Erpetoichthys calabaricus is distributed solely in tropical Africa, where it occupies habitats ranging from flowing rivers to flood plains and internal river deltas.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Central Africa: In Lower Guinea, Erpetoichthys calabaricus is known from coastal rivers of Cameroon to the Sanaga. Boulenger's (1909) record of E. calabaricus from the Chiloango in Congo needs further corroboration (see Teugels et al. 1992).
Western Africa: It is present in the Ouémé (Benin), Ogun and Cross Rivers (Nigeria)
Erpetoichthys calabaricus has a snake-like appearance, with a yellow ventral surface and greenish black dorsal surface. This species has specialized scales, which are called ganoid scales, and it has nostrils or nares on tentacles that protrude from the head. Also on the head are passive electroreceptive organs(ampullae). This species also has one-rayed dorsal finlets instead of a singular dorsal fin.
Other Physical Features: bilateral symmetry
Erpetoichthys calabaricus resides in the muddy/silty rivers of Africa, where, because of the muddy water, there is poor visibility.
Aquatic Biomes: rivers and streams
Habitat and Ecology
Erpetoichthys clabaricus is an omnivore. While it mainly feeds on small crustaceans, insects, and small fish, it will also sometimes feed on dead organisms and algae or other plant materials.
Diseases and Parasites
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Erpetoichthys calabaricus has external fertilization of eggs with sperm.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Erpetoichthys calabaricus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Erpetoichthys calabaricus
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
Erpetoichthys calabaricus is not endangered, although it is limited to a fairly small number of rivers.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Erpetoichthys calabaricus is used in the small pet trade.
The reedfish, ropefish (more commonly used in the United States), or snakefish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus, is a species of freshwater fish in the bichir family and order. It is the only member of the genus Erpetoichthys. It is native to West and Middle Africa, with its natural habitat stretching from the Ogun River (Nigeria) to the Chiloango River (Republic of the Congo).
The reedfish has a maximum total length of 37 cm (15 in). It lives in slow-moving or standing, brackish or fresh, warm (22–28 °C or 72–82 °F) water. It can breathe atmospheric air (meaning it is able to survive in water with low dissolved oxygen content) using a pair of lungs. This organ means it can survive for an intermediate amount of time out of water. The reedfish is nocturnal, and feeds on annelid worms, crustaceans, and insects. It is sometimes displayed in aquaria. Its genus name derives from the Greek words erpeton (creeping thing) and ichthys (fish). The genus is also known by the name Calamoichthys.
In the aquarium
Reedfish are inquisitive, peaceful, and have some "personality". Since they have a peaceful nature, other fish may 'bully' a reedfish, despite its large size, especially in competition for food or space. They have been known to jump out of aquariums and slither around, because they have lungs along with their gills. Although nocturnal, reedfish will sometimes come out during the day, and this can be encouraged by daytime feeding of bloodworms or nightcrawlers for larger fish. Some reedfish also have an inclination to stay close to the water surface, where they will be safe from other fish and will even allow most of their bodies to leave the water at times.