How to Care for Your New Lungfish

Aqualand scoop on Protopterus annectens

 
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South American Lungfish Factoids

Origin

Ponds and lakes of South America

Sexing

Not likely

Temp

Seventies but very flexible  

Water Immaterial

Attitude

Watches a lot but can move fast

Security

Likes a hiding spot when small

Foods

Fish, worms, krill, pellets

Cleaning 

Keep water clean

Breeding Unlikely
Longevity 20+ years

LA
African lungfish same size as a foot-long hot dog -- a "Plumper."

LA
This goofy lungfish likes to poke his head into this four-inch flower pot.  No idea why.

Origin.  Lungfish today usually come from South America.  You’ll never see the ones from Australia unless you live there, or come across a pickled one in a biology class, or see one on display in a national aquarium.  This guy is most likely an annectens.  Unfortunately, most of the info you find on lungfishes sounds like the same guy wrote it back in ought 4 (19 ought 4, not 20 ought 4).  And their pictures look terrible or do not exist at all.  We’ll try to let you know a little bit more.

LA
Is he trying to hide?  No way of knowing.  He'll sit like this for hours.

LA Pix
When we stand the pot up, he still does it.  He could never catch any food this way.

Size.  You see most lungfishes for sale at six to ten inches long -- at an affordable price.  As they mature, they get longer and heftier and pricier.  We knew one guy that had his African lungfish (he said) for 25 years.  He also said he fed it dog food.  Some of these fish stories you need to take with a whole shaker of salt -- uniodized, of course.

LA
African lungfish do grow large -- three or four feet.

 

Dog Food?  Dog food would make a very poor food for any fish.  It pollutes the water -- fast.  Especially those that make their own gravy.  Of course, lungfish can live in unbelievably crappy water, low in oxygen and just generally looking bad.  His lung(s) really a modified swimming bladder (like our U.S. dogfish) enables him to survive even in lakes that dry up (do not try this at home).  Even though some survive these dry periods, every dry period undoubtedly greatly reduces the lung fish population.

LA
You can make 100% water changes on lungfish any time you feel like it.

Water Chemistry.  Mix two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen for good results.  Lungfish seem to ignore pH and hardness.  As long as your water stays at room temp or better, your lungfish will live well and prosper.

LA
At three feet, this African lungfish is quite a handful.

Handle with Care.  No teeth on these babies, but like turtles, lungfish don’t need no stinking teeth.  They’re not good mixers because they’ll nail their tank mates (and their owners, if you insist on picking them up like this). Do this at home, not at Aqualand. 

LA
Little lungfih like this won't bite nearly as bad (unless you're a feeder goldfish).

Missing Link.  We’ve seen info saying the lungfish could be the fish that first adapted to walking on land.  Get your salt shaker again.  Those flimsy little legs couldn’t hold up a corydoras catfish.  Lotsa catfishes move better on land than these guys.  Remember the walking catfishes that threatened to devour Miami?  Lungfish a Coelacanth relative?  Forgettaboutit.  And as far as that goes, those coelacanths live awfully deep to have stumbled onto land.

Cool Correction from James Krause:  While I am not a doctor yet, just merely an undergrad, I have taken several classes that have discussed the relationships between these three groups. First, coelacanths did not originate in the deep ocean; they actually originated in shallow freshwater streams, and then slowly as time progressed moved out into the ocean. Second, lungfish, while closely related to the coelacanth, are actually the sister group of tetrapods. This has been proven not only with DNA, but also physical characteristics such as their limbs being supported by internal skeletal elements (pelvic and/or pectoral girdles).
I hope this cleared up any misconceptions about these wonderful fish. If you would like more information on this subject I could send you the title of a good book that lays out these relationships. Keep up the great work with the site.

LA
Bigger guys require two-handed handling.

LA
Relaxed at first, when you pester them they eventually get ticked off.

LA
Big strong slippery ones "snake" around and try to bite you. with their really big mouth.

LA
We've grown him from a pup, so he's fairly docile.  Very limp legged. Like strings.

Handling.  We do not encourage you to handle your fishes (any species).  We took this lungfish out of the water to show you his best profile.  Note how flimsy his fins are -- like non-al dente spaghetti.  Some people (with great imaginations) call these legs.

LA
Our little lungfish buddy gets mostly feeder goldfish, but ...

LA
If a koi dies prematurely, he conducts the burial rites.

LA
And nightcrawlers always hit the spot.

 

Foods.  Most fish eat smaller fish.  Ditto lungfish.  We give this guy/gal mostly feeder goldfish.  He’ll sometimes eat them from our fingers.  Other times, he won’t touch them.  Mainly, he just wants us to leave him alone.  He had a pet paradise fish for about three months.  Evidently the paradise fish was more elusive than goldfish.  On the other hand, he goes nuts for nightcrawlers.  He eagerly grabs them from our fingers (so fast he makes us flinch).  He swallows them instantly.

LA
Then he spits them out before swallowing them again.  He chews the heck out of them.

LA
Lungfish love getting potted.  (Don't make sweeping generalities from one lungfish.)

LA
Brand new lungfish 10-29-03.  Not in good condition.  We'll fix him (we hope).

Sad News.  We couldn’t get any nutrition into him.  He died eight days later.  We never saw him eat or look like he wanted to eat.  He was DAA  -- dead after arrival.

LA
Chomp.

LA
Wave goodbye, Gracie.

LA
Same guy about a year later.  Not much change.

LA
New guy coming in 10.12.04 at just under two feet.  Kept for years in a 125-gallon tank.

LA
12.30.05.  Under 3-inch lungfish showing up this year.

LA
They evidently like to chew on each other's tails.

LA
Note the external gills on these little guys

LA
Picture included to show comparative size.

Last Word.  Do not get a lungfish unless you’re willing to take on a longtime commitment.  Yours may not live for 25 years, but it will sure seem like it.  Don’t trust lungfishes around children and vice versa -- especially the vice versa. However, lungfish do make impressive specimen fish.   LA.

Addendum:  New Pics added in 2013.

LA
13-inch lung fish.

LA
Same lungfish lunching on a koi.

LA
Next day another koi.

LA
He thoroughly macerates it before swallowing it,

LA
Just enough room for another half.

LA
Another day, another shubunkin.

LA
Next day a goldfish followed by a koi.

LA

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