Bichir : classification, Diet, lifespan & more


The underwater realm holds countless mysteries, and the Bichir fish is one such captivating inhabitant. In this article, we will discuss the world of Bichirs, exploring their unique characteristics, habitat, behavior, and interactions with the environment. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or simply curious about aquatic life, join us on a journey to uncover the secrets of the Bichir.


Scientific classification
Lacépède, 1803

The Bichir fish, scientifically known as Polypterus, belongs to the family Polypteridae. These ancient creatures are often referred to as “living fossils” due to their unchanged appearance for millions of years. Bichirs showcase a fascinating blend of primitive and advanced traits, making them a subject of fascination for both biologists and aquarists.

Quick Facts

Bichirs are native to Africa, primarily inhabiting freshwater systems such as rivers, lakes, and swamps.
Their elongated bodies can reach lengths of up to 2 feet, with a distinct dorsal fin that runs along their back.
Bichirs exhibit a remarkable ability to breathe atmospheric air, thanks to a modified swim bladder that functions as a lung.
These fish are known for their hardy nature and can adapt to varying water conditions.


The Bichir’s appearance is a testament to its ancient lineage. Their long, eel-like bodies are covered in thick, overlapping scales that resemble armor plating. The dorsal fin, known as the “polypterus fin,” is a defining feature, extending along the length of their body. This unique fin plays a crucial role in their locomotion, stability, and even respiration.

Distribution and Habitat

Bichirs are native to the diverse aquatic landscapes of Africa. They can be found in various countries, including Nigeria, Sudan, and Congo. These fish are adaptable to a range of habitats, from slow-moving rivers to stagnant pools and swamps. Bichirs have even managed to thrive in oxygen-depleted environments due to their unique respiratory adaptations.

Biology of the Bichir

The Bichir’s biology is a remarkable blend of primitive features and modern adaptations. Their pectoral fins, reminiscent of limbs, contribute to their distinctive appearance. Bichirs are known for their remarkable ability to survive in low-oxygen environments. Their modified swim bladder functions as a primitive lung, enabling them to gulp air from the surface and extract oxygen. This adaptation has allowed them to explore waters that might be uninhabitable for other fish species.


Bichirs exhibit intriguing behavior that showcases their prehistoric origins. They are primarily nocturnal, preferring to remain hidden during daylight hours and becoming active under the cover of darkness. Their movements are deliberate and measured, reflecting their patient and stealthy nature as they hunt for prey.

Bichir Diet

Bichirs are carnivorous predators, known to be opportunistic feeders. In their natural habitat, they feast on a variety of aquatic creatures, including small fish, crustaceans, insects, and even smaller aquatic vertebrates. Their elongated bodies and sharp teeth aid in capturing and consuming their prey.

Bichir Life Span

Bichirs are known for their longevity, with some individuals living for several decades. In captivity, with proper care and a suitable environment, they can easily live for 15 to 20 years. This extended life span makes them a commitment for aquarists, requiring careful consideration and planning before introducing them to a tank.


The reproductive behavior of Bichirs is equally fascinating. These fish exhibit sexual dimorphism, with males often possessing more colorful markings and a slightly slimmer body. Bichirs are unique in that they practice both external and internal fertilization. Females lay eggs, which are then fertilized by the male. The male then carries the fertilized eggs in a specialized pouch until they hatch, ensuring their safety and providing them with a source of nutrients.

Bichir Relationship with Humans

Bichirs have captured the attention of aquarists and fish enthusiasts around the world. Their distinctive appearance and ancient lineage make them sought-after additions to home aquariums. However, their unique requirements and long life span mean that they are best suited for experienced aquarists who can provide the specialized care they need.

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Bichir Predators

In their natural habitat, Bichirs face predation from larger fish species and aquatic predators. Their armored scales and stealthy behavior serve as defense mechanisms against potential threats. However, habitat loss due to human activities also poses a significant risk to their survival in the wild.

Read more: Berger Picard : classification, Diet, Lifespan & more

Bichir Conclusion

In the intricate tapestry of aquatic life, Bichirs stand as a living link to a time long past. Their remarkable characteristics, ancient lineage, and unique adaptations make them an awe-inspiring addition to both the natural world and aquariums. As caretakers of these captivating creatures, we have the privilege of observing their behaviors and marveling at their ability to bridge the gap between the past and the present.
As you embark on your journey to learn about and care for Bichirs, remember the importance of providing them with an environment that mirrors their natural habitat. By offering them the right conditions and a balanced diet, you can create a thriving ecosystem that allows these living fossils to flourish.

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Q1: Can Bichirs survive in a community aquarium with other fish?

Bichirs have a predatory nature, and their tankmates should be chosen carefully. They may coexist with larger, non-aggressive fish that won’t become potential prey. Avoid housing them with small or slow-moving species.

Q2: What type of environment do Bichirs prefer?

Bichirs thrive in setups that mimic their natural habitat, such as tanks with ample hiding spots, soft substrate, and a mix of open areas and vegetation. Providing caves and driftwood can help them feel secure.

Q3: How should Bichirs be fed?

Offer a varied diet of high-quality pellets, frozen foods, and live insects. Providing a mix of protein sources helps mimic their natural diet and ensures their nutritional needs are met.

Q4: Do Bichirs require any specific water parameters?

Maintain a stable water temperature between 75-80°F (24-27°C), a pH level around 6.5-7.5, and soft to moderately hard water. Regular water changes are essential to keep the tank environment healthy.

Q5: Can Bichirs breathe air outside the water?

Yes, Bichirs have developed a unique adaptation that allows them to breathe air using a modified swim bladder. This ability enables them to survive in waters with low oxygen levels.

Q6: Are Bichirs endangered in the wild?

Some species of Bichirs are facing threats due to habitat loss and overfishing. Conservation efforts are crucial to protect their natural habitats and ensure their survival in the wild.

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