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elephant nose fish lifespan

elephant nose fish lifespan

elephant nose fish lifespan

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elephant nose fish lifespan
elephant nose fish lifespan

Elephant Nose Fish 101: Care, Tank Mates, Diet & More

The Elephant Nose Fish is a freshwater species that’s unlike any other. Their unique and interesting look is something you can’t find in any other fish, and owners are sure to surprise guests who check out their aquarium.

We’re not sure if it’s their interesting look or the fact that these fish are quite popular, but there’s a lot of misinformation being passed around online when it comes to the Elephant Nose Fish.

Some people say they’re small and some say they’re large. Others say they’re aggressive, and others say they’re peaceful.

It’s probably quite confusing to any potential owners who are doing their research!

That’s why we put together this complete guide. It covers everything you need to know about Elephant Nose Fish care so you’ll be informed and prepared if you decide to get on yourself.

Species Summary

The Elephant Nose (Gnathonemus petersii) fish is a freshwater fish from African that sports a highly unusual look.

They go by a number of additional common names, but the most popular are the Long-Nosed Elephant Fish, Ubangi mormyrid, Elephant Fish, and Peters’ Elephant Nose Fish (named after the individual who discovered them).

These fish can be found in a multitude of rivers in Africa, but the most largest are the Niger River, Chari River, and Ogun River.

These waters are usually quite murky with low visibility. This is partly caused by the riverbed and debris that collect in the rivers, but also due to the very mild current they have.

In these rivers, the Elephant Nose Fish has to navigate a number of obstacles in order to find something to eat. There’s a large number of roots, logs, branches, and plants they need to find their way through.

Seems difficult right? Well, that’s where their long “nose” comes in handy.


While the name suggests otherwise, this feature on their head is called a Schnauzenorgan and is actually an all-purpose navigating tool (among other things). It’s highly sensitive and connects to their mouth.

The Elephant Fish uses this as their primary method to feel their way around the dirty waters. But it does more than just help them physically reach out in front of their body while swimming.

This species is actually a master of electrolocation. All over its body, there are various receptors that can pick up on subtle electric currents that other animals emit. Their Schnauzenorgan is the main part of their body that utilizes this, and it’s quite a useful trick to have.

Despite their ability to pick up on feint electric emissions from other animals, the Elephant Nose Fish also has great low-light vision. This is something that you don’t see in other electric species like the Black Ghost Knife Fish.

Usually, fish like this end up having poor vision as a result of relying on their electroreceptors. This is just another thing that makes the Elephant Nose so unique!

elephant nose fish lifespan
elephant nose fish lifespan


The average lifespan of the Elephant Nose Fish is between 6 and 10 years. These fish can flourish and stick around for quite a while if you take care of them!

We’ve spoken to a couple owners whose fish are starting to push the 10-year mark (one has an 11-year-old at the time of writing this). The thing they both have in common is a relentless commitment to providing a great habitat and top-notch water quality.


We’ve touched on the purpose of their most striking feature (the Schnauzenorgan), but let’s cover their appearance as a whole.

The Elephant Nose Fish is quite a pretty fish that looks like a mix between a sword and an elephant. They have a long and thin body (width-wise) with some neat coloration and stripes.

Starting from the front, their long nose is rather thin and droops downward a bit. This connects right to their mouth which is about eye-level or midline on their body.

Their heads are thin and pointed with eyes on the side. Around the start of their pectoral fin this slope stops and their width continues all the way to their dorsal and anal fins.

Their dorsal and anal fins are very interesting because they’re almost an exact mirror of each other (both in size, color, and pattern). Each of these fins start tall and angle down to their caudal peduncle. The inner part of these fins are darker while the outer ridge tends to be light and semi-translucent.

The caudal peduncle on an Elephant Nose Fish is extremely thin compared to the rest of their body. It’s not very long either and connects to a thin forked caudal fin that’s mostly black.

These fish are usually black or dark brown with a white line that runs between the front ridge of the dorsal and anal fins. There’s often another white stripe about an inch back from that. Their bellies are often lighter than their primary color as well.

elephant nose fish lifespan
elephant nose fish lifespan


The typical maximum size of an Elephant Nose Fish is around 9 inches in length. There have been reported instances where this species has exceeded this number by 2-3 inches, but that’s very uncommon.

Elephant Nose Fish Care

Elephant Nose Care is not terribly difficult if you know what you’re doing, but it’s not a species you can keep on autopilot either. The reason for this is they’re relatively sensitive to suboptimal habitat conditions.

Water quality, parameters, lighting, temperature, you name it. If it’s not in their ideal window their health will quickly suffer.

Tank Size

The recommended Elephant Nose Fish tank size is 50 gallons. This is assuming you have only one of these fish in your aquarium.

We’ve seen some resources online say that a tank slightly smaller than 50 gallons is fine, but we urge you to aim for 50. These are relatively large fish and any extra space you can give them will be greatly appreciated. It will also help reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

Water Parameters

Water parameters are the area you’ll be paying the most attention to when it comes to Elephant Nose Fish care. These fish can be very sensitive to water conditions and parameters that don’t meet their baseline requirements and suffer serious health complications as a result.

What To Include In The Tank

When it comes to decorating this species’ habitat you should use their natural environment as your guide.

As we mentioned earlier, the rivers these fish come from are full of debris like wood and plants. Elephant Fish expect to see these objects and are used to navigating them (or using them as a place to hide).

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