Elephant Nose Fish Feeding, Breeding and Aquarium Mates

Elephant Nose Fish

The Elephant Nose Fish, with its unique physical features, is sure to impress you a lot. However, even before you begin to learn more about this fish and taking care, here is an important note for you – this fish is quite complicated to maintain. 

As an aquarist, you are on the lookout for interesting and attractive species of fishes to decorate your aquarium and Elephant nose fish is one of them. 

The Elephant Nose Fish is known by different names in different geographies. Peters’ Elephant Nose, Elephant Fish, long-nosed elephant fish, Ubangi mormyrid (because it is found in the muddy waters of the Ubangi River), etc. are some of the names in vogue for this fish.

This is an African freshwater fish that is found commonly in the Western and Central regions of Africa. Chari River, Ogun River and the Niger River Basin are the places where the elephant nose fishes are commonly found. The muddy waters that are covered with branches and many shelters are quite compatible with the natural personality of the fish.

The Elephant Nose Fishes are nocturnal fishes that can live anywhere between 7 and 10 years, if taken care of well. The scientific name of this fish is Gnathonemuspetersii. They are quite sensitive to lighting, temperature and water quality. Therefore, we would advise you to opt for an elephant nose fish in your tank only if you are fully aware of the conditions that you need to set for the comfort of this fish. Therefore, it is highly recommended that it should be taken care of by experienced aquarists only.

Quick Stats

 FISH SIZE

25 cm

TANK ZONE

Depth

LIFE SPAN

7 -10 yrs

TANK SIZE

500 litres

DIET

Carnivorous

CARE LEVEL

High

Physical characteristics

As most of you might have already guessed, the elephant nose fish got its name from the unique shape of its nose, which resembles the trunk of an elephant. If you aren’t already surprised with its nose, you will be when you get to know the fish uses its nose. The nose of this fish is known as the Schnauzenorgan, and like the other parts of the body, it is covered in electroreceptors.

Thanks to this, it uses the electrolocation technique to find its prey and navigate through the waters.  The electrolytes in the body of the elephant nose fish create a weak electric field, with the help of which the fish locates its food, travels through the muddy waters and also finds its mate in the wild.

Elephant Nose Fishes are mostly black or dark brown in color. Though the actual length of these fishes is about 35cm in the wild, they don’t grow more than 25cm long in captivity.  The sides of the fishes are not only flat but elongated as well, making them look longer than they already are.

This fish doesn’t have any abdominal fins. The pectoral fins comprising of the rear dorsal and anal fin are of the same length in the elephant nose fish, whereas the caudal fin is forked. The pendicular of the fish contains a couple of stripes on it. The dorsal and anal fins are located symmetrically near the caudal fin.  A very thin and slender portion of skin joins the body of the fish to the tail fin.

We already told you how this species of fish uses its nose intelligently for feeding and navigation. However, that’s not all about it. The trunk-like protruding nose of the fish helps it in self-defense and communication as well. Under certain lighting settings, the color of the fish can appear to be violet as well, though these are during rare instances.

You will have a good time listening to the weak electrical impulses that the elephant nose fishes emit in your tank. All you need to do is place a couple of electrodes in the fish and connect their ends to an amplifier. You will notice that the sounds emanate quite rapidly when the fishes are moving about in the tank looking for insects or worms.

Feeding


The elephant nose fish loves to reside in the bottom portion of the muddy waters; therefore, its main diet comprises of the insects and larvae that found in the bottom of the tank. Some of the foods that you can provide to your elephant nose in captivity are:

  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex
  • Aquatic invertebrates (mosquito larvae being the most common of them)
  • Black Fly
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Frozen flakes
  • Artificial foods

The elephant nose fish might not be as easy to feed as some of the other fishes. Therefore, it important for you to remember the following points when you are creating the diet plan for your elephant nose:

  • Though your fish may not show any dislike when fed frozen or artificial food, it is very important that you give preference to live foods only. These can make your fish healthy and immune to a lot of diseases that commonly affect freshwater fishes.
  • The omnivorous elephant nose fishes are known for eating their foods very slowly. So, you need to give them enough time and be patient with them while they complete their foods. When they are put along with aggressive and quick eating fishes, the elephant nose fishes tend to get distressed. This is because there are high chances that those aggressive fishes could finish the food of the elephant nose quickly.

Since the elephant nose fishes are nocturnal species, you have to feed them food just before or immediately after you switch off the lights. Bright lights can disturb the fishes and they may find it difficult to eat their foods in such an environment.

Though they are known to be a little aggressive and difficult to maintain for beginner aquarists, the elephant nose fishes are very loyal and they can be easily trained to eat from your hands.

Under low lights, this fish can see and locate its food quite easily, because it not only uses its eyes for sighting, but also a group of parabolic mirrors, photonic crystals, rods and cones for accurate sighting of food and navigation purposes.

Breeding

Till date, there is no information or evidence available for successful elephant nose fish breeding in captivity. The fact that it is very difficult to identify the gender of this fish is a testimony to this fact. As of now, expert aquarists are under the assumption that the broader and rounder ones are female elephant noses, whereas the narrow and long ones are the male ones. However, there is no way to prove this claim.

For a clear identification of the sex, these fishes have to be sent to the laboratories and dissected to study their reproductive organs in detail.  With whatever little information that is available, what we can tell you is that the elephant noses construct a floating nest. This nest then floats slowly in the water and it is in this place where the first food of the fry is formed.

Though male and female elephant nose fishes have unique electrical signatures, it is very difficult to identify the same when they are in your tank. These signatures can get disturbed when you grow the elephant noses in the tank. Therefore, you cannot identify the gender of the fishes even from these electrical signals, which is another reason why you cannot breed them in captivity.

Care

The elephant nose fish is very sensitive to its environment. It needs the perfect temperature, right light settings and a high degree of water quality to survive well within the tank. Here are some points that you should remember when taking care of the elephant nose and setting up its tank.

  • The tank that you choose should be big enough to hold at least 44 gallons of water. If you are planning to house a school of other species of fishes as well, you should choose a bigger tank.
  • You have to be careful about the lighting you choose. The lights need to be dim as the elephant nose is a very shy animal. It is also nocturnal, which makes it uncomfortable under bright light conditions. Here is a catch, though! If you plan to have other species of fishes in your tank, you should ensure that the dim light doesn’t affect them in anyway.
  • If the other fishes find it difficult to adjust to the dim lighting conditions, you can resort to one of these two solutions. Firstly, you can move these fishes to brightly lit tanks. If that’s not possible, you can still keep the lights bright inside, but plant more plants to take away the brightness a bit and give more hiding spots to the elephant nose fishes.
  • The temperature should be set at about 26 to 28 degrees Celsius. Ensure that you maintain medium hardness in your water, as the elephant noses are very sensitive to very hard or very soft water. The pH balance of the water should always be maintained at 6.8 to 7.2 to maintain the perfect acid-alkaline combination.
  • You should choose a heavily-planted aquarium with lots of shelters. Ensure that you have as many (if not more) shelters in your tank as the number of species of fishes present inside. Snags, low-light plants such as anubias, Microsorium ferns and smooth stones are good choices of shelters that you can choose.
  • Use soft sand as substrate. This will not only make the elephant nose comfortable, but will also prevent its nose from getting injured when pressed against a sharp substrate. You could keep a pipe or hollow log inside the tank to provide a good hiding spot for the fishes.
  • Ensure that you always cover your tank with a proper lid because the elephant nose fishes have the potential to jump out of the tank, if you aren’t careful.
  • You have to invest in a good external filter to take away the nitrates, ammonia and other chemicals in the tank. You should also renew the water in your tank at least once a week. Never compromise on these two factors, because the elephant noses are very sensitive to the chemicals present in the water. When these chemicals aren’t filtered at regular intervals, they tend to accumulate at the bottom of the tank, and this is exactly where these fishes reside!

If you are a newbie aquarist, you need to gain some more experience with handling other fishes before you decide to bring home an elephant nose fish. As you can see from the above, these fishes are very sensitive to certain parameters. A small complacency from your side can put the health of these elephant noses at great risk.

Diseases

The elephant nose fishes are not prone to any major diseases, but the fact that they are highly sensitive makes them very high-maintenance fishes. A slight change in the medication, diet, water, temperature, plants, lights, or other minor factors can affect them in a big way. Therefore, you have to consult with experts and be thorough of the ailments that can affect elephant noses along with their respective treatments as well.

If you want your elephant nose fishes to be healthy for a long time, here are some basic but important tips that you can include in your maintenance plan:

  • Ensure that you use a powerful filter to remove the chemicals from the water that have accumulated at the bottom of the tank.
  • Change the water in the tank at least once in a week to provide a hygienic setup for the fishes.
  • Always give preference to live food such as insects and worms while feeding the elephant noses, instead of depending too much on artificial flakes or frozen foods.
  • Elephant noses can be quite allergic to some of the cleaning medicines and treatments that you use in the aquarium. Therefore, it is best to read the instructions carefully, before using them.

Behavior

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZQtrviqgn0

The elephant nose fish is a very timid but active freshwater fish. Though it is not very aggressive in nature, when put along with one of its own kind, it can get quite fierce and attack the weaker fish.  By nature, the elephant nose fishes feel comfortable and peaceful when they are kept along with a big school of at least 5 to 7 species of fishes. The more the merrier is a saying that would fit these elephant noses perfectly!

When they are placed in a big group, the aggression of these fishes is equally spread out among all of them. When you place only 2 of them in a tank, the dominant species attacks the weaker one until the latter dies from the attacks. They are very territorial in nature and they cannot compete with fishes that are very aggressive or quick in eating.

The Elephant Nose is the most common mormyrid available for hobbyists today. While they are very quiet, they are also susceptible to injuries, especially in cases when there is a hard or rough substrate in their tanks.

An interesting feature of the elephant nose is that it has got a very big brain. Therefore, even though the lights are dim, it can locate its food and clearly identify the difference between the various schools of species kept along with it.  When compared to all other vertebrates, the elephant nose uses the biggest brain to body oxygen ratio today.

Aquarium Mates

While the elephant nose fish is very peaceful and friendly with other heterospecifics, the same cannot be said when it is placed with one of its own kind.  In short, it is recommended that you don’t keep fellow mormyrids along with the elephant noses as there are high chances of an exhibition of aggressive behavior.

The best tank mates for the elephant noses can be other African species such as Congo tetras, catfishes (those belonging to the Synodontis family), fishes belonging to the Ctenopoma species, butterfly fishes, small bichirs, discus, gouramis and other chichlid varieties such as Angelfish, Satanoperca, Geophagus, etc.

Sometimes, you may notice the elephant noses sliding its proboscis across other fishes that are kept along with them. You can rest assured because this is nothing scary. No, your elephant noses aren’t getting aggressive or not trying to eat their tank mates. On the other hand, they are only trying to get to know their companions better and communicate well with them.

Put your elephant noses along with at least 5 other species to ensure a comfortable environment for them. Also, you need to remember that you have to keep increasing the size of your tank depending on the species that you choose as the tankmates for your elephant nose fish.

So, what are you waiting for? Here is a golden chance for you to get these unique but cute fishes right in your home aquarium. However, all you need to remember is to give them the perfect set up to live comfortably and close the tank with a lid so that they don’t jump out. Yes, these fishes are very difficult to maintain and requires a long-term commitment and effort from your side, but they will pay you back very well with their loyalty and non-fussy behavior.

 

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