Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Leopard bush fish

Last updated on July 14th, 2022 at 07:05 pm

Ctenopoma acutirostre, also known as the Leopard bush fish, Leopard Ctenopoma, or the spotted climbing perch, is an African freshwater fish belonging to the family of Old World tropidophiid dwarf cichlids (Cichlidae).

No matter what you call it, the Leopard bush fish (Ctenopoma acutirostre) is an adorable little South African fish that makes a great addition to many freshwater aquariums!

This fish inhabits the Congo Basin in Central Africa but was introduced in many areas of Africa and Madagascar by man. In French-speaking countries, it is known as Poisson-chat or chatteau.

Lepidosirenidae contains four genera and five species of fish native to the African continent. The leopard bush fish, Ctenopoma acutirostre, is one of these species and it’s distinguishable by its unique coloration and slender body. They are also known as leopard ctenopoma, leopard gudgeon, and spiny gudgeon among other names.

Origin and descriptions

Leopard bush fish

South Africa is home to several different species of cichlids. One of these species is very unique in that it lives on land. The leopard bush fish (Ctenopoma acutirostre) generally lives in or near marshes or swamps, where it usually lays its eggs. They are carnivorous and eat small insects and other invertebrates that live on land.

These fish can be identified by their long snouts and their overall grayish-brown coloration with spots all over their bodies. Leopard bush fish grow to a length of 4 inches (10 centimeters). They have been introduced into Florida where they do not appear to be having an adverse impact on any native plants or animals.

This suggests that they will probably not become invasive. However, precautions should still be taken to make sure that populations of these fish remain under control because if there were ever a mass release of them into non-native areas, there would most likely be an ecological disaster as a result. This has happened before with another cichlid which was released into North America and has caused major problems.

Corydoras similis (Smudge Spot Cory)

Species profile

Leopard bush fish are small freshwater fish found in Africa. Also known as leopard ctenopomads, it is often confused with other species of ctenopomads because of their similar appearance. The leopard bush fish (Ctenopoma acutirostre) is a member of family Anabantidae and subfamily Pseudocrenilabrinae from order Perciformes.

It is endemic to Africa where it occurs in both eastern and western Africa. They are not farmed for food; however, some hobbyists keep them as aquarium pets. Leopard bush fish have been listed on IUCN red list since 2000 under the vulnerable category due to declining population, as they are being introduced into several areas by humans.

As per status data in the 2010s, populations have decreased and they have been threatened by overfishing; collection for aquarium trade also affected these fishes in some areas.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the Leopard bush fish is Ctenopoma acutirostre


The leopard bush fish is found in only three rivers in Africa: The tributaries of Lake Tanganyika and those of Lake Rukwa and Malagarasi River in Tanzania. It lives in areas with a substrate that ranges from silt to pebbles to rock.

It usually lives among plants such as Eleocharis (spikerushes) or Hydrocotyle (pennywort). The fish prefers water that has a pH level between 7.0-8.5 and a temperature ranging from 71-81 degrees Fahrenheit with an ideal range of 75-77 degrees Fahrenheit.

For spawning purposes, it needs soft, warm waters and will form large groups around rocky ledges where there are high densities of Zooplankton. Leopard bush fish have a lifespan ranging from 8 to 20 years which is relatively long for its size.

Leopard bush fish size

This fish can grow up to a size of around 8 inches (20 cm) in length, and it is considered large in captivity.

Tank size

Due to their large size, the minimum recommended tank size is 55 gallons (208 liters).

Heros notatus (Spotted Severum)

Tank requirements

The Leopard bush fish should be kept in a tank of 55 gallons or larger. The tank should have plenty of live rocks for them to graze on and plenty of places to hide. They prefer a sandy substrate and one that is not too deep as they spend most of their time on top of it and at its bottom.

In addition to hiding spots, they need adequate room to swim around, so if you have an overstocked tank (too many fish), then you will need more room. As far as feeding goes, they are omnivores and will eat flakes, pellets, and frozen foods with occasional feedings of brine shrimp and algae wafers.

They get enough nutrients from grazing on algae, so I do not supplement feedings but feel free to do what works best for your particular situation.

Leopard bush fish tank mates

Ctenopoma is a very active fish and can get stressed if they are housed with slow-moving or inactive tank mates. Be careful not to house these fish with large, aggressive cichlids or other fast-moving fish.

Good tank mates include characins such as tetras and hatchetfish. Shrimps are also a good option as they will happily snack on leftover food. Due to their highly territorial nature, it is best to keep one male per aquarium; multiple females may be kept together without a male present.

Leopard bush fish breeding

Leopard bush fish - Leopard bush fish

As with many members of the Anabantidae family, the leopard bush fish lays its eggs on the surface of the water. The eggs are laid amid swaying vegetation.

Mating occurs near the surface of the water when leopard bush fish spawn. Eggs and sperm are both released simultaneously during the embrace, and fertilized eggs float to the surface to rest in the floating vegetation. Fries are not guarded or raised by their parents. In about 48 hours, the eggs hatch, and the fry are free to swim after two days.

It appears Leopard Bush Fish must ‘pair off’ voluntarily in captivity, even though there are only a few reports of Leopard Bush Fish spawning successfully.

The best way to breed leopard Bush Fish in captivity is to raise a group of young Leopard Bush Fish together, which increases the chances of successful breeding.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Leopard bush fish can be aggressive and territorial, especially if kept in too small a tank. If you keep them with other fish of comparable size, however, they should get along fine in a bigger tank. They’re best kept in groups of four or more.

Flavescent Peacock Care (Aulonocara Stuartgranti)

Leopard bush fish care

Leopard bush fish

The Leopard bush fish, or Leo bush, is a nice little omnivore that doesn’t require much space and can handle mildly acidic water. A 75-gallon tank is adequate for a pair of these adorable little pufferfish (commonly sold under their scientific name: Ctenopoma acutirostre).

The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.0, with a temperature in the mid to high 70s. Ammonia levels should be 0, nitrites 0, and nitrates 20 ppm or less; we recommend testing your tap water with a test kit before setting up your aquarium.

To keep pH stable, use driftwood; well-rinsed peat moss works just as well but will increase your risk of spikes in ammonia levels due to organic matter breaking down into it over time. Driftwood also adds tannins to your water, which help stabilize coloration on live plants.

Water changes every three days are sufficient for keeping these fish healthy; 40% is ideal, though 25% per week would suffice. Weekly 100% full changes would likely cause higher levels of dissolved solids than they prefer. Keep rocks or driftwood in one side of your tank, covered with smooth gravel so they have somewhere soft to rest on if they choose.


The Leopard bush fish is a hardy fish that eats a variety of foods. It will eat smaller fish, aquatic worms and insects, and plants that grow in its native habitat. In captivity, they will also accept high-quality flake food and freeze-dried bloodworms. They can be fed once or twice a day as long as there is sufficient food for them to feed on.


Most leopard bush fish have been reported to live up to 20 years in captivity.

Parasites and diseases

Leopard bush fish

Leopard bush fish are relatively disease-free. Although they may contract diseases from parasites in their environment (such as fin rot), infections are rare and usually treatable with medication. They’re far less susceptible to disease than other cichlids because of their small size. If you can keep them properly fed and reduce stressors on your cichlid—by adding plants to your tank, for example—you shouldn’t experience any problems at all.

Tetra Glofish

Do they make good pets?

It doesn’t make a good community fish because it can be aggressive. It needs to be kept with other ctenopomas in order to feel safe. Leopard bush fish are also very messy, so you need to have a large aquarium filter and excellent water quality in order to keep it happy.