P. ornatapinnis is carnivorous by nature and will not usually accept dried foods in aquaria, though some specimens have been known to take pelleted varieties. The most suitable options are meaty live or frozen foods such as prawns, earthworms, mussel, lancefish etc
Not to be trusted with tankmates it can fit in its mouth but is relatively peaceful otherwise. Suitable tankmates include other Polypterus species, Synodontis, Datnoides, Knife Fish, larger Ctenopoma species, medium to large characins, large Rift lake cichlids and African Butterfly Fish.
An incredibly hardy, nocturnal species with very poor vision, iP. ornatapinnis relies on its excellent sense of smell to locate food. This species along with others of its genus are some of the last surviving relatives of very ancient species. Fossils of earlier relatives have been found that date back to the Triassic Period, which occured during the early development of the dinosaurs more than 200 million years ago.
They have several interesting adaptations. The swim bladder is divided into 2 parts, of which the right hand section is considerably larger. This functions as an accessory breathing organ and means the fish can survive out of water for some time, provided it is kept moist. Like Ananbantoid species, this fish may actually drown if it is denied access to atmospheric air.
Young bichirs have amphibian-like external gills which are lost as the fish matures. This, coupled with their nocturnal mode of hunting, in which they emerge from their daytime refuges to hunt invertebrates and small fish in shallow water, clearly exhibit the link these species form between fish and amphibians.
P. ornatapinnis is the largest of the “upper-jawed” tribe of polypterids so named on account of the upper jawbeing longer than or equal in length to the lower jaw. It is arguably the most attractive species of bichir and makes a stunning specimen fish in the larger aquarium.
It should be noted that most Polypterus offered for sale are wild caught and as such, may come in carrying infections or parasites. We suggest keeping a close eye on new fish for the first few weeks after purchase.