How to take care of Elephant nose fish?

We will talk about elephant nose fish care in this blog post.We will also discuss important factors such as their habitat, types, lifespan, tank set-up,water parameters and healthcare, etc.Everything you need to know about elephant nose fish care will be briefly discussed.


In this blog 

  • Key specifications of elephant nose fish
  • Why is elephant nose fish care important?
  • How many elephant nose fish should you start with as a newcomer?
  • Habitat of elephant nose fish
  • Types of elephant nose fish
  • Different strains or colors of elephant nose fish
  • General and physical attributes of elephant nose fish
  • Elephant nose fish lifespan
  • Elephant nose fish tank set-up
  • Elephant nose fish diet and feeding requirements
  • Elephant nose fish healthcare and health conditions
  • Elephant nose fish daily care and Bi-weekly care tips
  • Summary

How to take care of Elephant nose fish?

Daily care tips for elephant nose fish

  • Choose big and spacious tanks if housing them with other tank mates.
  • They prefer dim lighting and choose such tank mates who can adjust in such an environment.
  • Plants should be added to keep the lightning dim in the tanks.
  • Heavy plantations do provide more hiding spaces for elephant nose fish to hide when they are stressed out.
  • Temperature,pH and water hardness should be maintained well in the tank to keep them healthy and stress free.
  • Prefers to be hand-fed and can be trained too.
  • They eat slowly so avoid keeping them with aggressive and quick eating tank mates who compete with them for food sources.
  • They are nocturnal in nature and under low lights they can locate their food easily.
  • They love to feed on live food so give more preference to live food.
  • Use smooth stones and soft substrates in their tank.
  • Avoid sharp decorations in the tank
  • Install pipes and logs in the tanks provide good hiding space to them and keep them stress free.
  • Tanks should have a strong, tight lid because they can jump out of water.
  • They are allergic to some medications so consult a vet before using any medicines.

Bi-weekly care tips for elephant nose fish

  • Water changes should be done once a week to keep the tank clean and hygienic.
  • Install a good filtration system to remove ammonia from the tanks.
  • Chemicals should not be allowed to accumulate in the bottom of the tanks.This can affect the health of your nose fish. 
  • Filters should be cleaned properly once or twice in a month with a good quality scrubber.
  • Quarantine live food for two weeks before feeding to avoid infections.
  • Quarantine new members for two weeks in a separate tank.
  • Clean plants and other decors weekly to avoid contaminations,as these are sensitive to poor water conditions.

Key specifications of Elephant nose fish

Scientific name Gnathonemus petersii
HabitatAfrican rivers (central and western africa)FreshwaterMurky waters
Lifespan6-10 years
DietPrimarily Scavengers (wild)Omnivorous
Body sizeBody shapeColorSpecial organSpecial featureSexual dimorphism9 inches (large in wild)Slender body,laterally compressedDark brown,black,graySchnauzenorgan ElectrolocationIt’s difficult to differentiate (electrical signals can give some informations about the genders)
Another namesPeter’s  Elephant nose fishLong-nosed Elephant nose fishElephant fishUbangi mormyrid (named after Ubangi river)Electric fish
Optimum temperatureOptimum pHWater hardness79F-82F6.8-7.20-10 KH (Medium hardness)
TemperamentBeginner or experienced Bit aggressiveExperienced aquarist
Care levelIntermediate
Tank size and set-upTank type (Prefered)50 gallons (fully grown)Planted aquariumCommunity aquarium
Preferred plantsThick vegetations and floating plants
CompatibilityPeaceful tank mates who don’t compete with them for resources
Number of elephant nose fish species found Family has 200 species,as such no data is available specifically  for elephantnose fish.
BreedingBreeding is hard (very little is known about their breeding behavior)

Why is elephant nose fish care important?

Elephant nose fish are rare freshwater fish.There is not a lot of solid information about them on the internet.So much is not known about them.

If you are getting these unique fish to your aquariums you must know how to maintain them in the home aquariums.

They are very sensitive to lightning,temperature and water conditions. A new hobbyist must test the water to make sure it’s suiting the fish.

How many elephant nose fish should you start with as a newcomer?

As a newcomer I would suggest you get one or two elephant nose fish and some other compatible 4-5 tank mates fully quarantined at least for a week.

If they are kept in groups they live peacefully and happily and don’t attack any tank mates.They only show dominance to weaker ones when kept with just one fish.

Habitat of elephant nose fish

Freshwater fish,mainly found in Central and western african rivers, especially congo basin and niger.Inhabit in muddy and dark water with thick vegetation.

Types of elephant nose fish

The Mormyridae family has 200 species,as such no data is available specifically  for elephantnose fish.

Different strains or colors of elephant nose fish

Primarily black, dark brown or gray with white markings.

General and physical attributes of elephant nose fish

  • Elephant’s nose fish are relatively large sized fish.
  • Delicate,thin, oblong, flat and elongated body.
  • Long trunks like nose.They emit small electrical signals with the help of a special organ called Schnauzer organ,which is present inside their nose.Their pulses change according to their mood.
  • Males have longer pulses than females.
  • Caudal peduncle is rod-like and very thin in shape.
  • Their undulating movement is due to caudal and anal fin.
  • Low-light vision (poor eyesight),use electrical impulses to hunt, communicate,navigate (proper radar system) and self-defense.
  • Nocturnal i.e mostly seen active during night times.
  • Electrolocation to find its prey.
  • Largest brain to body oxygen use ratio among vertebrates.
  • Used by German and USA government water departments to test the quality of water.

Elephant nose fish lifespan

Elephant’s nose fish can live upto 6-10 years if maintained well and provided the right water,temperature,pH conditions and stress free environment.

Elephant nose fish tank set-up

Tank sizeLight intensitySubstrateWater parametersTemperatureTank plantsTank mates

Tank size for elephant nose fish

  • Bigger the better, so get a tank of 50 gallons to house these fish. Bigger tanks will reduce their aggressive behavior.
  • Add this curious fish to the fully cycled mature tanks.
  • A well planted tank with great hiding space and driftwoods is very important for these fish.Hiding spaces keeps them stress free and happy.
  • Tanks should have a strong, tight lid because they can jump out of water.
  • Pipes and logs in the tanks provide good hiding space to them and keep them stress free.

Light intensity for elephant nose fish

  • Prefer dim or poor lightning conditions.
  • Different hobbyists have different opinions about the elephant nose fish, some say they swim when the lights are completely turned off and some say they swim around their owners hands during water changes in the tank.

Substrate for elephant nose fish

  • They are bottom dwellers so soft and sandy substrate can be used for elephant nose fish.
  • Soft sand will not damage their long sensitive nose.
  • Avoid sharp decorations.
  • In search of food they send small electrical signals through the sand.

Water parameters for elephant nose fish

  • Pristine water chemistry to survive
  • Good quality water testing kits are important.
  • Slightly acidic to neutral water.
  • Elephant nose fish will appreciate moderate to fast water movements.

Temperature for elephant nose fish

  • Optimum temperature- 79F-82F
  • Maintaining stable water temperature is very important for fish metabolism.
  • Sudden fluctuations make them inactive,susceptible to many infections and sometimes even death.
  • A thermometer is required to regularly monitor the temperature.

Tank plants for elephant nose fish

Elephant nose fish come from an area with heavy plantations,so replicating the same outlook in their aquariums will be very beneficial.

Plants will naturally purify the aquarium atmosphere.Its very important to maintain the plants properly by providing them with sunlight for sometime for their growth too.

  • Driftwood
  • Floating plants
  • Staurogyne repens
  • Hornworts
  • Java moss
  • Anubias nana

Tank mates for elephant nose fish

Elephant’s nose fish are territorial in nature so choose tankmates wisely.Peaceful tank mates would be suitable for them who dont compete for resources with them.

  • Gourami (honey, pearl and sparkling)
  • Discus
  • Angelfish
  • Black ghost knife fish
  • Bichir
  • Tetra (Congo)
  • Cory catfish

Elephant nose fish diet and feeding requirements

They are primarily scavengers and have very unique feeding habits, just like elephant trunks and grab their food with their nose.They are bottom feeders and spend most of their time there.

All you need to know is what they like and in which area of the tank they like to eat their food.They are picky eaters so a protein rich diet will be a good idea to keep your elephant fish happy and healthy.

If your fish is ignoring their favorite food that means they are not keeping well.They are nocturnal fish and are more active during night and you will find them feeding and swimming around night time.

Here is the list of some of their favorite Food:

  • Mosquito larvae
  • Bloodworm
  • Blackfly
  • Live Brine shrimp
  • Earthworm
  • Tubifex
  • Frozen flake
  • Flake food (least favorite)
  • Dry food like low sinking granules

Elephant nose fish healthcare and health conditions

They are not susceptible to any particular disease but due to other fish in the same tank they might get bacterial or parasitic infections,if not quarantined before putting them in the tank.

But as such there is no information about any particular disease in them.Poor water quality can be one of the reasons for their bad health conditions.


  • Not a beginner aquarium fish.
  • Docile, timid and very loyal and can be hand-fed if trained.
  • Can be kept in a group of 4-5 together.
  • One of the trickiest fish because of their territorial behavior and sensitivity to water conditions.
  • They can be kept with other fish who can adjust in the dim lightning.
  • So much information about them is on the internet like they are aggressive fish and can kill other fish,but according to some hobbysts they are not at all aggressive, they don’t hurt other fish and like to stay in their own space.
  • They kind of mind their own business most of the time.
  • To sum it up, different people have different opinions about them, so in my opinion it’s better to get one or two in your aquariums and get to know how they actually behave.

Frequently asked questions on elephant nose fish care

Are elephant nose fish easy to care for?

Elephant nose fish are not easy to care for because of their aggressive behavior.