Elephant Nose Fish Care Guide: Easy Steps for Happy Pets

Elephant Nose Fish, scientifically known as Gnathonemus petersii, is a truly unique and captivating freshwater fish species native to Africa. With its elongated schnauzenorgan resembling an elephant’s trunk and striking appearance, you can easily see why this remarkable creature has caught the attention of aquarium hobbyists worldwide.

In this care guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about keeping Elephant Nose Fish healthy and happy in your aquarium. From tank requirements to diet and tank mates, we’ll cover all the essential information to help you provide the best possible environment for your new finned friend.

Species Profile

Elephant Nose Fish, scientifically known as Gnathonemus petersii, are unique freshwater fish native to Central and West Africa. They are nocturnal, usually staying hidden until nightfall when they hunt for food. With their electrolocation abilities, they can sense other fish in the water, making them quite fascinating.

Here’s a brief table containing essential information about the Elephant Nose Fish:

Property Information
Scientific name Gnathonemus petersii
Common names Elephant Nose Fish, Long-Nosed Elephant Fish, Ubangi mormyrid, Peters’ Elephant Nose Fish
Distribution Central and West Africa (Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon)
Size 8 – 12 inches
Lifespan 6 – 10 years, possibly longer
Diet Omnivorous
Temperament Timid but can be territorial
Minimum tank size 50 gallons
Temperature 73 – 82°F
pH 6.5 – 7.0
Water hardness 5 – 12 dGH
Care level Intermediate
Filtration/Water Flow Moderate
Water type Freshwater
Breeding Egg layers
Breeding difficulty Difficult
Compatibility Compatible with similar size and peaceful species

Remember, when setting up a tank for your Elephant Nose Fish, account for their nocturnal and shy nature by providing hiding spots. The water conditions should be kept clean and stable to ensure their health and growth. Since they are timid, it’s crucial to keep them with suitable and non-aggressive tank mates. Finally, Elephant Nose Fish require a balanced diet of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods to thrive in captivity.

Elephant Nose Fish Basics

In this section, you’ll learn the basics of Elephant Nose Fish, including their origins, size, color, and lifespan.

Origins and Natural Habitat

Elephant Nose Fish (Gnathonemus petersii) are freshwater fish native to African countries, specifically in regions with slow-moving rivers and densely vegetated areas. These unique fish thrive in water parameters mimicking their natural habitat, which means maintaining a slightly acidic pH and a temperature around 79-82°F (26-28°C).

Size and Shape

Elephant Nose Fish are known for their distinct appearance, featuring a long, pointed nose resembling an elephant’s trunk. This schnauzenorgan helps them sense other fish in the water. They have slender, elongated bodies with an average length of 9 to 10 inches (22-25 cm) when fully grown.

Color and Markings

These fish sport a dark grey to black body with lighter markings towards their rear. Their coloration and markings blend well with their natural habitat, allowing them to navigate and hide from predators effectively. The Elephant Nose Fish’s schnauzenorgan, or elongated nose, is marked with numerous sensory receptors all over.


With proper care, Elephant Nose Fish can live up to eight years in captivity. To ensure a healthy and long life for your Elephant Nose Fish, it’s essential to provide them with an optimal living environment by:

  • Maintaining appropriate water conditions
  • Providing hiding spots
  • Offering a balanced diet
  • Monitoring any potential signs of illness or stress

By adhering to these guidelines and learning more about the Elephant Nose Fish, you’ll be well-equipped to provide the best possible care for your aquatic friends.

Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Elephant Nose Fish a balanced diet is crucial for their health and happiness. These fish are mainly carnivorous, so provide them with a variety of protein-rich foods. Offer them small live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia to keep them thriving.

In addition to live or frozen foods, use quality pellet or flake foods specifically formulated for carnivorous fish. Pellets and flakes ensure they receive essential nutrients that may be missing from live or frozen food. When feeding your fish, give a small amount of food 1-2 times a day, enough they can consume in a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health issues for your fish.

To ensure your Elephant Nose Fish receives adequate nutrition, follow these guidelines:

  • Provide a mix of live, frozen, and pellet or flake foods
  • Feed them 1-2 times a day
  • Offer only an amount they can consume in a few minutes

With careful attention to their diet and feeding habits, your Elephant Nose Fish will live a healthy, active life in your aquarium.

Behavior and Temperament

Elephant Nose Fish are known for their unique appearance and fascinating behaviors. They are generally peaceful, but can exhibit semi-aggressive to aggressive tendencies towards small fish and other Elephant Nose Fish.

You’ll find that Elephant Nose Fish are more active during the night. To accommodate their nocturnal preferences, consider dimming your aquarium’s lighting or introducing subdued light sources. This will allow them to explore their surroundings comfortably.

In terms of socializing, it’s best to house Elephant Nose Fish with larger, compatible fish species rather than smaller ones. Including hiding spots within your aquarium setup can also be beneficial, as the fish often appreciate a quiet and secure place for retreat.

When caring for an Elephant Nose Fish, remember to provide an environment that supports their unique needs while also considering their temperament. With proper care, these fascinating fish will become a thriving addition to your aquatic ecosystem.

Care and Tank Requirements

Elephant nose fish can make a unique and interesting addition to your aquarium. In order to ensure their health and well-being, it’s essential to provide proper care and tank conditions. Let’s discuss everything you should consider when setting up a home for your elephant nose fish.

Tank Size

A spacious environment is essential for your elephant nose fish. To create a comfortable habitat, a minimum tank size of 50 gallons should be given to these fish. Keep in mind that larger tanks provide more room for them to swim and explore, which will contribute to their overall well-being.

Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water conditions is crucial for the health of your elephant nose fish. Here are the key parameters to monitor:

  • Temperature: Maintain a water temperature of 79-82°F (26-28°C).
  • pH: Keep the pH level between 6.8-7.2.
  • Water Hardness: Maintain a water hardness of 5-15 dKh.

Monitoring and maintaining these parameters will ensure that your fish are comfortable and healthy in their tank environment.

Tank Setup and Decorations

To mimic their natural habitat, provide your fish with a dimly lit tank and plenty of hiding spots. This can be achieved through the use of:

  • Plants: Live or artificial plants can provide shelter and make your fish feel secure.
  • Caves and rocks: Arrange caves, rocks, or other decorations to create hiding places and mimic the complex environments they are used to.
  • Dimmed lighting: Make sure the lighting is not too bright, as elephant nose fish prefer dim conditions.

Remember to leave enough open spaces for swimming and ensure that any decorations are stable and safe for your fish.

Filtration and Aeration

Proper filtration and aeration are crucial for maintaining a healthy environment for your elephant nose fish. A good filtration system will help remove waste products and maintain water clarity. On the other hand, an effective aeration system will ensure that oxygen levels remain consistent, which is vital for your fish’s survival.

When selecting a filtration system, you should consider one that is suitable for your specific tank size and is not too noisy, as elephant nose fish are sensitive to vibrations. Additionally, make sure an appropriate air pump is in place to provide sufficient aeration for your aquarium.

By taking care of these essential aspects, you’ll be well on your way to creating a healthy and thriving environment for your elephant nose fish.

Suitable Tank Mates

When setting up a comfortable and stress-free environment for your Elephant Nose fish, it’s vital to choose the right tank mates. Due to their timid and peaceful nature, not all fish make suitable companions.

Elephant Nose fish prefer dimly lit tanks with several hiding spots. Introducing overly aggressive or territorial species may create a hostile environment and stress out your Elephant Nose fish.

To help you create a harmonious aquarium, here’s a friendly list of compatible tank mates:

  • African Butterfly Fish
  • Bichirs
  • Bushfish
  • Catfish
  • Congo Tetras
  • Ctenopoma
  • Rope Fish

Keep in mind that while these species get along well with Elephant Nose fish, you should always monitor your aquarium closely, especially during the initial introduction period. This observation ensures that every fish in the tank gets along well and can thrive together. Remember, your goal is to provide a healthy and comfortable environment for every aquatic creature under your care.

Breeding Process

Breeding Elephant Nose Fish is a challenging task, as there are no known records of successful breeding in home aquariums. One primary reason is the difficulty in identifying the gender of this species. The only reliable method is dissection, which is not a viable option.

In captivity, Elephant Nose Fish seem to experience confusion in identifying the gender of their counterparts. While this is not an issue in the wild, it poses a problem for breeding in a captive environment.

Here is a step-by-step guide to attempt breeding Elephant Nose Fish:

  1. Set up an appropriate aquarium: Prepare a spacious and dimly lit environment to mimic their natural habitat, with hiding spots and vegetation.
  2. Maintain optimal water conditions: Ensure stable water temperature (79-82°F), pH (6.8-7.2), and water hardness (5-15 dKh) to promote a stress-free environment.
  3. Provide a nutritious diet: Offer a variety of live and frozen foods to nourish the fish and improve their overall health.
  4. Observe their behavior: Keep an eye on any signs of courtship, pairing, or breeding activity among the fish.
  5. Monitor the tank: Regularly check for any signs of eggs or offspring, and, if found, provide care for the fry as they develop.

Given the challenges in breeding Elephant Nose Fish in captivity, success might be rare. However, if new information emerges on successful breeding practices, you can adapt and apply those methods in your aquarium. Remember to always maintain a friendly and patient approach while caring for your Elephant Nose Fish.

Common Diseases and Treatments

Elephant Nose Fish are pretty hardy, but like any aquarium species, they can still face some common diseases. Being aware of these issues can help you maintain a healthy environment for your fish.

Ich: Also known as white spot disease, Ich is caused by a parasite that appears as white spots on your fish. To treat Ich, raise the tank temperature to 86°F (30°C) for a few days and add aquarium salt. Keep an eye on your fish to ensure they’re improving.

Fungal Infections: These infections manifest as fuzzy patches on the fish’s body. Antifungal medication, available at pet supply stores or online, can be added to the tank to address this issue. Follow the instructions on the medication to ensure proper dosing.

Fin Rot: This bacterial infection causes fraying and discoloration of a fish’s fins. To treat it, perform water changes more frequently and consider using a medication specifically designed for fin rot. Medications such as Melafix are suitable for mild cases.

To prevent these diseases, maintain high water quality with regular water changes, and monitor your tank’s temperature and chemical levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for an elephant nose fish?

For a single elephant nose fish, the minimum tank size should be 50 gallons. This provides enough space for the fish to swim, explore, and thrive. As these fish are social and prefer to be in a school, you might want to consider a larger tank if you’re planning to keep multiple elephant nose fish together.

Which tank mates are suitable for elephant nose fish?

Elephant nose fish are timid and can easily be stressed by aggressive tank mates. It’s best to keep them with other peaceful, non-aggressive species. Compatible tank mates include African Butterfly Fish, Congo Tetras, and certain Barbs. Make sure to provide plenty of hiding spots for your elephant nose fish to avoid territorial disputes.

How can you differentiate between male and female elephant nose fish?

It’s quite difficult to differentiate male and female elephant nose fish as they have very subtle differences in their appearance. Males may have slightly larger schnauzenorgans (long noses) and a more angular shape, while females tend to be more rounded and have shorter schnauzenorgans.

What is the average lifespan of an elephant nose fish?

With proper care, a healthy elephant nose fish can live for 6-10 years in an aquarium. Maintaining the appropriate water conditions and providing a balanced diet will help ensure their extended lifespan.

What do elephant nose fish eat?

Elephant nose fish are omnivores, consuming a diet consisting of both plant-based and meaty foods. In the wild, they eat small insects, larvae, and crustaceans. In an aquarium setting, they can be fed high-quality pellets and freeze-dried or frozen invertebrates like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or tubifex worms. Make sure to vary their diet to keep them healthy and active.

What pH level is best for elephant nose fish?

Elephant nose fish prefer slightly acidic water conditions with a pH level ranging from 6.0-7.2. Test the water regularly and make necessary adjustments using water conditioners to maintain the ideal pH level for your elephant nose fish. It’s also crucial to monitor water hardness and temperature, as they require soft water and temperatures between 72-82°F (22-28°C).