Elephant nose fish care and breeding guide

When looking for a very unusual sea animal for the fresh water home aquarium, elephant nose fish would be an ideal choice. With very unique features, Peter’s Elephant, as it is fondly called, is not among common fish often stocked by many hobbyists.

Native of Africa, specifically Congo Basin and Niger, this rare fish species originally inhabited muddy yet dark waters with plenty of plant life. They are known to stay in the middle or at the bottom of seas. Here, they stay put until night time when there is darkness.


Primarily grey or dark brown to black, the elephant nose has a long yet trunk-like nose, explaining how it obtained its name. The body is long and thin-like with relatively smooth features. From its side to the rear of fin are yellowish-white stripes. Most of these fish are about 5 inches or less. However, some grow to be even 9 inches.

This fish has a weak eye-sight and must direct itself in the water by emitting electrical pulses. These impulses detect and locate objects found under water, helping the fish to keep safe under water, and feed.

The elephant nose is rather shy and very sensitive. To thrive, it requires pristine water conditions. A hobbyist must therefore test the water to ensure it suits the fish.

Elephant nose fish

Water Conditions

Though it survives in water of varying hardness, it thrives best in slightly acidic water, or entirely neutral. Its sensitivity to any extreme changes in water conditions make it a little difficult for beginners. This however, does not mean that one cannot try.

Larger tanks are a necessity as this fish moves widely. Approximately 2,000 liters of water is the most ideal more so if the tank is shared with other fish. The tank should be well planted to provide lots of hiding places for the fish. Pipes and pots in the tank are necessary to reduce chances of the fish being stressed up. Soft gravel is important to prevent the elephant nose from hurting its nose. Remember the nose is quite sensitive and slightly long. In case something pricks it, an injury might occur. The water pH should be 6-7.2.


Being a shy animal, the Elephant nose fish needs poor lighting conditions. In case it is in the tank with other animals, ensure they are not disadvantaged by the limited lighting conditions. Alternatively, they can be shifted to another well-lit tank.

For better comfort a hollow log with both ends open are a favorite. Remember, they are nocturnal and love darkness more than light. Some hobbyists have discovered that with time the elephant nose fish adjust to well-lit tanks if they share the tank with animals they are comfortable with. If there is no way of evacuating other fishes that dim light may irritate, have more plants around the tank to give them better hiding places.

Temperature needs to be maintained at 27 degrees Celsius.


This fish has a very unique feeding habit. Just like the elephants do with their trunks, so does the elephant nose fish. It grabs food using the long nose before flicking it inside its mouth. The only difference with the elephant is that its mouth is above the trunk, not below it.

The elephant nose fish can be well fed using bloodworms, mosquito larvae, black fly, brine shrimp and Tubifex. Some have been known to consume flake food or even frozen worms. Of course this may be a bad idea for it at first. Later on after building trust, it gets comfortable with this diet.

They are slow during feeding time and may not match the competition of other fish in the aquarium. If there is enough trust so that it can feed from someone’s hand, give it some extra food when other tank mates are less active and are unlikely to offer competition.

Elephant nose fish Tankmates

Even though they are shy by nature, they have no trouble sharing the aquarium with other fish. So long as they are assisted to feed as other animals rush to get food, they remain comfortable in their environment.

Naturally, they are territorial and when placed with their fellows of the same species, they tend to lean together. Elements of bullying can be sensed when they are two. Three or more is a better number instead.

Avoid keeping it with aggressive tank mates to give it peace. Being a shy animal, bullies tend to stress it up. The most suitable tank mates are tetras, angelfish, discus and gouramis.


So far, not much is known about its breeding habits because identifying the males from females is not an easy task. As a matter of fact, scientists think the organ responsible for electrical impulses as it looks for food often get reversed from male to female. This far therefore, the elephant nose is known to reproduce in the wild. At the aquarium, not much can be done as of now. To distinguish between males and females, it takes for it to be dissected at a laboratory. Well, this might take quite some courage, not to mention time.

Although very little is known about their breeding specifications, certain studies indicates they often construct floating nest that moves slowly in the water. Inside this nest, it is believed the fry’s first food is formed.


This fish is not known to be susceptible to certain disease conditions. However, they are sensitive to most medications. In case they share home with other fishes that need to be regularly treated, the best option is to have them evacuated to another tank.

Other fun facts about the elephant nose fish

  • Its scientific name is Gnathonemus petersii.
  • The fish uses its electrical impulses to find a mate among other things. This can be distorted in the aquarium, explaining why they rarely breed in captivity.
  • Its electrical field is quite hard to sense but connecting two electrodes in the aquarium to an amplifier can distinguish clicking sounds the fish makes when excited or stressed.
  • They do jump mighty high. Leaving the top of the tank open might lead to them getting out and if a cat was nearby. Well, a good meal to the cat and a great loss to the owner.

3 thoughts on “Elephant nose fish care and breeding guide”

  1. Iam mad and will never buy this fish again. I was not advised when I bought this fish that it was a jumper. I had just purchased it and within 5 min it jumped out

    • When I see a fish I am thinking if buying, I always look it up before purchase to make sure I can provide its needs. You can’t trust a salesperson making minimum wage to know much about fish. Even if they did, they don’t get paid enough to put up with customers abuse if they dare insinuate someone may not be able to care for a fish.
      It is on the purchaser to know about the care, requirements and tendencies of any living creature you plan to take care of.
      Fish have personalities and feelings too.

  2. Unusual marks on his side not the stripe at the rear.end I have three in 400lt of water with 4 disc. 1angle and some small fish all the elephant nose eat well


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