Credits: Daiju Azuma under Creative Commons license
The first time I saw a rope fish, I freaked out, thinking there was a snake in a fish tank. I didn’t know fish like that existed. Fast forward a couple of years, and now I have a school of them in one of my tanks.
So, if you’re keen on the freshwater fishkeeping hobby just like me, I’m sure you’ve wondered if they’re a good addition to a cichlid tank. It’d add so much character to the tank. So, rope fish with cichlids – is it possible?
What’s a rope fish’s temperament like? Are they as sharp as they look? And can they cohabitate with cichlids quite infamous for their anger?
The answer’s quite complex with this one. So, buckle up!
Can I Keep Rope Fish With Cichlids?
Rope fish are shy, unassuming, and peaceful. But, on the other hand, cichlids are ill-tempered and territorial. So, they don’t really make ideal partners. However, upon research, I found that many aquarists have successfully raised peaceful cichlids and rope fish together in the same tank without any tussle.
I found a video on YouTube where mbunas, haps, peacocks, and rope fish were all kept together in the same tank. They carried on their business like usual without any problem. But this, I would say, is an anomaly, although not entirely impossible.
So, let me give you a list of peaceful cichlids that could possibly coexist with rope fish. I’ve curated this list after going through the real-life experience of fishkeepers. So, you can be assured that they are safe for your rope fish tank.
Suitable Cichlids For A Rope Fish Tank
- Bolivian Ram cichlid
- African Butterfly Peacock
- Electric Yellow Cichlid
- Blue Acara Cichlid
And if you’re looking for a comprehensive list of non-aggressive African and American cichlids, don’t forget to check this article.
Besides cichlids, numerous other peaceful fish would make perfect additions to your rope fish tank. Non-aggressive and medium to large-sized tank mates would be ideal for rope fish.
Suitable Tankmates For Rope Fish
- Pictus catfish
- Bala sharks
- Pictus catfish
- Dwarf gourami
- Honey gourami
- Kuhli loaches
Make sure you don’t keep your rope fish with small fish like tetras and guppies since it loves to snack on small creatures.
Aggressive Cichlids To Avoid For A Rope Fish Tank
All of the fish listed above are notorious for their anger problem. They’re hostile, territorial, and highly competitive. So if, by any chance, you house your rope fish above-listed fish, it would lead to an extremely low-quality life.
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Rope Fish Behavior In Aquarium
A long and drab body with scaly fins – rope fish may look terrifying to some, but these fish have extremely gentle personalities. They are shy, docile and inquisitive. And they’re often at the receiving end of bullying and harassment by dominant tankmates.
Given their unique physique, rope fish also make great acrobatics. They can easily pass through any nook and cranny in the tank. And thanks to this quality, they also make great escape artists.
What I find the most intriguing about rope fish is that they can survive without water for several hours since they have both gills and lungs.
Also, owing to characteristics like being nocturnal and having a bad vision, you’ll see these fish usually keep to themselves during the daytime. So, we can safely assume that they don’t pick up fights randomly in the tank.
Tank Requirements For Rope Fish
Rope fish can grow to a maximum size of 20 inches (50cms) – needing large tanks. The minimum recommended tank size for a single rope fish is 50 gallons. However, since these fish love to live with members of their own species, you will need to add an extra 15-20 gallons for every additional rope fish.
So, you see, they need quite big tanks to swim around and lead a comfortable life. Lastly, they’d appreciate a tank with a wider floor space over one with less area but high volume.
Water Parameters For Rope Fish
|Temperature||70-80 degrees Fahrenheit|
|General Hardness||4-18 dGH|
|Salinity||Less than 1.020|
Water quality is pivotal in determining a rope fish’s wellbeing and lifespan. With proper care, they can live up to 20 years.
Like most fish, they are intolerant of high ammonia and nitrate levels in the tank. So, make sure to conduct a 20% water change every week and regularly test the parameters. I like using the API master kit, which offers more value for money and is more accurate than strips.
If you want to check it out, here’s the link:
Rope fish are quite tolerant of salinity. Thus, you can keep them in brackish water too, but make sure the salinity doesn’t exceed 1.020.
They are also known to create a lot of organic waste. So, we recommend using a canister filter equipped enough to tackle the bioload.
Here’s one from Penn-Plax that we love and always recommend:
A list of its merits that we really love:
- 3 large capacity media baskets
- Easy installation since extra parts are provided
- Flow rate control cut-off valves
And since rope fish are natives of slow-moving tropical rivers, you don’t need to buy an air pump. But it’s always wise to have devices like a thermometer and pH indicator fixed in the tank for easy reading.
Securing The Rope Fish Habitat
Rope fish are famous for slipping out of the tank every now and then and exploring uncharted territory. Luckily, they can live out of water for some time, but if you don’t catch it and put it back into the water in time, you’ll find it lying dead in strange places.
Make sure your tank has a tightly-fitting lid with a lock. These fish can even push open closed lids. And open-ended filter systems can be a death trap for these inquisitive fish. So make sure that you properly seal and secure these areas before adding your rope fish to the tank.
One user on a fish forum commented that his rope fish climbed out of the tank and disappeared into the night. The next morning, it was found dead, looking eerily like fresh jerky. So, be careful!
Tank Decorations For Rope Fish
Rope fish need ample decorations and open space in the tank – so, it can be quite tricky to find the right balance. The general practice is to add a thick layer of sand for the substrate. Avoid stones, big or small.
Since rope fish sleep during the daytime, adding many plants to create dark areas in the tank is advised. You can add both rooted and floating plants. Java fern, amazon sword, and crystal wort are some preferred species. And as rope fish are carnivores, you don’t have to worry about them devouring the greens.
They’d also very much appreciate it if you add driftwood and caves.
Here’s one we love by AQUA KT:
Conclusion: Rope Fish With Cichlids?
Yes, it’s possible to house rope fish with cichlids if your cichlids are well-mannered. Your best bet would be peaceful species like Bolivian ram, discus, and angelfish.
But don’t ever pair your ropefish with aggressive cichlids like red devil cichlid, oscar, and convicts.
That being said, rope fish actually prefer the company of their own kind!