Lungfish look like creatures straight out of a prehistoric age, and that in itself attracts people to these fascinating fish.
However, before you purchase one, sit down and think if it is the right fish for you. They require a longterm commitment if you choose to own one.
In captivity, a slender lungfish can live up to twenty years!
There are many different types of lungfish, but the slender is one of the most abundant in nature and is probably the most suited for aquarium life because of their small size.
Small is a relative term in this case, but a single specimen should be kept in a 1000 liter/ 200-gallon tank. There are many examples online of people holding them in smaller housing because these fish are not very active, but the fish should be kept in a tank where it can comfortably turn itself around.
Unlike their Australian cousins, the Slender Lungfish do mot tolerate other members of the same species sharing its tank.
Nor do they make trustworthy tankmates to other fish. Slender lungfish housed for years with other fish can suddenly and without provocation turn on them.
Even fish too big to eat all at once may be found with large bites taken out of them. It may be possible, and useful, to keep some small, inexpensive barbs with your lungfish.
They are messy eaters and the smaller fish help to prevent the water from fouling. Slender lungfish do not like a lot of water movement, so the type of filtration you use must be chosen with care.
All lungfish are famous for their ability to survive long droughts by cocooning themselves in mucus sacks that harden around them, and by slowing down their heart and breathing rate.
But the slender lungfish rarely need to do this because it tends to live in permanent bodies of water. Instead, it uses the dry season to mate and protect its eggs. Juveniles, like the one in the top photo, possess external gills.
These are reabsorbed as their lungs develop. Males breed sometime after they are ten years old, females are older before they start. They are considered a food fish throughout their range. Warning: while some species of lungfish can be hand fed and handled, the slender lungfish is not one of them This fish can deliver a nasty bite!
Up to 130cm/ 52 inches but in captivity, it is more likely to achieve only 90 cm/ 30 inches
25- 30°C/ 75-86°F
The slender lungfish requires meaty foods like chopped fish, shrimp, clams, and earthworms. Do not feed them mammalian meat. When breeding, they change to a diet made up of most vegetation.
The substrate should be either soft sand or dirt. Their tank should be covered, and the cover weighted down as the lungfish can quickly push a lid off. The water level should not go all the way to the top of the aquarium. Leave about 15cm/ 6 inches between the water level and the top of the aquarium. The fish will frequently but its head above water to breathe. The tank should be dim with areas where the fish can seek covers such as driftwood, root tangles, or stones with ledges.
Unlike some other lungfish, reproduction has not been accomplished in captivity. You probably need to imitate the dry season by lowering the water level and raising the water temperature. Filtration should be stopped, and their diet changed to primarily vegetarian fare. The male protects the eggs in a burrow he constructs, and the eggs take nearly a full month to hatch.
I remember being fascinated by a large lungfish in the university zoology museum in Cambridge when I was a child. It was different from the one pictured and had small stumpy legs and was quite stocky if I remember correctly. They also had a large catfish and some piranha fish in other tank’s, enough to keep a young boys imagination fired up for years…
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