Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Erpetoichthys calabaricus


Reedfish, Erpetoichthys calabaricusReedfish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Erpetoichthys: Greek, erpeton = creeping thing + Greek, ichthys = fish

General Notes:

Reedfish are quite peaceful with fish which are to big to eat. They are well able to tolerate low oxygen conditions because they are able to breathe atmospheric air but this doesn't mean that they can tolerate polluted water.
Their gills alone can't support all their oxygen needs and so reedfish must have access to the water surface or they will drown. They must also be kept well covered to prevent them from escaping. If a reedfish does manage to escape and is found out of water it may be saved because they are able to spend a long time out of water provided that they remain damp. Reedfish can be kept in groups with no problems.
Reedfish are extremely adaptable regarding their conditions and this makes them very hardy and long lived.


Erpetoichthys calabaricus is a nocturnal carnivore which preys on worms, insects, crustaceans and small fish. In captivity feeding is no problem, use lancefish, whitebait, blood worms, prawns and earthworms. Reedfish don't normally accept dried food of any sort.


The female has fewer rays in its dorsal fin than the male but there is a slight overlap where both sexes could have twelve rays.


Reedfish have never been bred by hobbyists. Wild caught juvenile fish have been seen with external gills.

Wild status

The ICUN Red List of Threatened species lists E. calabaricus as near threatened. Loss of habitat through human encroachment by extending agriculture and development leading to deforestation. All reedfish offered for sale have come from the wild.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 5 -19
Temperature: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 37cm (15in)
Min tank size: 225 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Reedfish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus

Origin: Africa: Ogun River mouth in Nigeria to Chiloango River in Congo Brazzaville.

Habitat: Found in slow flowing rivers and standing waters. Apparently restricted to reedy habitats


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Polypteriformes
Family: Polypteridae
Genus: Erpetoichthys
Species: E. calabaricus Smith, 1865

Common name:
Reedfish, Ropefish

Synonyms: Calamoichthys calabaricus, Herpetoichthys calabaricus, Erpetoichthys robbianus, Polypterus erpetoideus