Rope Fish – Care, Tank Mates, Habitat and Details!

Rope Fish is also known as Erpetoichthys calabaricus and because of its snake-like feature, it is also called Reedfish, Snakefish, etc.

Its serpentine body coils beautifully around the plants and moves around the aquarium, as if in some unusual dance, but at the same time the rope fish is rather shy and at the slightest rustle tries to hide behind plants or any other hiding spot.

Quick Stats

Scientific Name: Erpetoichthys calabaricus
Care Level:
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Greenish-Brown with yellow fins
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Size: Up to 15 inches
Diet: Carnivore
Family: Polypteridae
Minimum Tank Size: 45 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater with sand and caves
Compatibility: Large, peaceful fish

Description of Rope Fish

Rope Fish is one of the most popular types of aquarium fish. This exotic beauty lives in warm reservoirs with a slow current and freshwater. It is found mainly in West Africa.


Due to the unusual structure of the respiratory system, this fish is able to live even in water with a low oxygen content, and moreover, it can also live outside the water, since its pulmonary apparatus is adapted to absorb atmospheric oxygen.

Rope Fish has an elongated serpentine body covered with scales, hence the name. The thickest part of the body has a diameter of about 1.5 cm. The color is yellowish with a brown tint, but milky brown individuals are found.

On the angular head, resembling a flattened triangle, there is a large toothy mouth and small antennae, which are responsible for touch.

On the upper line of the body, thorns are clearly visible, the number of which varies from 8 to 15 pieces.

The ventral fins are located either on their tail or they will be completely absent. The size of the Rope Fish can reach 40 cm. Females are usually slightly larger than males.

Rope Fish Care and Maintenance

Rope Fish is very curious and it has a fairly peaceful disposition. Despite its appearance, it can be frightened even by the smallest inhabitants of an aquarium.

They mostly remain in their hiding spot under their shelters at night time, but it can be active in the daytime if fed.

Plants planted in the aquarium need additional strengthening since the fish living at the bottom loves to dig in the ground, because of which the root system suffers greatly.

Use only soft soil, as aquarium snakes love to dig in it and if they are not successful, they can damage the scales.

The best option would be fine smooth gravel or sand. At the bottom of the aquarium, you can land aponogeton, Anubias or Wallisneria.

Basic Aquarium requirements:

  1. The tank must have a volume of at least 100 liters and a closed lid.
  2. Water temperature on average is 25 degrees, its hardness should be from 2 to 17, acidity – 6.1-7.6.
  3. A prerequisite is the presence of many grottoes, stones, and other shelters – the fish should feel safe.

In this case, it is necessary to monitor the tightness of the lid and timely eliminate the cracks that have appeared. This fish is very curious and will try to escape as soon as possible.

They are able to travel long distances on land, but can not live without water for a long time. Avoid sharp fluctuations in the hydrochemical characteristics of water.

If an urgent water replacement is necessary, it is necessary to use special air conditioners that will help to quickly restore the necessary indicators.

Rope Fish Tank Mates

Aquarium fish of medium size are ideally suited as tank mates for Rope Fish. These fishes cannot live next to neon tetra, guppies, or rasboras and other fast-moving fish, capable of destroying all food in a matter of seconds. In addition, they can themselves be eaten by a snake.

Make sure you do not keep any small fish that you think can easily go inside rope fish’s mouth. Rope fish will start eating those fishes if hungry.

Medium-sized fishes who are non-aggressive go well with these Rope Fishes like Angelfish, Tiger Barb, Gourami Fish, Bala Shark, Pleco Fish, Clown loach, Rainbow Shark, Yoyo Loach, Siamese Algae Eater, and similar other fishes.

Avoid keeping them with cichlids who are aggressive in nature like Oscar fish or Convict cichlid.

Feeding Rope Fish

Unlike most other fish species, Rope Fish has an excellent sense of smell. In food, they prefer lively and protein-rich feeds.

For example, they can be given pieces of frozen food or shrimp, fish fillets, earthworms or small worms, brine shrimp, squid, bloodworms.

This fish is very slow, therefore it is recommended to feed them separately from the rest of the fish 10-15 minutes after the food was in the aquarium.

During this time, the Rope Fish will feel the presence of food and get out of its shelter, or you can put a treat directly in front of the Rope Fish. Young animals are fed 5-6 times a day, adult fish 2-3 times.

Breeding Rope Fish

The female can be distinguished from the male by a saggy abdomen and a light yellowish-olive anal fin (in males it is usually darker).

In addition, males have 12-14 dorsal fins, and females only 9-12, otherwise they are no different from each other.

Unfortunately, Rope Fish are not able to breed in captivity, with the exception of individual cases, since it is almost impossible to artificially create conditions that coincide with natural conditions.

Rope Fish is Bred in special farms or caught in natural conditions.


Rope Fish is a great option for aquarists. It compares favorably with other inhabitants of the aquarium with its unusual shape, coloring, and behavior.

You can watch this Fish for hours, admiring its dances, similar to the oriental ones. However, it is necessary to take into account all its features and select the appropriate “tankmates”.

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