Esox Lucius (Northern Pike) Care Tips

Esox Lucius

Last updated on July 22nd, 2022 at 09:17 am

The Esox lucius is a species of freshwater fish known as Northern pike, found in lakes and rivers throughout North America and Eurasia. They have long pointed heads and can grow up to 2 meters in length. One variety that is native to North America are called jackfish or pickerel.

Northern pike (Esox Lucius) are the second-largest member of the Esocidae family of pikes, and among the most abundant large fishes in North America’s cool water lakes and streams. Their native range stretches from the St. Lawrence River to Colorado, with naturalized populations found as far south as Texas and Florida.

Their common name originates from the Old English pike, which means a spear; their long slender body does in fact resemble that of a spear.

An esox lucius, commonly known as the northern pike, and sometimes referred to as jackfish or pickerel, is one of the largest freshwater fish in North America. These fish can live up to 10 years.

Northern pikes are carnivorous creatures that will eat any animal they can overpower, including muskrats, ducks, lemmings, small mammals, frogs, and snakes. One famous hunting strategy used by pike involves sneaking up on unsuspecting prey at night.

Esox lucius lives throughout most of North America, excluding the southeastern United States and California. The northern pike averages between 35 and 60 cm (14 to 24 in) in length, but can grow up to 1.8 m (6 ft) and weigh as much as 8 kg (18 lb). Northern pikes are carnivorous fish that eat crayfish, leeches, small mammals, and amphibians, as well as smaller pike in their ponds and lakes. They are also noted for their distinctive coloration.

Northern pike description

Esox Lucius

The northern pike is a freshwater fish of Northern Europe and North America. It has been widely introduced into waterways elsewhere in North America, as well as parts of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Despite its name, it is unrelated to other pikes, such as Esox cisalpinus or Esox masquinongy, instead, they belong to their own genus, Esocidae.

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The northern pike preys mostly on smaller fish, though it does feed on aquatic invertebrates and amphibians like frogs when young. Most commonly for larger specimens, but also for smaller ones, small birds are believed to make up part of their diet at times too.

Species profile

Esox Lucius

The Northern pike is a species of freshwater fish in its own genus. The word ‘pike’ is derived from its pointed head, resembling a pike’s nose. It grows up to six feet long and can weigh up to 77 pounds. They have an elongated body that makes them good hunters, as they can reach their prey quicker than other predators.

There are three subspecies of northern pike: Esox lucius lucius, found throughout Europe; Esox lucius americanus, found in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States; and Esox lucius lacustris, which is primarily located around Scandinavian lakes. There are also many variations for breeding purposes including silver, tiger, koi, gold, and dark colors.

Northern pike habitat

Northern pike lives in lakes, ponds, and rivers all over Europe and Asia. They love to eat smaller fish but have also been known to go after waterfowl and even some mammals such as muskrats. Their favorite habitat is a sandy or gravel bottom lake or river with temperatures ranging from 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

These cold-blooded fish like their water cold! Even though they are not very big, northern pike is apex predators in their environments because of their voracious appetites.

Northern pike size

The average length of the northern pike fish is 16 -22 inches (40 – 55 cm)

Esox lucius tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 150 gallons

Tank set up

Being a pike, they need a lot of room. This predator fish can grow to be 2 feet long and will eat anything that it can fit in its mouth. Because of their size and appetite, they should not be housed with smaller more timid fish but would do well in a tank with big predatory fish such as Oscars and sharks.

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A good rule of thumb is 1 inch of adult northern pike per gallon of water. Another important consideration for northern pike tanks is filtration. They require stronger filters than some of your other more docile species. Without proper filtration, these fish are likely to end up sick or dead within days or weeks of being introduced into an aquarium, so be sure you have researched your filter before adding one or several of these beauties to your home aquarium.

Esox lucius tank mates

When stocking a tank with northern pike, it’s best to avoid putting them with any fish that are small enough to fit in their mouths. An esox lucius will normally be okay with goldfish or koi, but as we all know, different fish have different personalities, and there’s no guarantee they’ll get along.

Like many other pikes, northern pike can be predatory towards smaller fish in their environment; just make sure you thoroughly research your other pets before adding an esox lucius to your tank.

Esox lucius breeding

Esox Lucius

Northern pike are polygamous. They will migrate to shallow, clear waters to spawn. The male aggressively defends his territory and mates with any female that enters it. Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach 10-15 degrees Celsius during a full moon in May and June. Females lay between 3,000 and 50,000 eggs which are deposited in clusters of 15 to 20 eggs each on underwater plants or rock.

Eggs hatch within 30 hours if they receive adequate oxygen supply from surrounding vegetation. Newly hatched larvae spend their first 6 weeks of life feeding on plankton; when they grow larger, they move onto small invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Are Esox lucius aggressive or peaceful?

When hunting for prey, these voracious predators will attack their target ruthlessly. They have even been known to jump entirely out of the water to grab their prey! However, when it comes to protecting their own territory or young, they prefer non-violent means. These fish are not aggressive towards other species. In fact, they prefer companionship and will often swim in schools of 10 or more.

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Esox lucius care

Esox Lucius

Northern pike are cold-water fish that prefer cool, clean water. They require a lot of food and have voracious appetites; make sure you don’t overfeed them. These fish have extremely sensitive gills and must live in environments with low levels of pollution, so take care to ensure that your tank is well-maintained. They are susceptible to fungal infections and may not do well if introduced into unclean tanks.

What do northern pike eat?

A pike’s diet primarily consists of smaller fish, but they will also consume amphibians, invertebrates, and mammals. Some of their favorite foods include various species of ducklings, frogs, mice, lemmings, muskrats, and young beavers. Pike use their sensitive barbels to locate food in murky waters. They are generalists and opportunistic feeders so they can hunt prey that is found both above and below water surfaces.

In most bodies of water where they live, they eat a diverse range of foods while some may specialize on just one or two kinds of prey items depending on local conditions. For example, northern pikes often eat more crayfish than other species like yellow perch and bluegills because there are more crayfish available for them to feast on.

Water parameters

Esox Lucius

Ideal water parameters should have a temperature of 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit, pH levels between 6.5 and 7.0, an optimum dissolved oxygen level of 8 ppm, and a hardness level of less than 5 dGH, these are optimal for Esox Lucius to thrive in captivity.

They have been known to survive in water with low dissolved oxygen levels as long as they are acclimated to these conditions prior to being placed into an aquarium; however, it is generally considered best practice to maintain an optimal environment for aquatic life.

Esox lucius lifespan

Northern pike can live to be 20 years old in good conditions, but most don’t make it past 12 – 15 years.

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Parasites and diseases

Esox lucius is susceptible to a number of parasites, including flukes, nematodes, and acanthocephalans. In particular, the northern pike is known to harbor a large number of protozoan species. The Heterocotyle ranzii is found in low numbers in healthy individuals but may become significantly more numerous if host health deteriorates.


The northern pike’s large size has made it a target for many predators and humans. Other large animals such as bears, wolves, and wolverines prey on them in lakes, rivers, and streams. Fishermen also hunt northern pike for sport. In natural environments where they aren’t threatened by humans or other animals, they can live to be over 100 years old.

Does Esox lucius make good pets?

While Esox lucius does make interesting pets, they are not for everyone. Because of their voracious appetites and large size, feeding them is expensive and can be difficult. One five-pound fish may only provide enough food for your pet to eat once; in a worst-case scenario, you may need to buy two or three feedings a day.

Also, northern pike are native to North America; if you live somewhere other than that continent, you might have trouble taking good care of them.