Elephant-Nosed Fish: Characteristics, care, properties and more….

Let´s meet the Elephant-nosed Fish, or Peter´s Elephant, whose scientific name is Gnathonemus Petersii. This species lives in warm waters of West Africa, from the basin of the Niger River to that of the Congo, as well as in the rivers Benue, Zaire and Ogun, and in Lake Chad.


Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Osteoglossiformes

Family: Mormyridae

Genus: Gnathonemus

Species: G. petersii

Characteristics and Description of the Elephant-Nosed Fish

The elephant fish belong to the Mormyridae family. Their average length in captivity varies between 23 and 25 cm, while their dorsal and anal fins are of the same size and the caudal fin is branched. Their coloration varies between dark brown and black and has  two clear bands between the dorsal and anal fins. The most particular characteristic of these fish is their mouth, which is located at the level of their eyes while their lower jaw extends to the horn.

As for their body, it´s  is elongated and flattened on its sides. The dorsal fin is located on their back of their body, keeping symmetry with the anal fin. The caudal fin is quite small compared with their total length, while their pendulum is also narrow and a little elongated. Their head is big.

Another peculiarity of these curious fish is their lack of scales, which makes them very sensitive to certain chemical substances in the aquarium, such as medicinesand  salt. We invite you to read our article the anatomy of fish to learn more about this topic

Electrical Properties of the Elephant-Nosed Fish

In the same way as other members of their family, the elephant-nosed fish produce a low-intense electric field using a specially adapted muscular tissue, located on their caudal zone. Such electrical faculties serve them for different purposes; such as orientation (they are almost blind) and also for social purposes, including the localization of their fellows.

Their electric skills  provide them with an «amplified vision» of their surroundings so it´s common for them to swim backwards with ease, knowing where the objects around them are.

The electric organ is located in their tail (under the yellow stripes), and is responsible of generating the electric field as well as emitting the discharges. The electricity is bipolar, and the other pole is located in their head, which possesses the electric receivers that allow them to receive impulses and electrical signals from other fish or their own rebounded ones.

elephant-nosed fish: electric field

Although their head is the main receptor center, there are about 15,000 tuberous electro-receptors located along the body that allow them to receive signals. Most of them are located in the upper area of the elephant-nosed fish..

Let´s listen to them

How Do Elephant-nosed Fish Reproduce?

There are no obvious differences between males and females. Moreover, their reproduction method is unknown and has never been achieved in captivity. It´s is believed that they may be floating nest builders.

Distribution and Habitat

Elephant-nosed Fish  come from Africa, where they can be found in Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Zambia. They like rivers with abundant vegetation and slow waters, with muddy bottoms and little visibility.

elephant-nosed fish.distribution

What Do Elephant-nosed Fish Eat?

You can offer all kinds of live and dry food to your pet. However, it should be taken into account that since they are nocturnal fish, food should be provided when it is active, especially if there is competition for food in the tank.

Although they are more active during the night, it´s not weird to see them touring the aquarium during the day, looking for food between the stones.  In addition, in case of absence of fish that intimidate them, they are also able to climb to the fish-tank surface to catch flakes, granules or food lyophilized or dried.

These fish don´t get along well with animals of fast eating habits, because their shyness and slowness prevent them from reaching food before faster fish (such as barbels, a bullet shark, etc.) and could even starve to death.

Common Behavior of Elephant-nosed Fish

Elephant-nosed fish are curious and even surprising in terms of social behavior. Sometimes they are very shy, sociable and peaceful and some other times they develop a territorial and aggressive behavior, even killing other fish to defend their food or territory. They are particularly shy when introduced into the aquarium, developing nocturnal habits, so they should be provided with food during the night.

Elephant-nosed fish are usually territorial and gregarious with those of their own species. They need their equals and like to live in schools for which they need lot of space. It´s possible to have a single specimen, which is a very advisable option if the aquarium is not really big, since otherwise the dominant specimen could harass the others violently or even by emitting low-voltage electricity that stresses them.

It has been found that they can change the intensity and frequency of the electrical emission, with each member of the group. This means that they also use it to recognize each other and mark their hierarchical position in the group.

Let´s watch them again

Elephant-nosed Fish in Aquariums

If you want to recreate their natural habitat, you´ll need an aquarium with plants both on the bottom and floating, since they´ll serve as a filter of the aquarium light.  You should also provide them with places to hide, such as rocks, trunks and roots. The bottom of the aquarium should be sandy, as they like to look for their prey in the sand.

Peter´s Elephant are also characterized  by rummaging and digging, so if you use employ an aquarium substrate with stones, they will likely get hurt and quite frustrated.

The minimum size of the aquarium must be 200 liters for a single specimen; in case of more than one specimen, an aquarium between 300 or 400 liters would the best option.

Water Quality

They are fish that need an optimal water quality since they are very sensitive high nitrates concentration, which cause them to carry out a bigger number of discharges, and contract diseases by fungi.


    • Water temperature between 24 º C and 28 º C
    • PH between 6 and 6.5
    • Hardness between 5 º and 10 º GH

Deja un comentario