Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Polypterus congicus

Congo bichir

Congo bichir, Polypterus congicusCongo bichir, Polypterus congicus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Polypterus: Greek, poly = a lot of + Greek, pteron = wing, fin. This refers to the numerous fins along the fish's dorsal.

General Notes:

Congo bichirs are widespread and live in a variety of habitats which indicates that they are quite adaptable and unfussy about their water chemistry, being air breathers they can even live quite happily in hypoxic conditions and remain unaffected by it, They aren't particularly active and so large open areas for swimming aren't really necessary because they will spend the majority of their time concealed in a regular hiding place..
A large unfussy aquarium decorated simply with wood and rockwork is ideal for congo bichirs. Having a large floor area is more important than the overall volume of their aquarium. Wild fish are nocturnal in habit but in captivity they soon adjust and will feed during the daytime but their aquarium shouldn't be too brightly lit.


Meaty food is essential, frozen marine whole fish such as lancefish, sardines and whitebait. Also worms and other large inverts will be taken. Some specimens will even adapt to take pelleted food.


Congo bichirs are predatory and smaller fish will be regarded as food. They are quite slow but over time they will eventually be successful. Any fish which can be swallowed whole will not last long but they are powerful fish and they are capable of tearing apart fish which are too big to swallow whole. They can be kept with large robust fish without too many problems.


There are no reliable external differences between the sexes. The anal fin of the male may be slightly longer and thicker than the anal fin of the female.


No details available.

Wild status

Listed as "Least concern" by the IUCN Red List. The species is widespread and it is under threat in some local areas but this doesn't affect the species as a whole.

Additional information

Congo bichirs are air breathing, their gills alone cannot satisfy their full oxygen requirements and so a well ventilated space above the water surface must be accessible to them or they will drown. They are also extremely powerful fish which are easily capable of dislodging some lighter aquarium tops so make sure their aquarium is escape proof.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 22 - 28°C (72 - 82°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 97cm (38in)
Min tank size: 675 litres
Difficulty level: Difficult.
Aquarium type: Species/community.
Swimming level: Bottom

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Polypterus congicus

Origin: Africa: Congo basin and Lake Tanganyika.

Habitat: Streams, lakes and flood plains.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Polypteriformes
Family: Polypteridae
Genus: Polypterus
Species: P. congicus, Boulenger, 1898

Other common names:

Polypterus lapradii,
Polypterus lapradi,
Polypterus bichir katangae, Polypterus endlicherii congicus