

 

Water.  Because ropefish breathe atmospheric air and absorb it in their intestines, they can live in crummy water.  We do not recommend keeping them in crummy water.  Their gut respiration helps them adjust to shallow waters that warm up very fast in the hot sun.  These guys do not like the sun or bright tank lights. Give them a hiding cave.

LA
Ropefish poke their heads out of the water looking for the EXIT sign.  Cover yours.

Jumpers:  Like all long, snaky-looking fishes, ropefish will snake out of any uncovered tank at the earliest opportunity – especially if picked on by other fishes.  Keep yours well covered or lower the water level (or both).

LA
Good, tough scales.  Ropefish are hard to hold onto.

Tough Skin.  Hard nacreous scales give ropefish a tough, protective skin.  If you see one on the floor, re-catch him in a wet net or he will probably grow fungus all over his body.  We cannot report much success at treating this ugly fungus.

LA
We have no idea what causes this weird ropefish malady.  It's fatal.

Teeny Worms:  Occasionally, you used to see these guys come in covered with teeny parasitic worms – each firmly anchored between his tough scales.  You rarely see the worms these days, because most suppliers treat their ropefish long before they hit the market.

 
LA
Ropefish get along quite well with each other but not well enough to make little ropefish.

Breeding.   You will not breed your ropefish.

LA
Polypterids grow to half the length of your ropefish.  Same data applies to these guys.

On the Other Hand.  "I just wanted to tell you that the information you have supplied on ropefishes is sadly mistaken.
The difference between male and females is easily told by the difference in numbers of their pectoral appendages. Males have 12-14 and females have 9-10. They can be kept alone or in groups. If kept alone they become territorial and the introduction of a new one will complicate things. They are also not picky eaters. They will eat most any live food. Dead, frozen or alive they aren't picky. The temperature range for these fishes is also 70-85 degrees. They thrive in 82-83 degree water. Ropefish are also able to augment their oxygen supply through the use of their swim bladder. It is used much like our lungs and this is how they can survive out of water.
Thank you for your time."                                                          
----Jonathan

Other Comments.  Gee.  I hope I was at least half right.  Remember to take special care when feeding your ropefish.  They cannot compete with speedier species.  Also, adding a few snails to your clean-up crew helps keep their water cleaner.  LA

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