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Why is My Bichir not Eating?

Bichirs are such an interesting fish. Peculiar in appearance, these active yet slow-moving creatures look like swimming dinosaurs with their long, scaly bodies, serrated dorsal fins, and large pectoral fins. If you have bichirs in your aquarium and they don’t seem to be eating, you may be wondering why? Well, the answer is…

Stress or illness may be why your bichir isn’t eating. Also, this species is nocturnal and prefers to eat at night so if you’re feeding your fish during the day, there may be nothing left for your bichir to feast on later! As well, bichirs are bottom-feeding foragers so if the food floats near the surface rather than sinking to the substrate, it won’t find it.

Now that you know the possible reasons why your bichir fish isn’t eating, let’s explore this topic together in more detail. We’ll learn how much and how often to feed bichirs, what food is best for this species, and when’s the best time of the day to introduce food. We’ll also learn how to prevent bichir fish stress and treat illness when in captivity.

So, if you’re ready to learn more about feeding bichir fish and how to keep them healthy (and eating regularly) in an aquarium environment, then let’s begin!

What do You Feed a Bichir?

Bichirs are carnivores and therefore require a meat-based diet. Live or frozen foods including shrimp, earthworms, oysters, mussels, and snails are a few options. They’ll also eat mosquito larvae as well as pellet foods that sink to bottom and rest along the substrate where they prefer to feed. This species likes to hunt for tis meals which is why baitfish are often recommended.

What if you run out of fish food? You can feed your fish these things.

feeding fish

How often should You Feed a Bichir?

You should feed bichirs once every 24 hours – preferably later in the day when it’s dark since bichirs are nocturnal and prefer to eat at night. It’s not recommended that you overfeed your bichirs as too much waste material can negatively affect the water quality. Therefore, feed them just enough food that they can consume in a 2- or 3-minute period.

How much should You Feed a Bichir?

Unlike other species, bichirs will usually stop eating once they’re full. Giving them a single shrimp pellet per every inch of fish is a good guideline for how much to feed them. Bichirs are slow eaters so begin by introducing food piece-by-piece until you notice a bulge in their bellies and then don’t offer any more until a day later when the bulge is gone. Just be sure each fish gets its fair share!

Do Bichirs Eat Brine Shrimp?

Bichirs are carnivorous and as such, will eat frozen or freeze-dried brine shrimp as well as brine shrimp pellets. Flake foods aren’t recommended as they tend to float near the surface. Bichirs are slow eating bottom feeders and therefore require edibles that will sink to the bottom and remain intact. API Bottom Feeder Shrimp Pellets (available at your local fish store and online through Amazon) is a good example.

Do Bichirs Eat Bloodworms?

Bloodworms are good for larger, carnivorous fish like bichirs. Thawed out, frozen bloodworms are better than freeze-dried, however. You can find bloodworms along muddy coastlines during low tide if you happen to leave near the ocean. Otherwise, you can purchase them locally at a pet shop or buy them online through aquarium supplier websites.

Do Bichirs Eat Plants?

Bichirs are carnivorous, not omnivorous. Therefore, they eat only meat-based foods such as worms, shrimp, tadpoles, insects, and other smaller fish. You can keep them in a planted tank environment as they generally won’t uproot greenery or move decorations – despite their large size. They may, however, dig holes in the substrate from time to time, which is perfectly normally behavior.

What Food is Best for Bichirs?

The best foods for bichirs are live meaty options such as baitfish. Frozen or freeze-dried foods are okay on occasion but shouldn’t been given exclusively. Offering a variety of edible options is the ideal way to provide a nutrient-rich diet for your pet fish. You can round out their food choices with the odd shrimp pellet as well.

What Time of the Day should You Feed Bichirs?

Feeding bichirs later in the day is recommended. Right before the lights in the aquarium turn off for the evening, drop some food into the tank. Bichirs will feast on these morsels slowing overnight in the dark. If you keep your bichirs in an aquarium with other fish, feeding too early or in daylight hours will only mean bichirs likely won’t get their fair share of the food.

bichir in planted tank

What to do if Your Bichir Fish Won’t Eat?

Stress is a leading cause of aquarium fish refusing food. To lessen anxiety, make sure you don’t overcrowd the tank. Placing bichirs in too small of an aquatic environment will only increase hostility and territoriality. Therefore, keep them in an extra-large, well-oxygenated tank so they have plenty of space to swim, forage, and explore. As well, never house bichirs with more aggressive tankmates.

Illness is yet another reason why aquarium fish won’t eat. Since bichirs are often prone to flukes or parasitic disease, it’s imperative that you remove the fish from the community tank immediately and begin treating it with the appropriate medication. Watch for telltale signs of sickness including fine, thread-like substances clinging to the bichir’s skin and gills.

Bichirs have poor eyesight and often have troubling finding food, especially at night when they prefer to feed. Consider adding a blue light to the tank to help bichirs detect food in the darkness. They usually hunt by smell and sound so offering them live foods as opposed to frozen or freeze-dried options may improve their eating habits.

If you feed your aquarium fish too early in the day, chances are the other fish will eat everything before nocturnal feeders like bichirs are inclined to feast. For this reason, try offering food later in the evening when other fish are resting – specifically types that sink to the bottom like pellets rather than flake foods that float of top.

If all else fails and you just can’t get your bichirs to eat no matter what you do, try removing them from the community tank and placing them in their own aquarium. That way, you can observe them more easily and set-up the tank based solely on their water parametric needs. This should reduce stress and the chances of illness, which tend to be the two leading causes of aquarium fish not eating.


To summarize, anxiety and disease are typical reasons why bichirs in captivity won’t eat. As a type of nocturnal, bottom-feeding fish, this species prefers to feast at night while foraging along the substrate in search of edibles. If you introduce floating food during the day, it’ll likely all get eaten by other fish – long before it has time to sink, or bichirs are inclined to feed.

I trust this article has been of help to you and answered your questions about feeding bichir fish for optimal health in a captive aquatic environment. Thanks for reading and best of luck with your aquarium hobby.

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