Elephant Nose Fish – Care, Tank Mates, Breeding & Full Details!

The Elephant Nose Fish, scientifically known as Gnathonemus petersii, is an African freshwater species that boasts an incredibly unique appearance. They carry a plethora of other common names, such as the Long-Nosed Elephant Fish, Ubangi mormyrid, Elephant Fish, and Peters’ Elephant Nose Fish (in honor of the person who discovered them).

This extraordinary fish is indigenous to several major African rivers, including the Niger River, Chari River, and Ogun River. They adapt to murky waters with low visibility, primarily due to the accumulation of riverbed debris and a gentle current.

These challenging conditions have made the Elephant Nose Fish an expert at navigating through dense vegetation and other obstacles to find food.

The prominent ‘nose,’ referred to as a Schnauzenorgan, is in fact a sophisticated sensory organ that aids them in their daily routines.

This organ enables them to navigate through murky waters and detect faint electric currents emitted by other aquatic creatures. The Elephant Nose Fish is also blessed with exceptional low-light vision, adding to its impressive range of abilities.

Distinctive, intriguing, and a wonderful addition to your freshwater aquarium, the Elephant Nose Fish is truly unparalleled.

The curious looks they inspire and their engaging behaviour make these fish a cherished favorite among aquarium enthusiasts.

There exists, however, a myriad of misconceptions and conflicting information concerning the Elephant Fish that can confuse aspiring keepers.

In this comprehensive guide, we aim to dispel these inaccuracies and provide a clear understanding of what it takes to properly care for an Elephant Nose Fish.

Quick Stats About Elephant Nose Fish

Scientific Name: Gnathonemus petersii
Family: Mormyridae
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Aggressive
Color: Grey, Dark Brown, Black
Lifespan: 6-10 years
Size: 9 inches in length
Diet: Omnivorous bottom feeder
Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons
Temperature: 73°F to 82°F
Water Conditions: pH: 6-7.2
Tank Mate Compatibility Selectively Compatible

Elephant Nose Fish Appearance

The Elephant Nose Fish (scientifically known as Gnathonemus petersii) truly stands out in the aquatic world due to its distinctive appearance. Fondly named for their extended, trunk-like appendage, these fish are an intriguing addition to any aquarium.

Their physical form is as unique as their name suggests. Resembling an elongated sword or blade, their bodies are slender and slim. This feature, coupled with their typical dark brown or black coloration, adds to their unique aesthetic appeal.

Often, their bodies are marked with a striking white stripe that elegantly stretches between the front ridge of their dorsal and anal fins, further accentuating their elegant appearance.

One cannot overlook the Elephant Fish’s most prominent attribute – their lengthy, downward-drooping nose, also known as a Schnauzenorgan.

Despite being often mistaken for a nose, this feature is in fact an organ linked to their mouth, acting as an advanced navigation tool. It allows them to deftly maneuver their way around their murky habitats.

The eyes of these fish are set on the sides of their narrow, pointed heads, enhancing their lateral vision, which is a rarity among electric species.

The Elephant Fish’s delicate and captivating aesthetic contributes to their popularity among fish hobbyists around the world.

Natural Habitat of the Elephant Nose Fish

The Elephant Nose Fish is a freshwater species native to the murky rivers of West and Central Africa. These rivers, including the notable Niger, Chari, and Ogun Rivers, are often filled with a profusion of debris such as branches, logs, roots, and dense aquatic plant life.

The water’s murkiness is partially due to the debris, along with the gentle current these rivers experience.

In this complex and dynamic environment, the Elephant Nose Fish has adapted to skillfully navigate through the web of obstacles.

Their Schnauzenorgan plays a crucial role here, helping them feel their way through the water to locate food sources or evade potential predators.

Origin and Distribution of Elephant Nose Fish

Tracing back their roots, Elephant Nose Fishes were first discovered in African waters, earning them a myriad of common names that reference their native land.

Among these are Long-Nosed Elephant Fishes, Ubangi Mormyrid, Elephant Fish, and Peters’ Elephant Nose Fish, the latter named in honor of the individual who discovered them.

Their distribution is primarily concentrated in several African rivers, notably the Niger River, Chari River, and Ogun River.

Their exceptional adaptability has allowed them to survive and flourish in these diverse water bodies, marking their presence in the broader realms of the aquatic world.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Elephant Nose Fish

One of the most compelling aspects of the Elephant Nose Fish is their growth and lifespan. In terms of size, they can reach up to 9 inches in length under optimal conditions, although it’s not unusual for them to surpass this size on rare occasions.

Keep in mind that when you first purchase them, they are typically smaller (around 4-5 inches long), but they still have significant growth ahead of them.

In a well-maintained habitat, with the right diet and excellent water quality, Elephant Nose Fish have a potential lifespan ranging between 6 and 10 years.

Exceptional instances have seen these fascinating creatures living beyond their average lifespan, making it to an impressive 11 years.

The secret to this longevity lies in a dedicated commitment to the provision of a conducive habitat that aligns with their specific needs.

Behavior and Temperament of Elephant Nose Fish

The Elephant Nose Fish is an interesting species with distinct behaviors and a peaceful temperament. Mostly active during the night, this nocturnal species spends a lot of its day hiding, coming out when darkness falls.

This is a behavior known as “crepuscular,” where they’re most active during dawn and dusk.

Although they may seem shy, these fish are quite curious, often using their trunk-like appendage to explore their surroundings. Their peaceful demeanor makes them an excellent choice for community tanks with similar-sized, non-aggressive species.

Despite being generally peaceful, Elephant Nose Fish are territorial by nature. They will establish a specific area within the tank as their own and may display signs of aggression if other fish intrude.

The more space you provide for them in the tank, the less likely they are to show aggression.

Tank Setup for Elephant Nose Fish

Taking the time to understand your Elephant Nose Fish’s behavior and ideal tank setup can ensure a happy and healthy life for your aquatic companion. Let’s get into more details:

Tank Size

The minimum recommended tank size for an Elephant Nose Fish is 50 gallons, allowing them sufficient room to swim and establish territories. Given their potential size of up to 9 inches, a spacious environment is essential for their well-being.


Choosing the right substrate is crucial to mimic their natural habitat. A soft, sandy substrate is ideal, which allows them to forage for food just like they would in the wild. Avoid using sharp or rough substrate as it could injure their delicate noses.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Decorations play a pivotal role in making the Elephant Nose Fish comfortable. They appreciate plenty of hiding spots, so incorporating caves, driftwood, and rock formations is advisable.

Additionally, adding a good amount of plant life can also offer them ample shelter.

Water Parameters

Keeping the water parameters in check is crucial for your Elephant Nose Fish’s health. They prefer soft, slightly acidic water with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. The water temperature should ideally be kept between 73°F and 82°F. Regular water changes are recommended to maintain the water quality.

Filtration and Aeration

Proper filtration is essential as Elephant Nose are sensitive to poor water conditions. A good quality filter that can handle the tank’s bioload is necessary.

Additionally, aeration is also crucial. A bubbler or an air stone can help maintain sufficient oxygen levels in the water.


Given their nocturnal nature, Elephant Nose prefer low lighting conditions. While some lighting is acceptable, it should be kept dim to mimic their natural habitat and ensure they feel comfortable.

Tank Mates

When it comes to selecting tank mates for your Elephant Nose Fish, it’s best to stick with other peaceful species. Ideal companions might include larger Tetras, Rasboras, Catfish, or similar-sized Loaches. Avoid aggressive or very small fish that might trigger their predatory instinct.


Elephant Nose are omnivores, meaning they eat a mix of meat-based and plant-based foods. A diet of high-quality pellets, live or frozen brine shrimp, and bloodworms, supplemented with some vegetable matter, is ideal.

Tank Maintenance for Elephant Nose Fish

Taking proper care of an Elephant Nose Fish tank is vital to ensure your fish’s health and happiness. Regular upkeep and keen observation of your fish’s behavior are key.

Below, we delve into the specifics of maintaining an Elephant Nose Fish tank.

Water Changes

Regular water changes are a cornerstone of good tank maintenance. Changing about 25-30% of the water in your tank weekly is recommended for Elephant Nose.

It’s crucial to remember that tap water can contain chlorine, which is harmful to fish. So, always treat the water with a dechlorinator before adding it to the tank.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Cleaning the tank and its decorations is an integral part of maintaining a healthy environment for your Elephant Fish. Algae can build up on the tank walls and decorations, which should be gently cleaned off to keep the tank in good condition.

It’s important to use aquarium-safe cleaning products to avoid harming your fish. You should also rinse all the decorations thoroughly before putting them back in the tank.

This step ensures no cleaning product residue remains, which could harm your Elephant Fish.

Filter Maintenance

The filter plays a critical role in keeping the tank water clean. It should be checked regularly to ensure it is working correctly.

While the filter should never be completely cleaned – as beneficial bacteria live there – the cartridges may need replacing as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the filter becomes too clogged, it can be gently rinsed in tank water during a water change.

Monitor Fish Health

Monitoring the health of your Elephant Fish is as important as maintaining their environment. Pay attention to any changes in their behavior, eating habits, or appearance.

If your fish seems lethargic, loses its appetite, or shows any signs of physical distress, it might be an indicator of disease or poor water quality.

Regular testing of water parameters, like pH, temperature, and ammonia levels, can help you detect any issues early on. If you observe signs of disease or poor health in your fish, consider consulting an aquatic vet for advice.

Proper maintenance of your Elephant Nose Fish’s tank requires regular water changes, cleaning, and monitoring of both the fish’s health and the water parameters.

By adhering to these steps, you can provide your Elephant Nose Fishes with a healthy and stimulating environment where they can thrive.

Acclimating Elephant Nose Fish

When you bring an Elephant Nose Fish home, acclimation is a critical first step. This process helps the fish adjust to its new environment, reducing the stress of transportation and transition.

To start, float the sealed bag containing your new fish in your tank for around 15-20 minutes. This step allows the water inside the bag to gradually reach the same temperature as the tank water, ensuring the fish doesn’t experience a sudden temperature shock.

Next, slowly add some tank water into the bag, then leave it floating for another 15 minutes. This process helps the fish get accustomed to the water chemistry in your tank.

Repeat this step a few times before finally releasing the Elephant Nose Fish into the tank.

Remember, patience is vital during acclimation. Rushing can cause undue stress to your new Elephant Nose Fish.

Elephant Nose Fish Diet and Feeding

Elephant Nose Fish are carnivorous and thrive on a varied diet.

Below, we delve into the specific foods that Elephant Nose Fish prefer and how best to feed them.

Preferred Foods

  • Live and Frozen Foods: Elephant Nose Fish love live and frozen foods, such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms. These foods provide essential nutrients and replicate the fish’s natural diet.

  • Insects and Larvae: They enjoy feasting on insects and their larvae, mirroring their diet in the wild.

  • Commercial Foods: Elephant Nose Fish can also consume commercial foods, such as high-quality fish flakes and pellets. These can provide a balanced diet and should form part of their meal plan.

Feeding Guidelines

  • Frequency: Feed your Elephant Nose Fishes once or twice daily. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and water contamination, so it’s crucial to monitor your fish’s feeding habits closely.

  • Portions: Only provide as much food as your Elephant Fish can consume in 2-3 minutes. This rule of thumb ensures that no leftover food decomposes in the tank, which could lead to poor water quality.

  • Night Feeding: As Elephant Nose Fishes are nocturnal, they prefer feeding at night. Try to align your feeding schedule with their natural feeding habits.

  • Variety: Remember to vary their diet to provide all the nutrients they need and keep them interested in their food.

A balanced and varied diet combined with the right feeding habits is crucial for your Elephant Nose Fish’s health and longevity. Always observe your fish during feeding times to ensure they are eating well and to promptly identify any potential health issues.

Elephant Nose Fish Tank Mates: Friends and Foes

Choosing the right tank mates for your Elephant Nose Fish can make a significant difference in your aquarium’s harmony.

Let’s explore some suitable and unsuitable companions for your Elephant Nose Fish.

Suitable Tank Mates

Elephant Nose Fish prefer the company of calm, non-aggressive fish.

Here are a few suitable tank mates:

  • Congo Tetras: These fish are peaceful and share a similar habitat preference, making them ideal tank mates.

  • Angelfish: Angelfish can cohabit well with Elephant Nose, thanks to their tranquil nature.

  • Gouramis: These fish are serene, and their slower movement speed makes them less likely to outcompete Elephant Nose Fishes during feeding times.

  • Rainbowfish: Known for their peaceful disposition, Rainbowfish can coexist with Elephant Noses.

  • Large Catfish: Certain types of large catfish, such as the Synodontis species, can make good tank mates due to their non-aggressive behavior.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Avoid aggressive or overly active fish that can stress or outcompete your Elephant Nose Fishes for food.

Here are a few to steer clear of:

  • Cichlids: Although some exceptions exist, many Cichlids are too territorial and aggressive to cohabit with Elephant Fish.

  • Barbs: Many Barbs, such as Tiger Barbs, are fin-nippers and can harass your Elephant Nose.

  • Bettas: Known for their aggressive tendencies, Bettas aren’t suitable tank mates.

  • Danios: These fish are very active and can outcompete Elephant Nose for food.

  • Red-Tailed Sharks: These fish are territorial and can exhibit aggressive behavior towards Elephant Fish.

Breeding Elephant Nose Fish and Fry Care

Breeding Elephant Nose Fishes in home aquariums is challenging and rarely occurs. But if you’re up for the task, here’s what you need to know.

Preparing for Breeding

  • Environment: Set up a separate breeding tank with soft, acidic water. Keep the tank dimly lit and provide plenty of hiding spaces with caves and plants.

  • Diet: Enhance the diet of breeding pairs with high-quality live or frozen foods. This nutritious diet improves their health and encourages spawning.

Breeding Process

  • Spawning: When ready to breed, the female will lay her eggs on a flat surface. The male will then fertilize them. It’s vital to remove the parents after spawning to protect the eggs, as Elephant Nose don’t exhibit parental care and might eat the eggs.

Fry Care

  • Hatching: The eggs will hatch within a few days. Newly hatched fry are tiny and require microscopic foods.

  • Feeding: Feed the fry infusoria or newly hatched brine shrimp. As they grow, you can gradually introduce micro-worms and finely crushed fish flakes.

  • Water Quality: Maintain pristine water conditions. Regular water changes and a gentle filtration system can help ensure the fry’s environment stays clean and safe.

While breeding Elephant Nose Fishes is challenging, it’s not impossible. With a lot of patience, the right setup, and optimal care, you can successfully breed these unique fish.

Signs of Stress in Elephant Nose Fish

Elephant Nose Fishes are sensitive creatures and may exhibit signs of stress if their environment isn’t optimal.

Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Loss of Appetite: A stressed fish often loses interest in food. If your Elephant Nose Fish is not eating like usual, it might be under stress.

  • Unusual Swimming: If you notice erratic swimming or excessive hiding, it may indicate stress.

  • Color Changes: Elephant Nose Fish may lose color or show noticeable color changes when stressed.

  • Rapid Breathing: Watch for changes in breathing rate. If it’s faster than usual, your fish may be stressed.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Elephant Nose Fish

Elephant Nose Fishes can face various health issues. It’s crucial to recognize symptoms early and provide appropriate treatment. Some common health issues include:

  • Ich: This is a common fish disease marked by white spots on the body. Treat it promptly with over-the-counter Ich treatments and by raising the tank temperature slightly to speed up the life cycle of the parasite.

  • Skin Flukes and Parasites: Look out for visible parasites, rubbing against objects, or redness. Treatment can include specific anti-parasitic medications.

  • Fin Rot: Torn or fraying fins that may turn white or red can indicate fin rot. Antibiotics are usually effective at treating this condition.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy aquarium isn’t just about regular cleaning.

Here are a few additional tips:

  • Quarantine New Fish: Always quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank to prevent the spread of diseases.

  • Regular Testing: Regularly test your tank water for correct pH, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels.

  • Avoid Overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality. Feed your fish what they can eat in 2-3 minutes, twice a day.

Should You Get an Elephant Nose Fish for Your Aquarium?

Elephant Nose Fishes can be a rewarding addition to your aquarium with their unique appearance and intriguing behaviors. However, they require specific water conditions, a varied diet, and plenty of space.

They’re best suited for experienced aquarists who can meet their care needs.

If you’re ready to provide a carefully monitored environment and appreciate their unique characteristics, an Elephant Nose could be an excellent choice for your aquarium.

Conservation Status

The Elephant Nose Fish, or Peter’s Elephantnose Fish, as recognized by scientific circles, is classified as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This rating means there are no significant threats currently affecting their overall population. Still, it’s crucial to source your fish from ethical and sustainable suppliers.

Availability & Pricing

Elephant Nose are usually readily available in most local pet stores and online fish retailers. They’re popular due to their unique features and behaviors.

Prices vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $15 to $30 per fish, depending on the size and retailer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Elephant Nose Fish

Q: Are Elephant Nose Fish aggressive?

A: Elephant Nose Fish are generally peaceful but can show aggression towards other Elephant Nose Fish. It’s best to keep one per tank to avoid territorial disputes.

Q: How big do Elephant Nose Fish get?

A: They can grow up to 9 inches in length, so they need plenty of space to swim.

Q: Can Elephant Nose Fish live with other fish?

A: Yes, they can. However, they do best with non-aggressive species of similar size.


Keeping an Elephant Nose can be a rewarding experience, but it does require knowledge and effort. Their unique requirements mean they’re not the best choice for beginners.

However, with the right tank conditions, suitable tank mates, and proper diet, these fascinating fish can thrive. If you’re up for the challenge, an Elephant Nose can be a captivating addition to your aquarium.

Their peculiar look and intriguing behaviors will provide endless fascination and enjoyment.