protopterus annectens

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How can you not be enchanted by this goofball? I don’t know how anyone could consider these fish boring.

For anyone who’s wondering, Linnaeus is a West African Lungfish (Protopterus annectens). These fish are ancient sarcopterygians whose closest relatives, besides the few other lungfish species, are coelacanths and tetrapods. Lungfish, being true to their name, possess a lung that is highly similar to the lung of a tetrapod which they use to draw oxygen from the air. In fact this species is an obligate air breather meaning they must draw oxygen from the air as their gills have lost the ability to extract oxygen from the water column in any significant amount. West African Lungfish can grow to 2 ½ - 3 feet long in aquaria and are an aggressive fish best kept alone.

Linnaeus loves to take food from you but then will attempt to hide before properly chewing and eating it.

For anyone who’s wondering, Linnaeus is a West African Lungfish (Protopterus annectens). These fish are ancient sarcopterygians whose closest relatives, besides the few other lungfish species, are coelacanths and tetrapods. Lungfish, being true to their name, possess a lung that is highly similar to the lung of a tetrapod which they use to draw oxygen from the air. In fact this species is an obligate air breather meaning they must draw oxygen from the air as their gills have lost the ability to extract oxygen from the water column in any significant amount. West African Lungfish can grow to 2 ½ - 3 feet long in aquaria and are an aggressive fish best kept alone.

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The many stages of Linnaeus begging for food. He loves to be hand fed algae wafers! For those of you unfamiliar with Linnaeus he is a West African Lungfish (Protopterus annectens). Unlike most modern fish which are in the class Actinopterygii (this includes 99% of fish spp), lungfish and their distant cousins the coelocanths belong to the class Sarcopterygii. This is the class that gave rise to the first tetrapods, so lungfish have some very odd physical characteristics for a fish. This includes teeth coated in true enamel, lungs homologous to tetrapod lungs, and a four chambered heart.

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Happy Easter from Linnaeus the lungfish! He got all dressed up in his easter bunny costume! He and the other fin children got “candy” in the form of blocks of frozen blood worms and daphnia. I’m unsure is Linnaeus will stick as a name but well see. He’s becoming quite friendly and is beginning to recognize me as the food giant. In other news things are pretty hectic at so I may not be as active the next few weeks. I promise some fun articles and loads of pictures when things settle down.

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There’s another lungfish at one of the LFS in my area. If anyone wants him let me know! He would be $50 plus shipping. He is around 5-6in and is in good shape with dark colors. This is a Protopterus annectens, common name is the west african lungfish. If anyone does want him I’ll buy him and we can work out shipping and such, I’d really like to see him go to someone on the fish community here so I have someone to talk lungfish with!

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So I recently had the opportunity to purchase a West African Lungfish (Protopterus annectens). These are ancient sarcopterygians that grow very large and are pretty unique animals. They possess many traits that early tetrapods had and many odd characteristics for fish such as a four chambered heart and primitive lung structures. These are traits more commonly found in amphibians (some of the first tetrapods) rather than most fish.

After talking it over with my SO, whom obviously has a say in whether or not we could house this fish as an adult, we came to the conclusion that we can make the space for him if he ends up growing 3ft+. With lungfish living 20 years, and quite often more in captivity, they are definitely a long term commitment. In fact there is a Queensland lungfish at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago that has been in their collection since 1933. (That’s 81 years!) Visually lungfish look so reminiscent of a salamander or axolotl, it’s hard to believe they’re a fish at all. There are only six extant species of lungfish with the largest species reaching over 6ft in length.

Almost all lungfish species are wild caught so I want to give this little guy a nice environment that allows him to behave as he would naturally. Right now I have him set up in a 20gal with some sand and plants while he adjusts. He is already roughly 6-7in in length so he’ll need to go into a 29 gal or 40b as soon as he settles in and I’m certain he’s healthy. He was a rather unexpected purchase and so I have to hunt down a stand for the bigger tank since I used to keep them on a large dresser which I no longer own.

Behaviorally hes a pretty sedentary critter except for when food is around or when he goes up for air. The rest of the time is spent napping among the plants, under the driftwood, or sifting through sand for food he may have missed. I also didn’t have a net large enough to for him but I was pleasantly surprised to find he doesn’t mind being handled gently. Right now he’s being fed NLS large fish formula 3mm sinking pellets and frozen bloodworms. Once I’ve had him for a while I’ll likely write a caresheet on P. annectens. I’m open to name suggestions as well!

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Small reminder that this cute noodle is still looking for a home. Perls is a West African Lungfish(Protopterus annectens) who I rescued and he is looking for somewhere to spend the next 15+ years. These fish typically grow from 2.5-3ft in length with 2.5 and smaller being more common in captivity. WALs must also be housed alone due to their competitive nature and should not be housed with other fish or conspecifics.

An appropriate size for an adult WAL will be around 90-100gal but they are well paced growers and can be moved up in tank size as they mature. At Perls current size he would be fine in a 40gal Breeder for a decent while. Lungfish are very friendly and curious fish and are an absolute joy to own. If you’re interested in adopting Perls and can provide him with the home he needs don’t hesitate to send me a message.

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Some iPhone shots of Linnaeus my West African Lungfish(Protopterus annectens). Even though he uproots plants frequently when scooting around he really loves hanging out in them and spends more time off the bottom and climbing the plants. Because he keeps uprooting them it’s taking a long time for everything to fill in but it’s looking good! The staurogyne repens is slowly but surely covering this small garden corner and I’m going to add another Anubias (coffeefolia) to the driftwood when I return from vacation. But I seriously love this fish; he’s such a fantastic and intelligent animal. I’ve already taught him a few basic behaviors such as to surface when cued and hand feeding. I’ll have to take a video when I get the chance as these are basic behaviors nearly any fish can be taught.

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Now that Linnaeus is done his QT period in the 20g I gave him a rather modest upgrade to a 30g I had sitting in my attic. Seeing as these fish are pretty slow growers there’s no need to push him into a giant tank while he’s still a fairly small size, especially when the species spends 70% of the time sitting in one spot. And it’s very important to move these guys up accordingly so they can reach the surface easily to breathe. I added in his old substrate (Caribsea Supernaturals Sunset Gold) mixed with some generic black sand I had laying around. I wanted to create a darker accented substrate to try and bring out his natural colors a bit more. And I added a few more plants to his tank as well; dwarf lilies, two Anubias bateri var. nana, and some contortion vals. Hopefully once everything grows in it will look fantastic. I also purchased a Current LED freshwater fixture and so far I love it. There are so many settings and lighting variations, there will be a review of it coming soon! I’ll get some better pictures of Linnaeus and his new set up once things settle in and the water clears up a bit more.