How to take care of your Dinosaur Bichir

Have you ever thought of petting a dinosaur? Sadly, the prehistoric age is long gone. But there is still a ray of hope for the fish lovers out there in the form of dinosaur bichirs. These fish appear to be a mixture of dragons and eels.

The fully-grown dinosaur bichirs can be a foot long. You will need a 340 l tank for them. Regular tank cleaning, checking pH levels, and planting some moss and other plants should be in your daily tank routine. You should keep an eye on the health of the fish too. 

Can’t decide whether to bring dinosaur bichirs home? Don’t worry. We are here to help you.

Check out our article on dinosaur bichirs to learn more about their maintenance.

Overview of Dinosaur Bichirs:

If you are planning to keep these exquisite fish, you must know them well. 

The dinosaur bichirs (Polypterus senegalus), also known as Senegal bichirs, gray bichirs, or cuvier’s bichirs, are of the Polypterus genus. Their genus name comes from “many wings” or “ many fins.” Dinosaur bichirs are originally natives of Africa. They usually prefer to live in shallow water lakes. Since dinosaur bichirs have low visibility, they typically live in murky water. They have a lifespan of 15-20 years, more or less.

Red Dinosaur Bichir

These fish have primitive lungs instead of gills. That is why they can even breathe in the air. Perhaps this is why they live in shallow water with low oxygen levels, as long as they stay moist.

The behavior of Dinosaur Bichirs:

These carnivorous fish are quite aggressive. It becomes hard to keep them in a community tank where there are other smaller species. Usually, they end up eating all the smaller ones in the tank. However, they don’t have a problem sharing the tank with bigger fish.

These peculiar fish generally stay at the bottom of the tank. Since they have poor eyesight, they depend on other senses for finding food. 

Another surprising feature of these freshwater species is that they can walk! They use their pectoral fins and tail to move. They don’t pay attention to the decorations of your tank. You may or may not have an embellished tank, in case you are keeping dinosaur bichirs as pets.

Types of Bichirs:

There are a variety of bichirs you could come across. Dinosaur bichirs are the smallest and the most common ones. Other than them, albino bichir, ornate bichir, and delhezi bichirs are quite well-known. Female bichirs are larger, while males have thicker dorsal fins. 


These attractive fish are generally grey in color, but you may witness blue, pink, and white shades of dinosaur bichir. Some members of the bichir family have got colorful stripes on their bodies, making them even more attractive. Delhezi bichirs have a grey body with yellow, green, and black patches. Ornate bichirs are the most gorgeous among all types of this species.

Maintenance of Dinosaur Bichirs:

Now that you have gathered a fair knowledge about these fish, you must look at their maintenance. You will need intermediate-level experience to keep these in your aquarium. But don’t fear when we are here. With the proper instructions below, you can successfully keep them as your pets, even if you are a newbie.

1. Choose a proper tank:

The maximum size of the dinosaur bichir is 46 centimeters(18 inches) if kept in an aquarium with correct regulations. In their natural habitat, these fish can grow up to 70 centimeters (28 inches). You may have understood by now that they are large fish. You must put them in quite big tanks.

A 90-gallon tank (340 l) is comfortable for your lovely fish. They don’t grow fast. The maximum growth rate would be 2-3 cm each month. Still, you need to put them in a tank that would make a comfortable home for them when they are fully grown.

Dinosaur Bichir Tank

As they are bottom dwellers, you might see them roaming around at the bottom of your tank. 

The substrate of your tank should be soft aquarium sand to make them comfortable.

Unlike the other timid fish in your tank, the dinosaur bichir would not require hiding spots. Since they prefer to stay in the dark, it will be comfortable for them if you consider putting some plants (guppy grass, java moss) inside for shade. You might create stone caves for this purpose.

Another thing to be noted is that they are excellent escapists. You would need a tight lid on your aquarium to protect your dearest pet from jumping out. 

2. Tankmates:

As stated earlier, dinosaur bichirs are semi-aggressive fish. They might be slow swimmers, but being a predatory species, they often eat whatever fits in their mouth. As long as your bichir can not swallow other pets, you are good. Slow-moving fish with long tails like fancy goldfish ( Black Moor, Oranda, Comet, Ryukin) or bettas are not to be kept with bichirs. The long tail of these fancy pets is tempting enough for them to nip, but they might not be able to eat a full-grown Oranda, Comet, or Betta. 

Dinosaur Bichir Team

Avoid fish that are small enough to swallow. Cichlids, large Characins (Silver Dollars, Piranha), medium to large Barbs, Large Rainbowfish, Gouramis, and Other Bichirs would be good tankmates for your dinosaur bichir.

3. Water conditions:

These armored fish can thrive in a wide range of water conditions. But this should not be your excuse for not cleaning and filtering your aquarium water. They like to stay in warm water generally. That means your aquarium water should have a temperature of 25 to 27 degrees Celcius (77 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) to keep them joyful.

The pH level of water plays a crucial role in the aquarium. These specific species prefer to stay in slightly acidic to slightly alkaline water. So, the pH should be between 6.5 to 7.5. 

Being quite hardy, dinosaur bichirs do not need extra attention to the water condition. But due to their protein-rich diet, they produce a large amount of waste. You should use filters and replace the water of your aquarium frequently to keep your adorable fish healthy.

4. Feeding Dinosaur Bichirs:

Dinosaur bichirs are typically nocturnal. They prefer eating their food at night. You must not force your lovely pet to accept food at times other than its natural time. You may train your bichir in the day without hesitation. Always remember that these fish have a strong sense of smell. Even if you drop the food in the middle of the tank, they will find it with the help of their olfactory senses, for sure.

Dinosaur Bichir Feeding

Being carnivores, these species need a high-protein diet. Shrimp, brine shrimp, bloodworms, earthworms, and other small fish can be given as food to them. You should offer live feeding occasionally. Other than that, frozen food can work well. You might face a little difficulty with the fish not accepting frozen food, at the beginning. Eventually, with proper training, this problem will be resolved.

You must know the right amount of food to offer. Overfeeding can cause diseases, and in a worst-case scenario, death.

5. Keeping dinosaur bichirs safe:

There is no such disease that dinosaur bichirs can catch quickly. But they might suffer from the common ones that freshwater species suffer. They are vulnerable to ich, a disease caused by protozoa. You might see them rubbing their bodies on the tank if affected by ich. White patches on their bodies may also give you a hint of the disease. Another common disease in these species is the cloudy eye, caused by poor water conditions.  

Separate your precious pet into another tank if it has caught any disease.  Do not use gravel or any plant in the “hospital tank” while medicating. If all of your pets are affected, you might have to treat the tank.


Keeping a dinosaur bichir happy can be an easy task if you know the proper ways of maintenance. They can enhance the grace of your aquarium with their unique appearance. These peculiar fish have survived 200 million years. And it is only in our hands that we save these species either by preserving their natural habitat or by bringing them into our aquariums.

With the help of the above article, you will find their maintenance relatively easy.

What are you waiting for? Bring home your dinosaur bichir today. Do follow the above instructions to stare at your beloved bottom dweller in its full grace.

Best of luck!

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