colspan=2 style="text-align: centerTemplate:; background-colorTemplate:COLON Template:Taxobox colour" | Senegal Bichir
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colspan=2 style="text-align: centerTemplate:; background-colorTemplate:COLON Template:Taxobox colour" | Scientific classification
colspan=2 style="text-align: centerTemplate:; background-colorTemplate:COLON Template:Taxobox colour" | Binomial name
Polypterus senegalus
Cuvier, 1829

The gray bichir, Polypterus senegalus, also known as the Senegal bichir and Cuvier's bichir, is sometimes called the dinosaur eel at many local pet chains - a misnomer, as the creature is not an eel. It is a prototypical species of the Polypterus genus, meaning most of its features are held across the genus.


The body is long and about as deep as it is wide. A serrated dorsal fin runs along most of the body until it meets the caudal fin. The pectoral fins attach just behind and below the gill openings and are the primary means of locomotion, providing a slow, graceful appearance. P. senegalus is smaller than its brethren, reaching about 35.5 cm (14").

Polypterus senegalus senegalus headstand

A juvenile bichir forages for food.

The head is small and lizard-like with a gaping mouth and small eyes on either side. Since its eyesight is poor the bichir primarily hunts by smell. External nostrils protrude from the nose of the fish to enable this.

A modified swim bladder serves as a "lung", allowing the fish to periodically gulp air from the surface of the water. In the aquarium bichirs can be observed dashing to the surface for this purpose. Provided the skin remains moist, the creature can remain out of the water for near indefinite periods of time.

The bichir's skin serves as a particularly effective armor.[1]


Sexes can be told apart by looking at the anal fins. Male bichirs would have a broader anal fin than the females. However, this is only true for mature males and not the young ones. Also, males seem to have thicker dorsal spines than the females, though normally, females tend to be larger than the males.


Bichirs are predatory fish and in captivity will take any live or dead animal that can be swallowed or broken apart and then swallowed. The only thing preventing a bichir from emptying an aquarium of smaller fish is its speed; the pectoral fins only allow for slow cruising, and while it can achieve amazing bursts of speed, it can't catch fish of average speed. It should be noted, however, given enough time, any fish that can fit in the bichir's mouth will be eaten. It is ill advised to keep this fish with any other fish smaller than three inches.

Bichirs require a lot of floor space; the height of the tank doesn't matter. You should note that since these specimens can grow over 12" long, they should be kept in a 25+ gallon tank. There should be a gap of air in the tank allowing the bichir to gulp air, the tank can't be full of water. Bichirs are escape artists. Without a secure lid on an aquarium, the fish will eventually escape, and go quite a long distance before drying out and dying.

Bichirs will also take dry foods such as shrimp pellets and occasionally cichlid pellets as well as flakes. They will readily accept frozen bloodworms, blackworms, and other frozen foods. They will also accept earthworms. Take care to wash the worms after collecting them, and make sure no pesticides have been recently spread.

See alsoEdit



pl:Wielopłetwiec senegalski pt:Bichir de cuiver

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