For those who like exotic fish, rope fish is an excellent choice. They are beautiful, peaceful, and fit just about any community tank. Although they are not colorful and scary, they are pretty undemanding species that are easy to care for. If you want to own one of your own, you’ll have to learn about rope fish tank size and conditions. In this article, we’ll talk about this topic and more.
What are rope fish?
Rope fish, also known as reed fish, snake, fish, and African rope fish, is a freshwater species of fish, usually found in the waters of West-Central Africa.
They are long, thin, and with no scales. They have a small head with two eyes on the top side of their body.
Rope fish are non-aggressive species that spend most of their time hiding in the standpipes or rocks.
Rope fish are very different from any other species of fish. They are long, with no scales, and it has small head with their eyes located at the top part of their body.
Rope fish are widely available in pet shops, usually being sold as “freshwater eels” or “elongated sunfish.”
They grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) in length and live up to 20 years. They are bottom dwellers that can be kept in a tropical community tank with warm water.
Rope fish size
Rope fish are considered to be fairly large fish species because of their elongated body. They can reach about 20 inches at most, while 15 inches is regarded as the average size.
Therefore, you should be prepared to have a large fish tank for your fish to move around freely.
How much is a rope fish?
A rope fish is usually sold in pet shops for approximately $20 (US). However, if you want to buy a large specimen, be prepared to spend $40 to $50.
Rope fish tank size
Although rope fish have a thin, eel-like body, they are long enough to require a large fish tank.
A minimum of 45 gallons is needed for one fish, but you may have to consider getting a larger tank if you want to keep them in a school.
Do rope fish need to be in groups?
Although rope fish are not schooling fish, they prefer the companionship of their own species. They can cohabit well with up to 6 fish together. However, you can keep only one fish in a tank if you prefer.
Rope fish are always sold in groups of 3 or more, but this doesn’t mean you have to keep them that way.
However, it is important to keep in mind that they are usually timid and not very good at competing for food with other members of their species. So, you should keep them in a small group to keep them happy.
Rope fish tank size for 2 fish
The minimum tank size for one rope fish is 45 gallons. We recommend using a 50+ gallon tank if you have a larger specimen.
If you prefer to keep two rope fish in one tank, the tank size should be about 60 gallons or more.
You have to increase the tank size by about 10 gallons or more for each additional fish. So, the minimum tank size for two rope fish would be about 55 gallons.
Rope fish tank size for 6 fish
If you plan to keep six fish together, you’ll have to provide a much larger fish tank.
Since each additional fish require roughly 10 gallons or more, the minimum tank size for six rope fish would be about 95+ gallons.
When the quantity of fish increases, so does the amount of waste they create. Therefore, it is wise to provide them with a much larger tank if possible.
So, we recommend buying at least a 125-gallon fish tank to keep six rope fish.
Can rope fish live with other fish?
Rope fish are peaceful species that don’t bother other fish or animals in the tank. They can be kept with most community aquarium fishes, but it is essential to know which fish species could be kept.
As rope fish are carnivore species, they will eat small fish when they get hungry. Although fish are not their primary food source in the wild, rope fish will readily eat fish or other small species in captivity because they are readily available to them.
For this reason, you can not keep any small fish or invertebrates like shrimps and snails in the aquarium with your rope fish.
Even if you provide dense vegetation and other hiding places, there’s always a chance that the smaller species may get eaten by your large rope fish.
If you want to keep rope fish in a community tank, their tank mates should be large enough not to fit in rope fish’s mouth.
Some suitable tank mates are other large fish species like angelfish, goldfish, Bala sharks, clown loaches, rainbow sharks, Pictus catfish, Siamese algae eaters, Dwarf gouramis, and yo-yo loaches.
Rope fish diet
Rope fish are predators by nature. They usually eat insects, crustaceans, and worms in the wild. Small fish are their last option because they are more active for these species.
In captivity, you can feed them with fish pellets, flakes, frozen or freeze-dried brine shrimp, bloodworms, live fish, shrimp, krill, plankton, and daphnia. Being nocturnal, they should be fed at night.
Although you can feed fish pellets and flakes, most rope fish will not accept dried foods. In that case, you will have to stick with meaty food only, which can be challenging in the long term.
If you want your rope fish to be more active and engaging, feed them with live foods like live fish, shrimps, and worms.
You can feed them with live brine shrimps or bloodworms, only if the rope fish are already accustomed to it. If not, start with live fish or worms.
Since rope fish can not see well, they heavily rely on their sense of smell and touch. So, it will be difficult for them to find food when they smell food from everywhere.
So, if you have other fish species, you will have to feed them first and feed your rope fish about 10 to 15 minutes later.
Will rope fish eat small fish?
Although fish are not their preferred food choice, rope fish will prey on small fish if they are small enough to fit in their mouth.
This happens when your fish stay hungry for a long time, they will turn to small fish as their next option.
So, if you have a rope fish in a community tank with small fish like guppies, danios, or tetras, there is a chance that your rope fish will eventually prey on them.
However, if the small fish measures more than 3 to 4 inches in length, they will not become prey items to rope fish.
This is because their mouths are not big enough to swallow such large prey even if they are hungry.
Do rope fish eat at night?
Yes. Ropefish are nocturnal animals. They feed mainly at night and rest during the day near plants and rocks in the aquarium.
However, if there are other nocturnal fish species in the tank, all the nocturnal species must be fed at night.
Rope fish tank conditions
The natural habitats of rope fish are rivers, tributaries, swamps, and ditches in tropical areas. Rope fish are found in both freshwater and brackish water habitats.
These fish can also survive in low oxygenated water. So, they’ll be fine with a wide variety of water conditions in captivity as long as extremes are avoided.
But you have to make sure that they have appropriate water conditions in captivity, or they may become ill and eventually die.
The pH level of the water should be neutral or slightly alkaline.
The recommended pH level for these fish is 6.5 to 8, and the preferred temperature for them is 22 to 28 °C (72–82 °F). These fish can live in soft to hard water from 4 to 18dH.
Rope fish can live stress-free in brackish water. So, we highly recommend keeping them in saltwater if you don’t intend to keep any freshwater species. However, the salinity should be limited to 1.020ppm.
Since these fish leave lots of organic waste, you will have to change about 25% of the water every week if you have a minimum-sized aquarium.
If you have a large aquarium, change about 20% water every two weeks. While changing water, it is required to siphon the waste at the bottom of your aquarium.
Rope fish care and tank set up
Although rope fish are different than most other fish, these fish also live in the same environments and require the same tank conditions.
As mentioned above, they prefer water with neutral pH levels and prefer warmer temperatures in captivity.
When making a rope fish aquarium, you have to ensure that your tank does not contain lots of sharp rocks and plant debris.
These items will tear their skin, and this will cause them pain. And any fish that is in constant pain will not be an ideal pet fish.
So, to provide a natural habitat for your rope fish, you have to have a good number of plants and some rocks.
If you have live plants, that is even better because the plants will provide both the needed hiding places for your fish. And they will also help you maintain good water quality in the aquarium.
Besides these specific requirements, setting up a rope fish tank is pretty straightforward.
Since rope fish are mostly bottom dwellers, they require a soft substrate in their aquarium. You can use fine sand as the substrate to not scratch themselves while dwelling on the bottom.
Besides plants and rocks, as we mentioned before, you can add some caves for your fish to hide. As these fish are nocturnal in nature, they require places for resting during the day.
As your rope fish is a bottom dweller, make sure that your decorations are placed on the bottom half of the tank.
As these fish produce lots of waste, you should install a powerful filtration system in the tank. We recommend adding a canister filter to your aquarium.
Aeration is not a must for rope fish as these fish can live in low oxygen levels. However, if you have other fish species, you should add an aeration system.
In addition to that, you must add a water heater if you live in an area with a cold climate. These fish require a warmer temperature in captivity to thrive.
You should set up the lights in your aquarium for about 6 to 8 hours each day. For your rope fish, you should add lighting to get the darkness when it is nighttime. For this, you can use blue LED lights or dark lights.
A tank lid is a must for your aquarium. Make sure that the top of your tank is completely covered by a sturdy lid so that your fish cannot jump out of the water.
These fish are escape artists, and they will try to jump out of the tank if they find a way, even from the thinnest crack.
So, when you have to clean the tank or any other work by leaving the tank open, ask someone to keep an eye on your fish as even though they can escape from the tank, these fish can not survive for long without water.
Rope fish require a large tank and a well-maintained environment to thrive. And as these fish are nocturnal.
Therefore you should avoid using bright lights during the day. Also, you should set up the live plants in such a way that they cast shadows on the substrate during the day.
However, these are not hard requirements as you can set up a rope fish aquarium as you would set up an aquarium for other bottom-dwelling species.
When given a large-sized tank with their ideal water conditions, these fish can live up to 20 years and bring lots of joy to their owners.