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Ctenopoma Gourami Genus Overview, Types & Care Guide

Looking for exotic fish to swim in your medium community tank? Then you should look no further than Ctenopoma. It’s a fascinating freshwater fish with an incredibly stunning appearance and behavior that would pamper anyone’s eyesight.

It is an adorable gourami or perch climber native to the African freshwater environment. The fish can grow up to 8 inches long and live well in a 50-gallon aquarium.

It is popular among aquarists as they’re typically hardy and easy to keep, depending on the particular species.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
AppearanceIt appears like gouramis except with bold and various pattern
Life Expectancy10 years
Tank Size60-gallons
Tank EnvironmentThese can survive in a wide range of water parameters but need more acidic and softer water when breeding
Tank MatesLive well in the community tank with species of the same or larger size

It is popularly known as the bush fish or the African climbing perches that have a similar shape and look to the Asian gouramis and bettas.

It has been in aquarium trades with segmented fans even though it’s not too popular. While they’re hardy and easy to keep, aquarists would still need to work on the tank requirements.

The African climbing perches have some distinctive general appearance with generic gouramis. They typically have longer dorsal fins with larger eyes and bigger mouths while these may vary for particular Ctenopoma species.

They slightly look like a cichlid fish but unlike them, these fish would climb to the surface for a gulp of air and that’s where you know the difference

Fish can fully grow 8 in(15 cm) up to 8 in(20 cm)long. You can expect smaller bush fish in the aquarium environment.

The body shape is flattened and tends to grow taller instead of wider. Fish generally have patterned coloring while the actual colors and spots or motifs would vary for each species.

For example, the leopard Ctenopoma has a yellowy-brown body with dark spots and dark-colored tails.

Some species may have lighter or even darker coloration with different sizes of spots and patterns but females generally have more spots and the males may have darker coloring.

These African climbing perches can live up to 10 years but may be shorter in the aquarium environment.

Common Types/Species of Ctenopoma

There are tens of species under the genus Ctenopoma but not all of them are eligible or popular for aquarium environments.

Aquarists have been consistently trading some species including ansorgii, acutirostre, kingsleye, Nanum, and fasciolatum. Each of them has slightly different behavior and requirements

  • Ctenopoma Acutirostre (Leopard): The most popular bush fish to keep in the community aquarium. It comes with a leopard-like pattern with dark brown spots over the light brown coloration. Well-known as the Leopard or Panther bush fish with a hardy but most predatory personality among other Ctenopoma species.
  • Ctenopoma Ansorgii (Ornate): It’s another predatory bush fish coming in small size and slow-moving behavior but with a remarkable ability to change color when breeding. This species prefers a quiet aquarium environment and can’t live with more active or aggressive species. They usually only take bloodworms or other insect larvae.
  • Ctenopoma Kingsleye: A larger climbing perch with a grey or green body that can group up to 25 cm in length. It’s not as picky as other Ctenopoma species as kingsleye may take pellets and flakes in the tank. They have distinctive white edging fins that make these fish bolder when kept in a community tank.
  • Ctenopoma Nanum (Dwarf): While it’s still a predatory climbing perch, this species can live peacefully in the community tank with species of the same size. The fish has distinctive marks of vertical dark and light bands that would be intensified when spawning. Some aquarists may consider this species under another genus instead of Ctenopoma.
  • Ctenopoma Fasciolatum (Banded): It’s another small, hardy species of Ctenopoma with distinctive characteristics. Not only that they can get along well with other species in the community tank, but they’re also not picky on food. It typically has metallic blue color with silver speckles and the ability to change or intensify the coloration.

Tank Setup

Considering the size in general, you’d need at the very least a 50-gallon aquarium to keep fish. The tank must have proper plantation and decoration with stony hills, caves, branchy snags, and so forth.

The bottom of the tank must have neutral substrates while the use of nutrients and the composition would be subject to the particular species you want to keep in the tank.

It could be very territorial, especially in the aquarium environment and a group of fish can stay at one spot for hours without moving.

It’s very important to set the tank with a large bottom area to prevent potential territorial conflicts in the community tank. You better keep the tank dwellers away from your community tank.

The ideal water requirement is to mimic natural habitats. They prefer warmer water so you can set them around 23-28 °C and keep the pH around 6-7.

On the other hand, you’d need to install proper aeration and filtration system as well as change the water comprising 20% of the volume tank regularly.

It’s not necessary to use larger tanks as This species don’t swim a lot. However, you may also consider the space for the decoration or plantation you want to install and ensure good oxygenation and filtration. A 50-gallon tank is enough.

It prefers a quiet aquarium and they’re a shy species. They may hide behind the decoration once introduced to the community tank. That’s why it’s very important to robustly decorate your tank with plastic plants or caves that create a shady environment.

The robust plantation is a great decoration idea since Ctenopoma typically doesn’t go far away from vegetation even when they’re in their natural habitat.

If you use fewer plants, you can add some blackwater extract to your tank to dim the lighting so your fish won’t be feeling insecure in the open space of the aquarium.

Tank Mates

Leopard bush fish in a tank

Even though they’re predatory, It has tolerant behavior and can generally live well in a community aquarium.

They can behave tolerably with species of comparable size in the community tank. In general, you should put the same size or larger species so they don’t get swallowed by your African climbing perches.

Some larger species ideas for Ctenopoma’s tank mates include Ropefish, Polypterus, and Pantodon buchholzi. They can also live well with those tetras including Nannaethiops unitaeniatus and the Congo tetras. Upside-down catfish and mormyrids would be great tank mates.

Some cichlids can also be considerable options but you must avoid those aggressive species.

Ctenopoma fish, even though they might be larger species in the tank, can be easily bullied or terrorized by aggressive species in the community aquarium. Be super selective if you choose cichlids for your Ctenopoma’s tank mates.

You can consider swordtails or angelfish for the community tank mates. Since they’re from Africa, This species can generally get along with other African fish of similar size or the ones that don’t fit in their mouth.

While they’re super tolerant to other species, you better set multiple shelters for Ctenopoma in the community tank. That would prevent them from being stressed out in the tank and provide the fish with their territory. Thick aquarium plants, plastic caves, pots, coconut shells, or other shelters are perfect.

It’s better to grow the species together so they can form a hierarchy in the community throughout time. That would reduce the chance of territorial conflicts among Ctenopoma species in the community tank.

Food & Diet

Due to its predatory characteristics, many aquarium Ctenopoma species only take live foods and only a few of them can take flakes, pellets, or dried pellets.

You can substitute live foods with frozen foods but live bloodworm, mosquito larvae, or small fish would be the best food for your ctenopoma. Live foods are the top priority diet and you can use frozen foods as substitutes or supplements.

African climbing perch fry may not be able to eat live foods yet but you can feed them specialized dried food for Ctenopoma. The size would fit the fry’s mouth but it has nutrients they need to grow. You don’t need to feed your Ctenopoma fish with vegetables or plant foods.

Breeding Guidelines

Breeding Ctenopoma isn’t an easy task and it remains challenging even for experienced aquarists.

The exact difficulties are subject to the particular species and they can start from the sexing. It could be a daunting task to identify male and female Ctenopoma fish so you need to be more specific when researching the breeding guide for each species.

When breeding, Ctenopoma would generally require softer and more acidic water parameters.

Even though these fish can adapt to hard water, you’d need to adjust the water parameters to create the best tank environment for spawning. Generally, you need to enhance the pH level, down the hardness level, and keep the nutrient supplies.

Theoretically, the African climbing perches will build bubble nests when spawning. Males can be caring for the eggs after the spawning phase but don’t get shocked if these fathers neglect the fry after the eggs hatch.

The fry can eat infusoria for the first week and you can feed them with brine shrimp nauplii after that.