The Complete Elephant Nose Fish Care Guide

The elephant Nose Fish is a most unusual, even unique species of fish. It has a strikingly different type of appearance and does not look like any other fish you may have in your home aquarium.

This popular fish is often misunderstood, and novice aquarists might not be too sure of what they involve.

In this article, you will find all the information that you may need for keeping an Elephant Nose Fish in your own tank.

Elephant Nose Fish Facts & Overview

elephant nose fish

Care Level:Moderate
Temperament:Peaceful to mildly aggressive
Color:Black or brown, with a white stripe
Lifespan:6-10 years
Size:Up to 9 inches
Minimum Tank Size:50 gallons
Tank Setup:Freshwater
Compatibility:Most other peaceful freshwater fish

The Elephant Nose Fish has the scientific name Gnathonemus petersii. This has led it to also being known as the Peter’s Elephant Nose Fish because it is thought to have originally been identified by someone named Wilhelm Peters.

It is also sometimes referred to as the Long-Nosed Elephant Fish and the Ubangi Morymid.

The Elephant Nose Fish is native to certain regions in Africa and is most commonly found in the Ogun River and the Niger River in Nigeria, and the Chari River in the Central African Republic

As its name suggests, the Elephant Nose fish has a most peculiar, long nose. This is very helpful for it to find its way around the cloudy waters of its native environment.

The rivers in Africa that are the natural waters of these fish are known to have a lot of debris and thick substrate, resulting in very poor visibility.

The Elephant Nose Fish uses its long, pointed nose to help it to find its way around the many obstacles that it encounters. It has to feel its way around a multitude of logs, roots, plants, rocks, and branches.

For most fish, these obstacles present an almost insurmountable challenge. However, the Elephant nose Fish has an invaluable advantage: his long nose, called a schnauzenorgan, literally, a smelling organ.

His long nose has given him the edge. It enables him to get around any obstacle that comes up, and it also helps him to find food in what would otherwise be the most awkwardly inaccessible places.

The Elephant Nose Fish’s schnauzenorgan is highly sensitive to both touch and smell. It not only helps him to find his way around, and to find food, but also alerts him to any threat or danger.

Another useful advantage that the Elephant Nose Fish possesses is excellent eyesight, particularly in poor light conditions.

Typical Behavior

The Elephant Nose Fish initially seems to present with some apparently erratic behavior patterns, fluctuating between calm and peaceful on the one hand, and quite aggressive on the other hand.

On closer observation, you will see that if they are left alone and not disturbed, they are tranquil and at ease, and will spend all their time swimming peacefully around the tank. They will not interfere with any fish of another species.

The problem arises when other Elephant Nose Fish are introduced to their tank. They are highly protective of their own territory, and this is when they will show their aggressive streak.

If the other fish of the same species is smaller than the first one, he is in trouble. The bigger Elephant Nose Fish will constantly harass the smaller one.

The Elephant Nose Fish enjoys vigorous activity and loves digging around in the mud and plants at the bottom of his tank. It is also here that he will find most of his food.


elephant nose fish

The Elephant Nose Fish has a strange and distinctive appearance, making it quite easy to identify. The long, pointed nose gives it an appearance that is a cross between an elephant and a sword.

The nose is long and thin, and curves down slightly, pointing towards the ground. It is connected to the mouth, with no space between the two.

It has a long, thin head. The two eyes are positioned on the sides of the head, giving these fish superb peripheral vision.

The body is elongated and skinny. It is usually dark shades of brown, or sometimes even black. There is usually a white stripe, sometimes even two, that runs the whole length of its body.

A young Elephant Nose Fish is usually around 3 – 4 inches, but, when fully grown, this species can reach a length of up to 9 inches.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

elephant nose fish

The Elephant Nose Fish loves to go digging around in the substrate at the bottom of the tank. They are used to having lots of things like branches, plants, and other debris at the bottom of their natural environment.

It is advisable to try to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible. This can be done by giving them a thick layer of sand at the bottom of the tank, with lots of plants, small pieces of branches, and rocks.

They need these things in order to fulfill their natural urge to dig and poke around in the interesting things on the floor of their home.

The water parameters in your aquarium are important for the Elephant Nose Fish. if the water conditions are not appropriate for their needs, they can become quite ill.

The ideal water temperature for an Elephant Nose Fish is between 73° – 82° Fahrenheit. It is recommended that you use a thermometer to monitor the temperature regularly, and get a water heater if necessary.

Extreme pH levels are not good for the Elephant Nose Fish. It does not do well in water that is either too acidic or too alkaline. The pH should be maintained between 6.5 – 7.2.

The Elephant Nose Fish will thrive in an aquarium with a water hardness of 0 – 10 KH, which closely resembles the condition of the water in its natural environment.

The Elephant Nose Fish is very sensitive to changes in its water parameters. It does not respond well to sudden changes.

It is very helpful to use a water testing kit on a regular basis. This will ensure that you are able to maintain the most suitable conditions for your Elephant Nose Fish.

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

Because the Elephant Nose Fish is quite a large species, we recommend a tank of at least 50 gallons. This will give them enough space to swim around.

The tank should also be big enough to accommodate the extra items such as logs, plants, and rocks, as recommended earlier in this article.

Tank Mates

The Elephant Nose Fish is generally a peaceful fish and will behave quite calmly if it is paired with other peaceful freshwater fish.

It is not recommended to introduce another Elephant Nose Fish into your aquarium. This will almost certainly trigger an aggressive reaction in your first Elephant Nose. It will feel as though its territory is being invaded and will try to defend itself against the newcomer.


The carnivorous Elephant Nose Fish needs to be fed on meat that has a high protein content. In its natural environment, it would eat insects that present themselves as a possible meal, along with their larvae.

In a home aquarium set-up, you should feed your Elephant Nose Fish things like small pieces of shrimp, and bloodworms.

The Elephant Nose Fish is an intelligent specimen that will soon learn your feeding routine and will swim up to the surface of the water to take food directly from your hand.


Because of its high level of sensitivity to its surroundings, the Elephant Nose fish does require a certain amount of attention.

It will not do well if it does not have the most appropriate water conditions for the species. It is important to monitor the water conditions and parameters regularly.

The tank needs to be kept free of algae and should be cleaned on a regular basis.


It is almost impossible to differentiate between the male and female Elephant Nose Fish. This makes breeding in captivity extremely difficult.

Because these fish will turn on others of the same species and cannot be kept together in the same tank, it is very unlikely that you will be able to breed them successfully.

Is The Elephant Nose Fish Suitable For Your Aquarium?

If you have an Elephant Nose Fish in your aquarium, it will undoubtedly be quite the talking point among your guests, due to its extremely unusual appearance.

We have already mentioned that this species is sensitive to its surroundings. It cannot be left to fend for itself in its tank, with no intervention from you.

Therefore it may not be entirely suitable for a beginner who is just starting out on his fish-keeping hobby and is more suited to an experienced aquarist.

Provided that you are prepared to put in the effort that it takes to care for this fish, you should be able to keep an Elephant Nose Fish in your home freshwater aquarium.

About Robert 386 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

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