Delhezi Bichir (Polypterus delhezi): Ultimate Care Guide

The Delhezi Bichir (Polypterus delhezi), also known as the barred, banded, or armored bichir, is a nocturnal, carnivorous catfish of ancient origins, a native of the Congo River’s middle section, in Central Africa. Mottled with yellow and green specks over roughly a dozen short black stripes, this living fossil is a unique, hardy fish that will give your aquarium an incredible prehistoric vibe and are generally easy to care for!

Common Name(s)Delhezi Bichir, barred bichir, armored bichir, banded bichir
Scientific NamePolypterus delhezi
OriginCentral Africa (Congo River)
Temperature76 to 83°F (24 to 28°C)
SizeUp to 17 in. (43 cm)
Minimum Tank Size100 gal/fish (378.5 L)
Food & DietCarnivorous
Lifespan10 – 15 years
Water pH & GH6.0 – 8.0 pH, 5 – 20 GH
Tank MatesPolypterus, Datnoides, Synodontis, large Ctenopoma, medium – large characins, African Butterfly Fish, Knife Fish
BreedingEgg Scatterer
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Ich.
Delhezi Bichir
Delhezi Bichir (Polypterus delhezi)

Delhezi Bichir Care

Given the hardiness of bichirs in general, the exotic Delhezi Bichir is easy to keep happy and healthy, given you have the correct information and tools. These fish are nocturnal carnivores that hail from the shallow, muddy waters of the Congo River – eating only at night and breeding only during the rainy season. 

Delhezi Bichirs are also relatively peaceful for carnivorous fish (although they do not get along with individuals of their species) and serve as great companions for other medium-sized, peaceable species. For feeding, pellets may be used only to supplement a mixed diet of frozen and live prey but should not be relied on for consistent nutrition.

One interesting detail that must be considered when housing a Delhezi Bichir is that they are incredible escape artists. Since these fish require atmospheric oxygen to survive, space must be left above the surface for your bichir to breathe. However, if there are any openings near the aquarium lid, your Delhezi Bichir will almost certainly find their way out of the tank and onto the floor!


The optimal temperature range for Delhezi Bichirs is 76-83°F.  While they are hardy fish that are able to withstand a wide range of temperatures, installing an aquarium heater and aquarium thermometer is recommended for most tanks.

Different temperatures do have an affect on the fish. For example, many have observed that slightly increasing the water temperature stimulate the fish’s appetite. While this is not an observation that has been studied scientifically, it does make sense that temperature would affect the fish’s behavior.

Water pH

While Delhezi Bichirs are hardy and able to survive various water conditions, they prefer soft, acidic parameters. An aquarium pH of 6.0 – 8.0 and GH of 5 – 20 will provide comfortable living conditions for your bichir.

Delhezi Bichir Size

The average adult Delhezi Bichir will grow up to between 14 and 17 inches in length. Of course, genetics and quality of care will likely impact the size of your barred bichir. Other bichir species may grow up to 2 ½ feet!

Delhezi Bichir Growth Rate

Observed by several aquarists, Delhezi Bichir are known to grow between ½ – 1 inch per month. Banded bichir growth rate is not frequently observed, as the fish are not typically bred in captivity, and are usually purchased as full-grown adults.

Delhezi Bichir Tank Size

The recommended tank size for one adult Delhezi Bichir is 100 gal. Juveniles may start their lives in a 20 – 50 gal. tank before being moved to their more giant, permanent aquarium. 

If tank mates are involved, make sure the aquarium is large enough to meet the behavioral needs of not only your Delhezi Bichir but your other fish as well!

Delhezi Bichir Food & Diet

A carnivorous fish, the Delhezi Bichir is a nocturnal predator that requires a protein-rich diet to stay healthy. A variety of live, frozen, and dry bloodworms, weather loaches, ox heart, nightcrawlers, and shrimp is preferred to enhance their health.

Don’t forget the armored bichir’s nocturnal nature! Night-time feeding is imperative due to the difficulty and risk of changing a fish’s natural feeding behavior. While Delhezi Bichirs require a diet consisting of live and frozen creatures, pellets may still be used to supplement their diet. 

Delhezi Bichir Lifespan

The average lifespan of a Delhezi Bichir in captivity is between 10 and 15 years, although they have been known to survive for up to 20 under perfect conditions and care.

Like any fish, the lifespan of a barred bichir can be significantly impaired or enhanced by its living conditions. Dedicated care and ownership should allow for your bichirs to live long, healthy lives.

Delhezi Bichir Tank Mates

As Delhezi Bichirs are generally a peaceful species, they can easily be maintained with other mild-mannered, medium-sized fish. While they tend to get along with species such as cichlids, Tigerfish, Angelfish, and other Polypterus or Synodontis species, it’s wise to steer clear of any noisy or unruly companions as they may compete with your banded bichir for food – and win.

What fish can live with Delhezi Bichir?

The best fish to serve as companions to your Delhezi Bichir are other peaceful, medium-sized fish like Angelfish, large Ctenopama, other Polypterus and Synodontis species, Tigerfish, and cichlids such as Severums and Festivums.

Are Delhezi Bichir Aggressive?

While Delhezi Bichirs are not particularly aggressive fish, they have some aggressive tendencies. These nocturnal predators are territorial toward bichirs of the same species, will prey on any creature that can fit in their mouths, and will nip at any smaller fish that’s too big to eat.

Deep Dive: Delhezi Bichir (Polypterus delhezi)

Delhezi Bichir Tank Setup

The recommended tank setup for a Delhezi Bichir requires at least 100 gal. of water per bichir, with water conditions of 76 to 83°F (24 to 28°C), 6.0 – 8.0 pH, and 5 – 20 GH. Barred bichirs are nocturnal isolationist predators, requiring dimly lit cracks and crevices provided by aquarium décor.

Delhezi bichirs are natural escape artists, so make sure to cover any gaps in the lid of your aquarium with either filter foam or another medium. Your lid may need to be weighed down because armored bichir will come to the surface to take in air (they breathe atmospheric air with modified swim bladders, which will allow them to survive out of water for a short time). Delhezi bichirs may drown if they don’t have access to atmospheric air!

As far as substrate goes, soft sand will mimic their natural shallow, murky habitat. Adding smooth rocks, driftwood, and tall hardy plants should provide adequate cover for these antisocial night owls.

Delhezi Bichir Breeding

Breeding Delhezi Bichirs is incredibly challenging. As they are seldom bred in captivity, there is little information available to aquarists regarding controlled breeding. This is because in nature, Delhezi Bichirs breed during the rainy season – a problematic environment change to simulate.

When conditions are premier for banded bichir breeding, the male and female fish will balletically swim parallel to each other through the vegetation as the male flicks his head toward his partner. The female will stop swimming when it is time to spawn and the male will then wrap his anal fin around the female’s genital opening. After a few moments, the eggs will be deposited into a cup created by the male’s anal fin to become fertilized. With authoritative flicks of his tail, the eggs are then dispersed and naturally adhere to the vegetation. After several cycles (several hundred eggs), the parents will discontinue their duties and cease to provide care for the eggs. 

After a few days, the eggs will begin to hatch while remaining stuck to the plants as they absorb their yolk sacs for strength. After another few days, the fry will start to feed and should accept baby brine shrimp.

Delhezi Bichir Disease

There are not any diseases exclusive to bichir that require exceptional attentiveness. However, common diseases such as Ich and Velvet are standard diseases that your Delhezi Bichir may be susceptible to. 

Providing consistent, adequate care for your barred bichir, such as regular water changes and daily monitoring of tank conditions, makes disease prevention effective and reliable. If you suspect your fish may not be feeling well, always respond promptly.

Where to Find Delhezi Bichir For Sale

Delhezi Bichirs can be purchased from various online and in-person fish stores. Since the Delhezi Bichir is an exotic species, they are more frequently found at exotic fish shops than common retailers.

Delhezi Bichir Price

Delhezi Bichirs have been found to be priced from anywhere between $20 and $200. As exotic fish, these ancient artifacts are not frequently bred in captivity; therefore they may be found for sale at pretty expensive rates.

Are Delhezi Bichir legal to keep as pets in the U.S.?

As the Delhezi Bichir is not listed as a threatened or endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), these prehistoric relics are legal to keep and own as pets in the United States unless explicitly restricted by state laws.

Source: Moelants, T. (2010). “Polypterus delhezi”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2010: e.T182109A7801874. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-3.RLTS.T182109A7801874.en.

Are Delhezi Bichir legal to keep as pets in California?

According to Michigan State University College of Law, Delhezi Bichirs (Polypterus delhezi) are not restricted from being imported, transported, or possessed by California state law.