Fin-tastic Facts About The Bichir Fish For Kids

Bichir facts, unique freshwater fish species.

Bichir (pronounced bich-er) is a freshwater fish found in Africa. This fish is native to the African continent and belongs to the Polypterus genus and Polypteridae family. A bichir's body is covered with thick scales in different color shades. It has series of dorsal fins along the body and pectoral fins below the gill openings. This fin arrangement helps with its mobility and these fish use slit-like spiracles and lungs for breathing air in and out of water. This fish's jaw arrangement is unique: the upper jaw extends further than its lower jaw. This arrangement resembles that of tetrapods and helps them to suck prey into their mouth. Another interesting fact about these fish is that they have an extraordinary sense of smell, though they have very poor eyesight. They use this sense of smell to locate and attack prey.

This species' conservation status is Least Concern, but the chances of moving to Extinct are higher if the environmental destruction that affects them is not controlled, so it is important to learn more about them. If you love these fun facts about bichirs, you can also expand your knowledge about the fangtooth and giant clam right here.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small fish, shrimps, crabs, snails, fish eggs, worms, and insects

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

300 eggs

How much do they weigh?

7.3-9.7 lb (3.3-4.4 kg)

How long are they?

11.8-38.2 in (30-97 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black, brown, grey, green, and yellow

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Environmental destruction

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Freshwater rivers and lakes







Scientific Name






Bichir Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Bichir?

The bichir is a long freshwater fish whose body is covered with thick scales with a series of dorsal fins. The bichir's upper body appears brown, greyish, or greenish, while the lower body appears white or yellowish. It’s a unique and fascinating species that has lungs that can breathe air.

What class of animal does a Bichir belong to?

The bichir belongs to the ray-finned fish class, Actinopterygii.

How many Bichirs are there in the world?

There are 13 different recognized bichirs species, but the bichirs' population size is unknown. The most notable species are the ornate Bichir, the saddled Bichir, and the Senegal Bichir.

Where does a Bichir live?

Bichir live in freshwater rivers and lakes, mainly in swampy waters. Few species can survive in an aquarium as well, but none of these species survive in saltwater ecosystems.

What is a Bichir's habitat?

The most preferred and suitable habitats for bichirs are low saline ecosystems. Their preferred habitats are freshwater rivers, lakes, and ponds as the bichir prefers muddy environments.

Who do Bichirs live with?

Bichirs are predatory species that prey on small fish, worms, and any bugs that fit into their mouth. They usually live with fish species larger than their size. They show aggression towards small fish and also towards their own species, so it is advised to only keep a single bichir in an aquarium.

How long does a Bichir live?

The average life-span of a bichir is close to 10 years in the wild, whereas it is expected to live for between 15 and 20 years in aquariums.

How do they reproduce?

The female bichir generally reproduces once a year and releases eggs for a week-long period, totaling nearly 300 eggs. The male bichir takes care of these eggs during the hatching period. Typically, the hatching period lasts for three or four days. The young fish are generally referred to as fry.

What is their conservation status?

As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, bichirs are abundantly available. So, they can be considered as a less endangered fish species and have been put under the Least Concern category.

Bichir Fun Facts

What do Bichirs look like?

Bichirs resemble an eel in appearance.

Bichirs have an eel-like appearance. One of its species, the Senegal bichir (as seen in the image above) is also known as the dinosaur bichir because of its resemblance to lungfish. The scales on a bichir's body appear in different shades of color for different species that belong to this family. They look attractive because of their slow and graceful movements, which is why many people like to keep this fish as an aquarium pet.

How cute are they?

All bichirs species are attractive, arguably the most attractive one is the ornate bichir. For this reason, the ornate bichir is the most popular bichir to have as an aquarium pet.

How do they communicate?

There is no little known about the methods of communication between bichirs. We do know, however, that bichirs search for prey using their extraordinary sense of smell.

How big is a Bichir?

The growth of a bichir varies depending on its habitat (such as whether it lives in rivers and lakes or in a fish tank). Those in rivers or lakes grow longer when compared with those that live in a fish tank or an aquarium. For example, the Senegal bichir, also known as the gray bichir or dinosaur bichir, (whose scientific name is Polypterus senegalus) grows to about 28 in long in rivers or lakes. In contrast, it grows to about 19 in when living in an aquarium. It is unknown how fast a dinosaur bichir grows, but it grows between 2-3 cm longer each month until it reaches its natural size. The average size range of a bichir length 11.8-38.2 in (30-97 cm). The saddled bichir is the longest, while the Senegal bichir is the smallest species of the Polypteridae family.

How fast can a Bichir swim?

Bichirs prefer to move passively with the help of their pectoral fins in their habitat, but they can swim fast when necessary. They are a nocturnal species (they prefer to sleep or stay calm at the bottom of their habitat, say river or aquarium, during the day and become active at night) so we can expect them to swim fast only at night.

How much does a Bichir weigh?

Bichirs weigh between 7.3-9.7 lb (3.3-4.4 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Bichirs have no gender-specific names. They are often referred to simply as male bichir and female bichir.

What would you call a baby Bichir?

The young fish or the baby bichir are referred to as fry. They start moving independently after birth.

What do they eat?

Bichirs are predatory fish that prey on small fish, shrimps, crabs, snails, fish eggs, worms, and insects. Though there is no evidence of external predators, these fish are known to kill their own species (the smaller members). For this reason, it is advised to only have a single bichir in an aquarium.

Are they dangerous?

Bichirs show moderately high aggression towards small fish and other bichir fish of their own species. The ornate bichir is considered to be the most aggressive in this Polypteridae family. While choosing tank mates for a bichir, you should avoid another bichir of the same species.

Would they make a good pet?

Bichirs are attractive and make a good pet in an aquarium, particularly the ornate bichir. If you do want to own a bichir, you need to know some bichir fish aquarium facts! Bichirs need ample space and fresh water to survive. An aquarium should be a large freshwater tank with fine gravel or sand on the bottom. As these species are carnivores, their diet should include small fish, worms, or dried shrimps that are easy to swallow. Another necessary precaution is to feed this fish only once per day, most preferably at night. Proper care and a suitable diet can only boost their growth in any aquarium.

Did you know...

There are only 13 recognized bichir species and many are popular as aquarium pets.

In this species, the female bichir lays eggs, and the male bichir takes care of the eggs until hatching.

This fish does not have natural predators but faces a threat from its own species.

Different types of Bichir fish

Well-known types of bichir fish include the saddled bichir, Senegal bichir (also known as the dinosaur bichir or Polypterus senegalus), and the ornate bichir. Do you want to know more facts about these bichir fish? Let's start with some much-loved dinosaur bichir facts.

The Senegal bichir (Polypterus senegalus) is sometimes referred to as a dinosaur eel or dinosaur bichir as it has a lungfish-like appearance. Another name for this Polypterus senegalus fish is gray bichir. Its upper body is covered with brownish-grey scales in an olive color, while the lower body appears white. These fish have large pectoral fins that help them move across short distances on land.

The saddled bichir is the longest species in this Polypteridae family. The scales usually appear pale in color with a striped pattern.

The onate bichir is the most aggressive and attractive species in this family. Its scales usually appear black and yellowish. These are most suitable as aquarium pets and can live alongside medium and large Catfish, Blood Parrots, and other large fish.

What is unique about Bichirs?

Unlike other fish species, the bichir uses lungs for breathing, and they can survive out of water for a short duration as long as their scales remain moist. When moving in shallow water, they use the slit-like spiracles on top of their head for breathing air. That's why this species is unique.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including the codfish, or skate fish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Bichir Fish coloring pages.



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