Dinosaur Bichir: Guide to Care, Tank size, Diet & More

Have you ever wanted to own prehistoric dinosaurs? While you cannot visit a pet store to get a triceratops, you can surely get a Dinosaur bichir. These fish look something like a mix between an eel and a dragon, and this unique appearance makes for a stunning freshwater aquarium fish. Due to their demanding diet and large size, Dinosaur Bichir requires special aquarium consideration. As they are a predatory species, you cannot keep them in a community tank. An intermediate to advanced experience level is needed to keep Dinosaur Bichir thriving.

Are you interested to know more about Dinosaur Bichir, their life span, diet, and tank mates? If yes, this extensive Dinosaur Bichir care guide covers everything you need to know about them.

Dinosaur Bichir Overview

Scientific name of Dinosaur Bichir is Polypterus senegalus. Commonly, they are also known as Cuvier’s Bichir, dinosaur bichir, Senegal bichir, dragonfish, grey Bichir, or Dinosaur eel. However, the last name is scientifically incorrect as Dinosaur Bichirs are still considered fish, despite the long bodies.

Natural Habitat

Bichirs are one of the worldwide found species of Polypterus. They are found in more than 26 African countries. They occur in the Major Nile River System as well. The countries where Dinosaur Bichirs are found include Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, and Senegal (The common name Senegal bichir is given because of this). Bichirs are usually found in shallows in slow-moving and tropical freshwater swamps, lakes, and floodplains in these countries.

The water temperature in these areas remains somewhere between 75F to 82F. They live in an almost neutral pH range between 6.2 to 7.8. Dinosaur Bichir mostly lives in softer water. Dinosaur Bichir often has their home in murky water with poor visibility. Although their eyesight is not that great, they have adapted to this poorly visible habitat because of having a great sense of smell. Bichirs can detect electrical currents through the water to hunt smaller fish and other foods. If the food fits in the Bichirs’ mouth, its size does not matter.


As the name shows, Dinosaur Bichir looks literally like an ancient dinosaur. This resemblance makes their identification relatively easy. Despite being one of the smallest species of Polypterus, Dinosaur Bichir can still grow up to a length of 20 inches (50 cm). They have beige/grey bodies with random darker blotches across them. Their serrated, long dorsal fins help them fully extend or lay on their back. Two pectoral fins are also present on the sides, which help Bichirs push themselves across the bottom of the tank where they live.

Dinosaur Bichir Lifespan

Dinosaur Bichir can live an average life span of 10-15 years in captivity. However, if they get excellent care, it would be no surprise to live up to 0 years. The total lifespan of Bichir fish can be influenced to a significant extent by the conditions they live in. If you’re a careful owner who makes every possible effort to help them thrive, your fish will be with you for quite a long time.

Dinosaur Bichir Tank Requirements

Following are the tank requirements of Dinosaur Bichir.

Tank lid

Because of the water conditions, Bichirs naturally live, and they are hardy species of aquatic animals. However, it would be best if you kept in mind that Bichirs grow very large and have excellent escaping skills. This means a lid for your aquarium is needed, but you also need to ensure that there is a gap between the tank lid and the water surface. It is done to allow your Dinosaur Bichir to breathe.

Tank size

With that being said, the minimum tank size required for Dinosaur Bichir is at least 90 gallons. Although 90 gallons is colossal tank size, Bichirs are enormous fish, so they will need a spacious tank to live in.

If you are keeping an Ornate Bichir or an even larger species, our suggestion would be to go for a tank with at least 180 gallons of space. However, Dinosaur Bichirs do not grow fast. You can expect your Bichir to produce 2-3cm every month. They show slow growth until they reach their final adult size. You can expect an Ornate Bichir to take a few years to grow from a baby bichir to a tank buster.

It is widespread among fish keepers to put their small-sized Bichirs into a tank of 40 gallons as they have a plan of upgrading the tank size once Dinosaur Bichir grows to its maximum size. We strongly do not recommend this practice as this is easier said than done. This is so because a sudden change in ‘home’ makes it difficult for the giant Dinosaur Bichir to adapt to a new place.


Since Bichirs spend most of their time on the tank bottom, you should place a substrate that would not scratch their bodies. A sandy substrate will go perfectly for Dinosaur Bichir. Adding driftwood will also work great for your fish by giving it space to hide in the tank.


Dinosaur Bichir does not seem to care either way if the aquarium is decorated or not.

Water parameters

If you have a fish tank that is spacious enough and can guarantee that your Bichir fish will have it as a ‘home’ for the rest of its life, then the very next step which you need to take is the proper maintenance of the ideal water parameters. The best way to do so is by comparing the water conditions they naturally live in.

If you want to see your Dinosaur Bichir happy, maintain a low water pH between 6.2 and 7.8, temperature between 75-82° F, and keep the tank water soft with a KH range between 5 and 20 days.

Dinosaur Bichir Diet

Dinosaur Bichir have a carnivorous nature. They need a diet that is enriched with proteins. Their diet makes them a bit more difficult for a pet than the rest of the fish, as the typical pellets and fish flakes do not guarantee good Dinosaur Bichir health. However, some Bichir keepers are lucky enough to supplement cichlids’ shots.

Does the question arise, what does Dinosaur Bichir eat, then? They need a whole assortment of frozen, live, and freeze-dried options of food such as shrimps, earthworms, brine shrimps, blood worms, and other small fish. If you are a beginner Bichir keeper, we suggest you start by offering food shortly after the aquarium lights go out. Continue changing the feeding time a little earlier every day until you notice the food acceptance at a reasonable hour. Though you can change the feeding routine at your convenience, it is highly suggested to allow your beloved Bichir to eat at its natural feeding time.

How Do Dinosaur Bichir Find Food?

Dinosaur Bichirs do not have good eyesight, so they can find the dropped food by using their sense of smell to scan the water.

Dinosaur Bichir Tank Mates

Dinosaur Bichir Tank Mates

Finding compatible tank mates for Dinosaur Bichir is all about managing their potential for aggression and size requirements. As we have already mentioned, these fish are naturally carnivores and can be aggressive. This means that any tank mate with a smaller size is not a good idea. Smaller tank mates might get attacked or even eaten.

Fish larger in size make compatible Bichir tank mates as they are too large to get attacked, and they would not get confused with food. Some examples of the best tank mates to Dinosaur Bichir are:

  • Silver Dollar fish
  • African knife
  • Oscar fish
  • Jack Dempsey fish
  • Flowerhorn cichlids
  • Clown Loaches

We recommend keeping your Dinosaur Bichir away from slow-moving with long fins like fancy Goldfish. Their long fins are a tempting target for Bichirs to nip at. Torn fins can cause stress in Bichir, leading to a route for disease to take hold on.

Breeding Dinosaur Bichir

Although Dinosaur Bichirs are not commonly bred in an aquarium environment, more fish keepers are having luck with them as Bichirs grow more popular. If you have decided to give ‘Bichir breeding’ a try, here are some tips which can be helpful.

Sexing Females and Males

Like many fish, sex differentiation in male and female Bichirs is not immediately apparent to us humans. Besides subtle cues, many fish get identified by behavior than looks alone.

There are a few ways by which you can differentiate between a male and a female Bichir. Remember, male Bichirs attain sexual maturity at the age of 3. However, females take 5 to 6 years to do so. Males often have a pointed tail and a wide anal fin. While females possess a narrow anal fin and a spiny tail fin is absent.

Conditioning Dinosaur Bichirs for Spawning

Some of the best ways by which you can encourage breeding in your adult Bichir are:

Offer them a diverse diet

Cut out prepared foods and offer your Bichirs high-quality frozen and live foods.

Lower the temperature range

A heavy water change combined with a temperature drop signals seasonal changes that can include spawning too.

Add thick plants for spawning

Dinosaur Bichirs like thick plants bedding to scatter laid eggs within after fertilization. Guppy Gross and Java Moss are easy to pick, grow, and suitable for sheltering their fry.

Once the Bichir pair decides to spawn, the female starts releasing 100-300 eggs. These eggs are released in small batches at a time. Male collects the released collections with his anal fins. Then, he fertilizes them. After fertilization, male Bichir scatters eggs in tangled plant material. Baby bichirs possess external fins, which they eventually take in as they mature.

Scientific name: Polypterus senegalus
Genus: Polypterus
Common name: Cuvier’s bichir, Senegal bichir, grey bichir or dragonfish.
Color: Grey/beige
Size: 15 to 20 inches
Tank mates: Jack Dempsey fish, flower horn cichlids, knife fish, and oscar fish.
Water temperature: 75-82° F
Diet: Brine shrimps, blood worms, earthworms, and shrimps.
Care level: Intermediate to experienced

Once the Bichir pair decides to spawn, the female starts releasing 100-300 eggs. These eggs are released in small batches at a time. Male collects the released collections with his anal fins. Then, he fertilizes them. After fertilization, male Bichir scatters eggs in tangled plant material. Baby bichirs possess external fins, which they eventually take in as they mature.


Dinosaur Bichir is a unique aquatic creature. Because of their fantastic resemblance with prehistoric Dinosaurs, they are a favorite among fish keepers. Am keeping them as pet is incredibly rewarding and fun. This article covers everything you need to know about Dinosaur Bichir.