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Akwa19 reedfish.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Subclass: Chondrostei
Order: Polypteriformes
Family: Polypteridae
Genus: Erpetoichthys
J. A. Smith, 1865
Species: E. calabaricus
Binomial name
Erpetoichthys calabaricus
J. A. Smith, 1865

Calamoichthys calabaricus
(J. A. Smith, 1865)

The reedfish, ropefish (more commonly used in the United States), or snakefish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus, is a species of freshwater fish in the bichir family and order. It is the only member of the genus Erpetoichthys. It is native to West and Middle Africa, with its natural habitat stretching from the Ogun River (Nigeria) to the Chiloango River (Republic of the Congo).[1]

The reedfish has a maximum total length of 37 cm (15 in). It lives in slow-moving or standing, brackish or fresh, warm (22–28 °C or 72–82 °F) water.[1] It can breathe atmospheric air (meaning it is able to survive in water with low dissolved oxygen content) using a pair of lungs. This organ means it can survive for an intermediate amount of time out of water.[1] The reedfish is nocturnal, and feeds on annelid worms, crustaceans, and insects.[1] It is sometimes displayed in aquaria. Its genus name derives from the Greek words erpeton (creeping thing) and ichthys (fish). The genus is also known by the name Calamoichthys.[2]

A yellowish-green ropefish amongst grey Polypterus senegalus

In the aquarium[edit]

Reedfish are inquisitive, peaceful, and have some "personality". Since they have a peaceful nature, other fish may 'bully' a reedfish, despite its large size, especially in competition for food or space. They have been known to jump out of aquariums and slither around, because they have lungs along with their gills. Although nocturnal, reedfish will sometimes come out during the day, and this can be encouraged by daytime feeding of bloodworms or nightcrawlers for larger fish. Some reedfish also have an inclination to stay close to the water surface, where they will be safe from other fish and will even allow most of their bodies to leave the water at times.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Erpetoichthys calabaricus" in FishBase. March 2014 version.
  2. ^ L. Fishelson, Zoology, renewed and corrected ed. 1984, Hakibutz Hameuchad Pub. House, Israel 1984. Vol II, p.126 (Hebrew)