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Old 10-19-2014, 11:58 PM   #1
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Ropefish - Erpetoichthys calabaricus

Scientific name: Erpetoichthys calabaricus
Also known as: Reedfish
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I do not consider myself an expert on Ropefish; however, I do have quite a bit of experience keeping and caring for them. My love of the Ropefish started a few years ago and deepens daily. My local lfs (live fish store) has called me on a couple occasions when they've had trouble with this unique type of fish.

They are a relative of the Birchir family, and native to West Africa.

I've noticed there is quite a bit of conflicting information on the Internet, as with many species.

First, Ropefish are NOT semi-aggressive, and as a matter of fact, they are easily bullied. They will occasionally eat fish that are small enough to fit in their mouth, but that is not uncommon for any community fish. I have watched a school of young tiger barbs bully a Ropefish to near death. (This is how I came to have one of my Ropefish, I call "Grumpy") They CANNOT be housed with aggressive fish, and care must be taken when housing them with semi-aggressive tank mates as well.

They have no teeth, and can even have some difficulty crushing their food. I feed mine frozen blood worms, dried tubifex worms, sinking shrimp pellets, small live crickets, and chopped up earth worms. I have attempted meal worms and frozen krill; however, they had a difficult time crushing them enough to swallow them.

Second, they DO NOT reach 36 inches in captivity, as they can in the wild. In captivity, the longest recorded length is 24 inches. The average length in captivity is 12 to 18 inches. In my experience, compared to other fish, they grow slowly. Mine have grown at a rate of approximately 1 inch per year. Please keep in mind, that 12 inches of Ropefish, is much different than 12 inches of Oscar.

They have an unusual lifespan compared to other common aquarium fish, and have been known to live 18 years in captivity.

They truly enjoy live plants, and while they may accidentally uproot a few, they do not eat or chew on them. Mine like to slither through grass like plants and lounge in my floating plants as well. They will tolerate fake plants, but don't seem to enjoy them as much as live ones. Ropefish also enjoy swimming through tubes and tunnels and will tend to rest in caves when available. Click image for larger version

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I've heard people say that Ropefish are reclusive and inactive. However, I've noticed, in these situations, those Ropefish commonly are not being kept in a group. They are social fish, and need to be kept with other Ropefish. I recommend, at minimum, three housed together, and I've noticed the more there are, the more active they are. This does of course require a tank large enough to house them. I recommend nothing smaller than a 40 gallon breeder or 55 gallon.

Also, tank temperature can play a factor in their behavior. So, I recommend a temperature between 78 to 80 degrees fahrenheit. They are a freshwater species. (They can tolerate small amounts of aquarium salt.) Ph should be neutral between 6.8 to 7.5, with average hardness, and slightly acidic parameters. They prefer a sandy substrate, but are tolerant of smooth gravel.

Ropefish ARE ESCAPE ARTISTS. I believe it is their curios and adventurous personalities that tend to get them into trouble; therefore, precautions must be taken.
You MUST leave an inch between the water surface and the tank lid. Ropefish breathe air and must be able to breach the water surface. They are one of the few fish that can actually drown without surface air.
You MUST have a secure lid, with no holes larger than a quarter inch.
You MUST be cautious when cleaning the tank. I've had one jump out and slither around on the floor as I tried to catch him.
You MUST ensure your filter has no access larger than a quarter inch. Here is a photo of my filter, and how I stopped my ropefish from getting in. Click image for larger version

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You CANNOT have any sharp objects in your tank. (When playing they often flail around and slam into tank sides, bottom, decor, etc..)
You should also be cautious when it comes to aquarium decor holes. I've had a ropefish get stuck in a little hole in the bottom of what seemed like a safe decoration. At first, I thought he was just playing, here is a photo: Click image for larger version

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"Trouble" nearly died as he could not reach the surface for air, but luckily I noticed in time. It took a bucket and precision, with some pliers, to break apart the decoration and free him. I now silicone rocks over those holes before adding any decoration to my tank.

Sexing ropefish is fairly simple; however, there have been no confirmed cases of breeding in captivity. Males have 10-12 spikes along the top of their bodies, while females have 10 or fewer spikes. Males will also have a more defined anal fin, while the female's anal fin is less broad and not as noticeable.

When given a proper environment they are such a wonderful aquarium pet, and can quickly become a favorite. The video below is 30 seconds of Ropefish playing.
http://youtu.be/wBv-GUhjA_c
As you can see, it's quite fun to watch them and they can bring hours of joy.

This is dedicated to my ropefish: "Olie", "Fatty", "Trouble", "Grumpy", and "Scout".
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Old 10-20-2014, 12:39 AM   #2
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Ropefish - Erpetoichthys calabaricus

Thanks for the write up. I've been wanting to get some for my 90 with Congo tetras, African knife, baby whale and kribensis.

I know what you mean about them being bullied - my bichirs are easily bullied by more aggressive fish.
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Old 10-20-2014, 01:36 AM   #3
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Nice to hear your experience.

I just got my first one and absolutely love it. Am definitely looking to getting a couple more. Mine is in a 180 with an IT, ghost knife, and three SA puffers. It's been over a month and its working out well.
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Old 10-20-2014, 01:45 AM   #4
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WHAT IS the smallest safe size of fish to go with it I have some 1 1/2" gold barbs are they to small or do I need to wait till they get larger
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Old 10-20-2014, 02:41 AM   #5
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i saw they need 40 gallons but would a trio live in a 30 gallon for about a year till i get my 55 up and running it has live beares and a dg in it
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Old 10-20-2014, 10:21 AM   #6
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Ropefish - Erpetoichthys calabaricus

Quote:
Originally Posted by MICEY View Post
WHAT IS the smallest safe size of fish to go with it I have some 1 1/2" gold barbs are they to small or do I need to wait till they get larger

My Simese algae eaters (torpedo shape) were about an inch and a half when I got them, and my ropes didn't bother them at all., but then again, I keep my ropes well fed. It, of course, would also depend on the size of your ropefish. (My largest rope is 16".) You will also need to keep in mind the adult size of the gold barb and the growth rate of the ropefish. I've also noticed that the shape of the fish does make a difference. For example, skirt tetras can be an inch and a half in length, but their height of one inch doesn't allow them to easily fit in the mouth of a ropefish.

I do not recommend neon tetras, danios, guppies, or other similar size and shaped fish.
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Old 10-20-2014, 10:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilme View Post
i saw they need 40 gallons but would a trio live in a 30 gallon for about a year till i get my 55 up and running it has live beares and a dg in it

If your 30 gallon is a standard tank, then I would suggest you wait. It's not so much the volume of water, it's more about the footprint and floor space of a tank. You wouldn't want to run into stunting issues which could lead to health problems.
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Old 10-20-2014, 05:54 PM   #8
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OK thanks

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Old 10-28-2014, 11:07 PM   #9
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Thanks for the write-up, very cool fish! I'd consider them for sure if I add another tank.

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Old 10-29-2014, 08:15 PM   #10
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Very cool fish, and nice write up! I would love to get some someday.
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