Ropefish / Kalamoicht (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)

Do you know Erpetoichthys calabaricus, commonly known as the Ropefish, Reedfish or Snakefish? This unique and serpent-like freshwater species originates from the waterways of West and Central Africa. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the distinctive features, natural habitat, behaviors, dietary preferences, and expert advice for successfully caring for the enigmatic Ropefish in your home aquarium.

Size and appearance

The Ropefish boasts an elongated body that resembles a rope or snake, reaching an average length of 40-60 centimeters (16-24 inches). The body is covered with rhombus-shaped scales. It exhibits a color palette ranging from olive to brown, further enhancing its serpentine allure. The distinctive dorsal fin is visible from the end of the body, close to the tail.


Originating from the slow-moving rivers and freshwater systems of West and Central Africa, the Ropefish thrives in areas with ample vegetation and submerged structures. It is commonly found in countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it navigates the densely vegetated waters.


Ropefish are known for their peaceful demeanor and fascinating behaviors. They are predominantly nocturnal, displaying heightened activity during the evening hours. Their eel-like movements and propensity to explore every nook and cranny of the aquarium make them intriguing additions to a well-planned aquatic environment. If you would like to know the sex of this fish, don’t get excited, because it is very hard to determine. The gender identification is possible by counting the rays in the anal fin of the fish. Males have 12-14 rays and females have 9-12 rays. If they have 12, just make a guess 🥲


In their natural habitat, Ropefish are carnivorous, feeding on small invertebrates, insects, and smaller fish. In captivity, they readily accept a varied diet, including high-quality pellets, live or frozen foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Their diet should replicate the protein-rich fare they would consume in the wild.

Keeping the Ropefish at home

To ensure the well-being of Ropefish in your home aquarium, consider the following:

Tank size: Provide a spacious tank of at least 150 liters (40 gallons) to accommodate the Ropefish’s elongated body and allow for ample swimming space.
Water parameters: Maintain a stable water temperature between 24-28 °C (75-82°F) and a neutral to slightly acidic pH level of 6.5-7.5. Regular water changes help to keep water quality optimal.
Tank setup: Mimic their natural habitat by incorporating hiding spots, driftwood, and live plants. Ensure the tank has a secure lid, as Ropefish are known to be skilled escape artists. It can even escape from small holes, like the gaps for your filter tubes, so make sure you close these off with for example a sponge.
Tank mates: Ropefish are generally peaceful but can be predatory towards smaller tank mates. Opt for larger, non-aggressive species such as larger tetras, gouramis, or catfish.

The Ropefish, with its serpentine grace and nocturnal charm, offers a unique and mesmerizing presence in the aquarium. By understanding its natural habitat and specific care requirements, you can create an environment that allows these captivating creatures to thrive and showcase their distinctive behaviors. Embrace the opportunity to keep the Ropefish, and you’ll unveil the mysteries of West and Central African waterways in the heart of your own aquatic sanctuary.

Scientific nameErpetoichthys calabaricus
Type of aquariumFreshwater
Size40-60 cm (16-24 inches)
RegionWest and Central Africa
Ideal tank size150 liters (40 gallons) or more
Ideal water temperature24-28 °C (75-82 °F)
DietCarnivorous; pellets, live/frozen foods
ReproductionNotable for laying eggs
Life spanVaries, typically 8-15 years
SchoolingGenerally solitary; peaceful with proper tank mates.

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