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Ctenopoma acutirostre

Leopard Bushfish




Known only from Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo.


An adaptable species that can be found in many different biotopes, from fast-moving rivers to stagnant ponds.

Maximum Standard Length

8″ (20cm). It’s quite slow growing though, and it can take several years to reach anything like this size. 6″ (15cm) is considered a good size for captive fish.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

48″ x 12″ x 12″ (120cm x 30cm x 30cm) – 110 litres.


It’s active in the twilight hours in nature, and prefers similarly dim conditions in the aquarium. Either use weak lighting, or diffuse it by adding a layer of floating plants. Arrange the rest of the decor to form plenty of hiding places and cover. A dark substrate with African plant species such as Anubias and Bolbitis attached to pieces of driftwood looks particularly effective. Make sure there are no gaps around the tank cover as it is known to jump on occasion.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 73-82°F (23-28°C)

pH: 6.0-7.5

Hardness: 5-15°H


Dried foods are not usually accepted, although some specimens learn to take them. Although it’s a predator by nature, it is very easy to wean onto dead alternatives. Offer a varied diet composed of frozen foods such as prawn, bloodworm, mussel etc., along with the occasional live treat of earthworms or mealworms.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Not particularly aggressive but is predatory and will eat small fish. Ideal tankmates include other species from the same region. Shoals of congo tetras, Phenacogrammus interruptus, yellowtail congo tetras Alestopetersius caudalis and Barbus species, along with catfish such as Synodontis flavitaeniatus or schoutedini make good tankmates. You could also try it with other oddballs, such as the smaller species of Polypterus or the African butterfly fish, Pantodon buchholzi. Don’t keep it with anything too large or aggressive as it has a rather shy, retiring character.

It can be maintained in a group in a large tank, provided all the fish are added simultaneously. If they are introduced at different times you may end up with a territorial battle on your hands.

Sexual Dimorphism

Not easy to sex. Males have more spines on the gill covers, and a roughly-textured area at the base of the caudal peduncle that is absent in females.


There are very few reports of this fish spawning in aquaria. The chances of obtaining a suitable pair should be higher if you buy a group of young fish, allowing these to pair off naturally.

The spawning tank should be large and contain lots of floating plants. The tank should have the tightest-fitting cover you can find, as the fry need access to a layer of warm, humid air. Without this, the development of the labyrinth organ can be impaired. Apparently the pair embrace in the usual anabantoid fashion at which point eggs and sperm are released. The eggs float to the surface where they come to rest in the floating vegetation. The adults exhibit no parental care and should be removed at this point.

The eggs hatch after 48 hours and the fry become free swimming quite quickly. Infusoria should be offered for the first 2 days after which they will accept brine shrimp nauplii. Despite the fish having been bred several times in aquaria, it appears that fry survival rate is usually quite low. This may well be related to cannibalism as much as anything else. Brood size, on the other hand, can be enormous. Several thousand eggs may be deposited, so if you intend to have a go at spawning these, be sure to have plenty of space ready for the young fish.

It is thought that C. acutirostre and other egg-scattering Ctenopoma may be seasonal spawners as a pair will often spawn regularly for several months and then stop for a while. This does not appear to be related to water temperature or other parameters. There is also a general school of thought that the species does not become sexually mature until it is 5-10 years old.

NotesTop ↑

An ideal species for the newcomer to ‘oddballs’. It is exceptionally hardy, long-lived (it can survive for over 15 years when cared for properly) and exhibits some interesting behaviour. It appears to have evolved convergently with leaf fish of the genera Polycentrus and Monocirrhus (they’re not closely related). All these species mimic leaves and other aquatic debris to assist them in hunting their prey. If you add live food to its tank, you will see the typical stalking behaviour, which is great fun to watch.

It goes by several common names, and is often sold as ‘spotted climbing perch’. While it is indeed related to Anabas species, it is not known to have the ability to cross areas of dry ground.

Like others in the suborder Anabantoidei, the species possesses an accessory breathing organ known as the labyrinth organ. So-called due to its maze-like structure, this organ allows the fish to breathe atmospheric air to a certain extent. It is formed by a modification of the first gill arch, and consists of many highly vascularised, folded flaps of skin. The structure of the organ varies in complexity between species, tending to be more well-developed in those inhabiting particularly oxygen-deprived conditions.

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