Fish Guide

Peter’s Elephantnose Fish: Facts, Food, Disease, Tankmates

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Are you wondering about bringing an unusual sea animal into your freshwater aquarium? Then, Elephant nose fish could be a great choice. Peter’s Elephantnose fish is a unique featured fish that is not common among aquarium keepers.

Once you hear “Elephant nose,” you immediately have an iconic picturization of Peter’s elephant nose fish. But if you are a beginner at keeping aquariums then you will wonder if the fish can be huge with a trunk like an elephant. Unlikely it is tiny fish that has trunk-like long lips that contribute to naming them.

As you look at the fish, you will be clear and know how they are unique and unusual, but what may not be clear is about taking care of them in captivity.

Here I will give you detailed information about the fish and how to take care of them and many more about it.

Quick Facts

Scientific Name Gnathonemus petersii
Common Name Elephantnose Fish, Long-Nose Elephant Fish, Ubangi Mormyrid, Peter’s Elephantnose Fish, elephant fish
Origins West and Central Africa region, middle in the Orgun River, lower Niger River, basins and upper Chari River
Type Freshwater
Color Dark brown, black
Nature Shy, Timid, and territorial
Diet Carnivorous
Life Span 7- 10 Years
Size 15- 25 cm
Price Range $35-$40


At first glimpse only, you will know that the elephant nose fish is not large. In the natural habitat, the fish can grow about 25 cm whereas you would not find the fish longer or bigger than the size of 15 cm in captivity.

You may also like Small Tropical Fish That Does Not Require Much Space.

Although Peter Elephantnose lacks ventral fins, it has pectoral fins located almost near its head. The dorsal and anal fins are other fins that adorn the fish, are almost at the tail.

As the fish is mostly found in muddy water, it has an almost black or dark complexion and is also found in brown color. You would be mesmerized to see its velvety look as the fish has no scale on its flattened lateral trunk.

The elephant nose fish uses a unique feature of emitting electrical pulses from its lower body organ. The impulse helps the fish to detect the food and object under the water, search for a partner, and also to survive underwater.

Learn about how to feed aquarium fish from here.

Tank Setup For Elephantnose Fish

Make sure you have a good plan for your fish before you welcome them to your aquarium. It would be wise of you to get ready and be aware of all the factors to make your fish comfortable. So to be prepared for the setup for your fish continue reading the article.

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Tank Ambiance

If you want to pet Peter’s Elephantnose fish in your aquarium, then you should take care of their captivity area. Arranging a favorable condition for your fish to live will help it thrive well. Since  Elephant nose fish are inhabitants of a river, they would enjoy much more like a natural habitat which you should keep in mind.

You may have confusions about how to take care of or set up their inhabitable condition. Yes, it may be difficult in the beginning but after going through the following you would get ready for your fish.

Get more information on The 8 Simple Step Process On How To Set Up a Fish Tank For Beginners.

Water Parameter And Tank Size

You can use 200 liters or 50 gallons of tank size for your Elephantnose fish to make it comfortable. As they prefer slow flow levels of water, so always make sure that the movement of water is not stressing your fish.

SeaClear 50 gal Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set, 36 by 15 by 20 inches in Black would be a standard aquarium for your Peter’s Elephantnose.

You can arrange slightly acidic water or neutral water to let it thrive in captivity.

You should be very conscious about the water condition as these fish are very sensitive to any change in water conditions. However, it does not mean that beginners should not welcome them.

If you manage to maintain the following water parameters then no matter you are a beginner you can make a favorable environment for your new member.

Some articles about the aquarium water parameters you may like:

Factor  Minimum  Maximum
pH Level 6.5 7.2
Temperature  73F 82F
Hardness  4dGH 18dGH
Ammonia 0 ppm
Nitrite  0 ppm
Nitrate  <30 ppm
Water flow Slow


As you come to know by far that they are shy and timid they prefer low lighting environments. So, you should use dim or subdued light in the aquarium to make your fish feel comfortable.

The nocturnal way of living of this fish demands you not to use high beam light just to make your aquarium look beautiful. Instead, why not go with the preference of your fish to live in limited lightings.

You can have adjustable light and maintain the light by red only lighting for the day time as they cannot see red light. And you can use bright lighting at night for plants. Therefore, your fish would feel good about its environment.

Also, keep in mind that these fish do not get disadvantaged by the limited light when kept with other fish. You can adjust the lighting as per requirement when there is a fish mate in the aquarium. As per some hobbyists, Peter’s Elephantnose fish also adjust in a well-lit aquarium when kept with comfortable mates.

I would suggest you a NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light, Fish Tank Light with Extendable Brackets, 48-Inch of 32 Watts for your fish tank.

Substrate Type

Peter’s Elephantnose fish love to be at the bottom of the aquarium. So you should start with the very bottom of the aquarium for making them feel comfortable by considering their sensitivity to hard objects.

Soft sand would be a great option for your sensitive Peter’s Elephantnose fish. As they would not only be comfortable but also you can prevent them from the injury that hard substrate could cause.

Therefore never go for hard gravel. Instead, you can get polished gravel with peat crumbs for soil mechanism or river sand to give your fish a natural vibe in your aquarium. You would see Elephantnose fish peaking on sand which they are hunting for food as they love doing it.

Carib Sea SuperNaturals Peace River (20LB) would be a good substrate if you are looking for one.


As you are welcoming your fish at your home so you would want your fish in a beautiful aquarium. make sure you have well planned for setting up the aquarium in the right place where it adorns your room.

Use soft gravel and soil to place it at the bottom to make it easy for bottom swimmer fish to survive.

Elephant nose fish produce a sound when they emit electrical pulses. You can install a sound amplifier rod inside the aquarium that will allow you to enjoy the sound louder.

You can get information in detail on our other article ‘Aquarium Decorations: What To and What Not To Add – Beginners Guide’.

Natural Plants

The Elephantnose fish love to be in more dense natural vegetation where there are well-grown plants. Therefore, you can arrange various types of plants inside the aquarium.

Salvinia and Water Wisteria is a fast-growing plant that you can install in your tank. These plants contribute to taking control of the level of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Therefore these plants would help in maintaining good water condition.

What is Ammonia Poisoning in Fish Tank And How to Get Rid of It? Check it out!

Java Moss is another plant that grows slowly and does not require much care. Your fish can have a place to hide as they are so dense that it gives your fish a dark place to chill.

But if you are not willing to keep real plants then you can use an artificial plant. Make sure you have enough decor plants, install pipes and hollow logs to provide a hiding spot to reduce stress.

Learn more about 9 Best Low Light Aquarium Plants | Benefits of Aquarium Plants.

Tank Mates

Calm and peace-loving Peter’s Elephantnose fish can easily cope up with 4 to 7 species in school. But you have to keep in mind that these fish need enough space to deal with their timid behavior.

In the natural habitat, these fish can easily live with their kind but when it comes to tanks or aquariums, they prefer to have space. Keeping them together with their kind would lead to inevitable aggression among them. Due to their territorial nature, you would have to make sure that you manage enough room for them along with other fish.

You can also look at some of the easiest fish to breed.

Are you thinking of what kind of fish can be grouped and confused about what to do? Here I will be listing out fishes that are compatible and incompatible with Elephantnose fish.

Compatible With

Here is the list of fish that can be easily compatible with Peter’s Elephantnose fish

Incompatible With

Most importantly, do not let group your fish with fish they are not compatible. Here is the list of fishes that are not compatible with Peter’s Elephantnose Fish.

  • Other Elephantnose Fish
  • Mormyridae Family Fish

When you think of schooling them with other fish, then always choose a less aggressive, slow, and less competing fish mate.

Things To Consider To Care Your Fish

Are you wondering what are things to be considered to be taken care of? Always make sure you check upon feeding, health status(disease). Besides that, do not forget about the filtration of water in the tank.


The Elephantnose fish, bottom swimmers, mostly feed on mosquito larva and insects by hunting in the sand. Therefore, you can hide food under the sand to volunteer them for hunting. For detecting and flicking its food it uses its trunk like an elephant, the only difference is that the fish mouth is above its trunk.

If you are wondering what you could feed your Peter’s Elephantnose fish, then look out the list below. They are more carnivorous so meaty feeding would be your first choice to feed.

Some of the foods that you can feed in the aquarium are:

Things To Care For While Feeding

Feeding Peter’s Elephantnose Fish could be easy for you if you remember the following points to take care of their feeding.

  • Although the fish might not dislike you feeding frozen food, you can feed them live food for better health.
  • If you want not to distress your fish while feeding, then always dim your light before feeding your nocturnal fish. They can locate the food easily in subdued lighting due to their uniquely functioning eyes.
  • Be patient with your Peter’s Elephantnose fish as they are slow eaters, allow them to take their time while eating.
  • Also, make sure that your other fish in the aquarium are fed before well because the fish will not be able to compete to grab food. You can use tweezers to feed your fish particularly.
  • Do not starve them from hunger, always feed them 2 to 3 times a day.


If you want to keep your fish safe in your aquarium, then always be aware of what could cause them uneasy. Besides getting harm on their trunks due to the hard substrate they also might get various infections and diseases. I have listed out the causes and symptoms that will surely help to protect your fish before it’s too late.

Disease with Remedy Symptoms Causes
Bacterial Infection
  • Red ulcers
  • Bloating
  • Popeye
  • Red streaks
  • Rotten food
  • Inappropriate water condition
Fungal Infections
Treatment and Home Remedy for Fin Rot Disease in Aquarium Fish
  • Cotton substances have grown on body fins gills.
  • Untreated injury
  • Water quality issues
  • Prior untreated bacterial, parasitic infection
Skin and Gills Flukes
  • Mucus on skin
  • Redness appeared on skin and gills
  • Scratching
  • Hardly breathing
  • Illness
  • Unmanaged water condition
  • Overcrowding
  • Stress
  • Unable to grow
  • Not thriving
  • Sunken stomach
  • Infected by other fish

Filtration (Aquarium Maintenance)

Setting up your aquarium is not only enough to make captivity adjustable for your fish. Besides that, you must also take care of the aquarium time and again by filtration. The water condition must be checked and maintained as per the preferred water parameter for Peter’s Elephantnose fish.

As Elephantnose fish’s big brain requires more oxygen. Its brain uses about 60% of the oxygen the fish intake which they absorb from the water in the tank.

This leaves you with the only choice that you filter the water at least once a week as all impurities water stays down where most of the time your fish like to stay or swim.

So to maintain the water in the good and favorable condition you can install a canister filter or sump filter. Do not use a filter that makes louder noise and leads to maximum movement of water in the aquarium.

I recommend Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter For Large Aquariums and Fish Tanks – Up To 100 Gallons, Filters 265 GPH. Similarly, OEM Delonghi Sump, Filter, Handle Assembly Shipped With EC685W, EC685M, EC685BK, EC680 can be a great sump filter.

Furthermore, you can also use water care and meds such as de-chlorinator, API general cure, Maracyn-two, and Ich-x. But, changing your aquarium water more frequently would be great.

Is Too Much Water Change Harmful For Your Fish: How To Do It Safely. Find out here!

Most importantly, you should prevent your fish from jumping and leading it to death, by making sure about the tight lid on the tank or captivity.

Amazing Facts Of Elephantsnose Fish

The Elephantnose fish is not only popular for amazing looking creatures among most hobbyists. Most of the hobbyists are fond of their unique qualities that you would also be amazed to know. Here are some of the amazing facts that would interest you to bring it to your home.

  • It has a trunk like an elephant which is its lower lips, the reason behind their name “Peter’s Elephantnose Fish”
  • This fish is popularly known for producing electricity but, it would not harm anyone. They use it for communicating and detecting food prey and nearby object.
  • You could hear a unique sound when they produce electrical energy, make sure you have a sound amplifier to hear it louder.
  • You would be surprised to know that the fish has a bigger brain when compared to the size of other fish.
  • Peter’s Elephantnose fish uses about 60 percent of oxygen of intake to function its brain. Therefore, this breaks the human record as we humans use 20 percent of oxygen intake for the brain.
  • Before the research done by scientists, it was believed that Peter’s Elephantnose fish had poor eyesight. But a recent study shows that the elephantnose fish has excellent eyesight that allows it to see in muddy water very well.
  • All vertebrates have a system of rod and cones in their eyes that help function. The Elephantnose fish has more rods that allow it to see during night time more efficiently to detect its prey and predator. The cones are also unusually structured in their eyes.
  • Most importantly, the recent study shows that elephant nose fish has better or equivalent eyesight to the goldfish (which is considered have good vision among the fish community)
  • Rods and cones present in the eye do function at the same time in the Elephantnose’s eyes, unlike human eye function. Therefore, this feature of the Elephantnose’s eyes makes it more unique vertebrates.
  • The Elephantnose fish are great jumpers so make sure you have your aquarium with a fine lid, otherwise, your cat will have a good meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Elephantnose Fish Hard To Keep?

Honestly speaking, Elephantnose is not hard to keep but you have to pay more attention to their habitat. So you would not have to worry much about what to feed them as they eat meaty food which can be easily available in the market.

You would feel overwhelmed by their drum and clicking sound and the electrical sound produced by their lower body’s organ. So, you will want to hear it more often.

Are Peter’s Elephantnose Intelligent Fish?

Yes, elephant nose fish are very intelligent among the fishes species. You can witness that even in muddy water they can spot their prey, food. Besides that, they can easily detect the object and mate with their unique ability to emit electricity with electrical stimuli and process the distance in their big brain.

Is Electricity Produced By Peter’s Elephantnose Harmful?

No, the electrical energy produced by Peter’s elephantnose does not harm any organism unless it is smaller than the fish. The intensity of the electrical power is so weak that its main function is to detect the food and predators and objects nearby.

Can You Breed Elephantnose Fish At Your Home?

It is very difficult or almost impossible to breed Peter’s Elephantnose fish in captivity at your home. Even scientists find it hard to breed them because identifying their sex organs is a great puzzle. You can get other elephant nose fish from its origin rather than investing time in breeding them.


You are wondering to welcome a unique fish in your aquarium. Then, you would have understood that nocturnal Elephantnose fish would be a great choice by now. You would want to bring them once you see their velvety look having no scales on their body. It is pretty to look at!

The trunk-like structure is unique that you would be amazed to know that they use it to hunt in the sand beside that it is very sensitive.

Moreover, the ability to produce electricity is one of the unique abilities they are capable of that they use for the detection of food mates and predators. Their lower body organ has the capacity for electrical energy.

The Elephantnose fish are not difficult to pet as their caring requirements are easily available to make you feel easy to pet. It would be great to prepare yourself so that it will be easy for you to be compatible and comfortable.

The tank ambiance that you can decorate as per their habitual condition, will distract you most of the time from your work. Because they produce unique sounds that you want them to suggest your friend also to pet them. Your time would easily pass without getting bore due to their unique ability.

Therefore, you should keep in mind that your fish will require certain attention for their habitual condition to make them feel comfortable.

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