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Old 07-18-2004, 08:49 PM   #1
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Leopard Ctenopoma (Ctenopoma acutirostre) - by Fruitbat

[center:28ce7115af]Leopard Ctenopoma[/center:28ce7115af][center:28ce7115af]Ctenopoma acutirostre Pellegrin[/center:28ce7115af]

Written by: Fruitbat

Scientific Name: Ctenopoma acutirostre Pellegrin, 1899; Family - Anabantidae; Order - Perciformes
Synonyms: Anabas acutirostris (not valid), Ctenopoma denticulatum (not valid), Ctenopoma petherici (not valid)
Etymology: Ctenopoma from Greek 'ktenos' = comb (from the comb-like spines on the gill cover); acutirostre from Latin meaning 'long nose'.
Common Names: Leopard Ctenopoma, Spotted Ctenopoma, Spotted Climbing Perch, Leopard Bushfish
Region: Congo River basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa
Maximum Size: 15cm (5.9 inches). Usually smaller in the aquarium.
pH and Hardness: tolerates a wide range of water conditions. Typically from pH 6.0 - 8.0 and dH from 5.0 - 12.0
Temperature Range: decidedly tropical; temperature range between 75 - 82 degrees F.


Labyrinth fish from Asia are very familiar to most aquarists. Gouramis like Trichogaster and Colisa grace thousands of tanks. The Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens) is a world-wide favorite. Even the Paradise Fish (Macropodus opercularis) has a loyal following. Far less commonly kept are the African genera of anabantoids. These include the so-called 'bushfish' of the genera Ctenopoma, Microctenopoma and Sandelia.

One characteristic common to all labyrinth fish is the presence of a specialized respiratory structure called the 'labyrinth' organ. This is an auxiliary breathing apparatus that allows labyrinth fish to utilize atmospheric air when the dissolved oxygen content of the surrounding water gets too low. Labyrinth fish utilize this organ to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the type of fish. Regardless of type, most labyrinth fish can occasionally be seen at the surface gulping air even if the dissolved oxygen content of the water is high. Labyrinth fish are often the last fish to die in ponds that dry out during periods of drought.

Habitat and Niche

Ctenopoma acutirostre is found in the rivers, streams, lakes and swamps of the Congo River basin. It may live in areas of fairly rapid water movement but seems to prefer places with less current. This fish is primarily an ambush hunter. It will lie in wait, often at the edge of thick vegetation, for an unsuspecting smaller fish to blunder into range. The Leopard Ctenopoma will also actively hunt at night. Food items include smaller fish, amphibians and insects.


The Leopard Ctenopoma has a rounded, laterally compressed body with large protruding eyes and a long, pointed snout. Unlike its gourami relatives, C. acutirostre has a large mouth as befitting its carnivorous nature. The spines of the dorsal fin are prominent.

The base coloration ranges from reddish-brown to golden yellow with many irregular spots and blotches of dark brown or black. The ventral color is light yellow to white. All fins except the pectoral fins and the tips of the dorsal, caudal and anal fins are colored. In this the Leopard Ctenopoma resembles the Leaf Fish of the Family Polycentridae. One of the darker spots at the base of the tail often forms an 'eye spot'. The pattern tends to fade in older individuals.

[center:28ce7115af][/center:28ce7115af][center:28ce7115af]The Leopard Ctenopoma[/center:28ce7115af]

[center:28ce7115af][/center:28ce7115af][center:28ce7115af]A young Ctenopoma acutirostre on the prowl[/center:28ce7115af]

[center:28ce7115af][/center:28ce7115af][center:28ce7115af]The Leopard Ctenopoma head on. This is the last thing that many small fish ever see on this earth.[/center:28ce7115af]

Breeding the Leopard Ctenopoma

To the undoubted joy of smaller aquarium fish, reports of captive breeding of Ctenopoma acutirostre are relatively rare. They are egg-scatterers and provide no parental care to the young.

Sexes are practically impossible to distinguish on the basis of body shape or coloration. Males have well-developed spines behind the eye and at the caudal base. These are less well-developed in females. Examination of these spines requires the use of a good magnifying glass.

Personal Experiences with Ctenopoma acutirostre

I first encountered this fascinating fish in the 1970s and have rarely seen it for sale since then. Only recently was I fortunate enough to find a tankful of small C. acutirostre for sale at a local fish store. I immediately purchased three of them.

Ctenopoma acutirostre is a relatively shy fish, only exhibiting aggression to others of its own kind. This usually takes the form of body wagging displays and occasionally head butts.

This fish prefers a heavily-planted aquarium and does not much appreciate robust or overly aggressive tank-mates. It is decidedly predatory in nature and smaller fish are not safe in a tank with the Leopard Ctenopoma. As previously mentioned, the mouth is quite large on this fish and it is capable of swallowing a fish up to 1/3 its own size. As long as its tank-mates are too large to be considered food, the Leopard Ctenopoma makes a fairly good community fish. I do not recommend that it be kept with overly aggressive types of cichlids, as it will not defend itself vigorously.

Tank size should be a minimum of 20 gallons for adult fish, though juveniles do very well in smaller aquariums. Plenty of hiding places should be provided.

Feeding the Leopard Ctenopoma is usually not difficult as they will take almost any kind of meaty food. I have had success with frozen bloodworms, appropriately-sized pieces of shrimp (fresh, frozen or freeze-dried), brine shrimp (live and frozen), pieces of earthworm, and the occasional small feeder fish. Flake food is generally ignored completely.

Care should be taken with these fish as they can and will jump out of the aquarium. Openings should be secured as much as is possible.

One interesting behavior that C. acutirostre shares with various Leaf Fish is that it seems to enjoy a good yawn every so often. It is then that the aquarist gains a full appreciation of the size of the mouth.


Ctenopoma acutirostre, the Leopard Ctenopoma, is an uncommonly encountered 'oddball' that makes an excellent community fish as long as its tank-mates are too large to be swallowed. It is an efficient hunter of smaller fish and exhibits very interesting behavior. I recommend it highly.


Herbert Axelrod, Warren Burgess, et al., 1985. Dr. Axelrod's Atlas of Freshwater Aquarium Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. , New Jersey.

Herbert Axelrod, et.al. Exotic Tropical Fishes - Looseleaf Edition. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., New Jersey.

Hans-Joachim Richter. 1988. Gouramis and Other Anabantoids. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., New Jersey.

Robert J. Goldstein. 1971. Anabantoids - Gouramis and Related Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., New Jersey.

J.J. Hoedeman. 1975. Naturalist's Guide to Fresh-Water Aquarium Fish. Sterling Publishing Co., New York.

Article on Ctenopoma acutirostre at Fishbase.org

Edited 7/25/04 to add new picture.

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Old 07-18-2004, 10:11 PM   #2
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that fish has some freaky looking eyes, that's for sure.
Great profile! you're really on a roll with these things! Keep up the good work!

That'll do pig, that'll do
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Old 12-01-2004, 12:40 AM   #3
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This is an awesome profile!

Thank you for posting it.

To finally put a species name to the fish in the tank...YAY!

My friend has had "Ducky" in a 72 gallon super well planted tank for over a year now. We have been looking to find out the name of this species and until today....nothing!

It gets fed blood worms, mysis, pellets, among other things. It's tanksmates include 2 bloodparrots, 2 golden rams, 1 mustard spotted pleco, pictus cat, among some algae eaters etc.

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Old 12-01-2004, 03:38 PM   #4
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Always happy to hear that these profiles are of assistance. Sounds like 'Ducky' has a good home!
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Old 12-04-2009, 04:37 PM   #5
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Hello. I would like to add that i have experienced a behaviour not covered in your article. I have an "alpha fish" which fought an opponent the first day they were in the tank. He has established dominence over the others and is always the first to feed, with the rest eating after. He doesn't hurt them (nor did he hurt his old rival) but likes to show his dominence by hogging the food and charging at them. It is hilarious because he tries to hog food from an African knife 3 times his size, but now gives the food to the knifefish because he is scared. He is also the first to come to the glass when I walk up. Just thought I would tell you.
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Old 03-18-2010, 05:16 AM   #6
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wow that was nice info......
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Old 05-29-2011, 03:59 PM   #7
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Leopard Ctenopoma

I recently bought a Leopard Ctenopoma about a month ago and she seems to being doing great until recently. I had to do an emergency water change two nights ago because the nitrites were extremely high and as I watched my Ctenopoma it seems as though her color changes under stress and agitated and she becomes VERY dark, almost black by her tail and fades back to normal coloration by her head. Even today, May 29, she is still showing signs every now and then of this extreme color change. Is this normal? I'd appreciate all the help and information I could get! Thanks.
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Old 07-29-2013, 11:33 PM   #8
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I will also add that pellets are relished as much as meaty foods, and much easier to provide on a daily basis! My group of 7 in a planted african biotope aquarium, and my one 5.5-incher in my turtle tank particularly enjoy the omega one shrimp pellets- quality ingredients in a perfectly sized pellet for these food-hogs! In my experience so far, they do well singly and in groups, but not in pairs. I'm far from an expert, but my group has been doing well for quite some time, all growing at around the same rate and no aggression I can see, but I had a pair (one of which I still have) that lived together for four months, until one day I found the smaller one halfway into the mouth of the other, still wriggling to my horror. Haven't had any casualties since keeping a large group, but that's just a sample of one!
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:12 PM   #9
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i want one for my brackish tank
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Old 08-03-2013, 01:13 PM   #10
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I have had my Leopard Ctenopoma for about six months now and he's my favorite fish. His coloration is awesome, and the yawning really is quite the thing to see. I've named him "Marley" because of how chilled out he always is swimming around the tank not bothering anyone and because of his apparent "munchies", he's a food hog! The only aggression I ever see from his is toward my African Butterfly Fish, which he sometimes swims up to somewhat charging it. It takes a leap out of the water and then he's left alone. He's grown from about 2" to 3.5-4" in six months. I would definitely recommend this fish, they are awesome
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ctenopoma acutirostre, leopard, leopard ctenopoma

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