Reedfish, Rope Fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)

Last updated on September 1st, 2022 at 10:22 pm

A reedfish, also known as ropefish, reed fish, snakefish, or Erpetoichthys calabaricus, if you’re interested in the official names, is an unusual species of fish that has been known to hobbyists since it was first discovered in 1876. This particular species can be difficult to care for, but it can be a great addition to your aquarium if you know what to do.

Caring for your reedfish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) can be tricky because they’re not ideal starter fish, and they do have specific needs in terms of environment and diet. However, if you know what to look out for, they can make wonderful pets and are relatively easy to take care of once you know how to do it correctly.

Because this species is difficult to find in the aquarium trade, it’s important to know as much as possible about them when deciding whether or not to purchase one.

If you’re considering buying a reedfish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus), here are some tips on how to keep one in the best possible condition.

Origin and description


The reedfish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) is a freshwater fish in South America. Its proper name is reed pike or rope fish. It’s also known as boga, although that term is sometimes used to refer to other species of fish. The reedfish has an elongated body with large scales, small eyes, and an upturned mouth.

It’s grayish-brown with dark brown spots on its sides. It can grow up to 1.25 feet long. Although it looks like a catfish, it isn’t related to them at all. In fact, it’s more closely related to sturgeons and paddlefish than any other type of fish. This makes sense because all three have armor plates along their bodies called scutes; these are made from bone instead of skin.

Species profile

The reed fish belongs to the family Polypteridae, a small group of freshwater fishes endemic to Africa. It is found in shallow waters with low currents, such as backwaters and lagoons. It’s usually found at depths of 1–2 m (3–6 ft), but can be seen in water as deep as 7 m (23 ft).

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They feed on small invertebrates that live on or near the bottom. Reedfish are often confused with its close relative, the flying gurnard (Dactyloptenon volitans), which has large pectoral fins that allow it to glide through air for short distances.

In contrast, reedfish do not have pectoral fins and cannot fly; they are also much smaller than flying gurnards.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the Reed fish is Erpetoichthys calabaricus

Reed fish size


This species of fish can grow up to 15 inches (37 cm) in length. It has an eel-like, long body and lacks a ventral fin.

Rope fish tank size

Due to their length, the minimum recommended tank size is 50 gallons (189 liters).

Tank requirements

Water temperature must be between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit, pH 6.5 to 7.5, and a water hardness between 2-25 dGH. Reedfish can grow up to 1.25 feet long, so make sure your tank is big enough for your fish. Some species of reedfish are known to be aggressive towards other fish, so it’s best to keep them in tanks by themselves or with larger docile fish such as snappers.

The aquarium should have plenty of hiding places and plants that will help break up their lines of sight. Also, these fish tend to jump out of their tanks when frightened, so you may want to consider using an open-top tank if you plan on keeping one indoors.

Rope fish tank mates

Aquatic bottom dwellers are best for Reedfish. Amano shrimp, dwarf puffer fish, otocinclus catfish, Corydoras catfish, and black skirt tetras are just a few good options for tank mates. Avoid other reed fish species as they may bully your Reedfish or compete with it for food. If you’re keeping more than one Reedfish in a tank it is best to keep only one male with multiple females.

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Other good tank mates for reedfish are Tinfoil barbs, Pictus catfish, bala sharks, Dwarf gourami, angelfish, Rainbow sharks, large gouramis, Kuhli loaches, Australian rainbow fish, and Honey gourami.



It is almost impossible to breed this species in captivity without the use of hormone injections.

In order to encourage breeding, you might want to raise the temperature slightly and add tall plants (like Water Wisteria).

During courting, males and females swim around together in the tank. During fertilization, the female will remain motionless while she sits. As an added benefit, the eggs are very adherent and will adhere to decorations and plants.

Hatching takes place after 70 hours. Their yolk sacs nourish them until they are three weeks old, at which point they start eating.

You might want to separate the juveniles if you reach this stage so they don’t get eaten.

Are rope fish aggressive or peaceful?

Reedfish are considered a non-aggressive aquarium fish. They may defend their territory if they feel threatened, but most owners report that they rarely display territorial behavior. Reedfish can coexist with other peaceful species in an aquarium setting without any issues or problems.

Rope fish care


Reedfish (rope fish) need to be kept in an environment that mimics their natural habitat, which is generally consistent water temperature and pH levels. Because of their captive environment, it is also important to ensure that they have proper filtration as well as good circulation.

Reedfish have very little body fat under their skin, so it’s important to keep them warm enough to stay healthy but not so warm that they can’t control their own body heat.

They should never be exposed to a rapid change in temperature. It is recommended that you check your local fish store for more information on how to properly care for your pet reedfish. A new owner should always consult with an expert before taking any drastic measures when caring for his or her reedfish.

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It is best to start off with one reedfish at first, especially if you are inexperienced with these types of pets. When adding another reedfish into your tank, make sure there is ample space between them—you don’t want them fighting over territory!

Rope fish diet

Reedfish are carnivores. They feed mainly on crustaceans, such as isopods, copepods, amphipods, and small bivalves. In fact, they have a hard time digesting plant matter. You can occasionally supplement their diet with frozen or live brine shrimp or mysis shrimp; however, these should only be used in moderation because of their high-fat content.

Reedfish lifespan

This species of fish can live for 15 to 20 years.

Parasites and diseases

Reedfish are quite hardy, but there are a few diseases that can affect them. If your reedfish develops white lesions on its skin, it has Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, commonly called Ich. This parasite is highly contagious, so if you have more than one fish in your tank, treat all of them.

It is recommended to follow up with regular Ich treatments for at least two weeks after symptoms have subsided. To prevent reinfection, change 20 percent of your water every week and use a gravel vacuum to clean out any left-behind parasites. Be sure not to use copper-based medications; they will kill your fish.

Instead, look for medications like Ich Attack or Aquarisol which contain malachite green or formalin as their active ingredients.


In their natural habitat, reedfish are threatened by a number of predators. Fishes such as barracuda, grouper, and snapper are known to prey on young reedfish. For adults, they have few natural predators in their environment. When they do come in contact with a predator though, it’s often because they were being aggressive towards them!

Do reedfish make good pets?

Reedfish are a popular fish among aquarium hobbyists because of their unique appearances. Most varieties of reedfish are generally hardy, but they do require plenty of space to roam and often do not get along with other types of fish in captivity.

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In fact, they can be extremely territorial, which means you need to give them a lot of room to swim around so that they don’t harass one another or other species in your tank.