Freshwater Pipefish (keeping, feeding, breeding) – Updated 2022

Affiliate Disclaimer: is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site we may earn a commission.

If you are looking for a fish that everyone will be astonished by when they see the African Freshwater Pipefish could be for you.

These elongated, snake-like fish belong to the same family as seahorses. They are truly fascinating, but they are not for the faint-hearted.

I have been keeping African Freshwater Pipefish for around 2 years, and I have to say, they are a real challenge. These delicate little creatures only reach about 5” (12.5cm) long and are super peaceful. The challenge comes in feeding them.


Common Name:African Freshwater Pipefish
Scientific Name:Enneacampus ansorgii
Origin:Gambia and Angola
Tank Distribution:All areas
Adult Size:5” (12.5cm)
Life Expectancy:10+ years
Care Level:Difficult
Minimum Tank Size:30 US Gallons (120 Litres)
Breeding Method:Male carries eggs
Temperature:72°F to 82°F (22°C – 27°C)
pH:7.0 – 7.5

African Freshwater Pipefish Origins

The African Freshwater Pipefish originates from coastal freshwater rivers and streams in Western Africa, especially the Gambia and Angola. The Cuanza River in Angola is often cited as somewhere where African Freshwater Pipefish are found.

African Freshwater Pipefish Habitat

African Freshwater Pipefish are found in both fast and slow-flowing rivers and streams in Western Africa. The Cuanza River (one of the longest in Angola) runs all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Recent research suggests that the river may contain species of fish that are currently unknown to science.

What Size Aquarium For African Freshwater Pipefish?

African Freshwater Pipefish do not need a large aquarium. I keep mine in a 30 gallon (120 liters) aquarium which works really well. African Pipefish are slow swimmers and they don’t need a huge amount of swimming space.

How Should An African Freshwater Pipefish Aquarium Be Set Up?

An aquarium set up for African Freshwater Pipefish should have a sandy substrate. I use coral sand in my Pipefish aquarium.

Decorations in the aquarium should include rocks and aquarium-safe wood. African Freshwater Pipefish like to feel secure, so the more hiding places they have the better. I also recommend planting heavily. My tank is planted with lots of Vallisneria.

There are reports of fishkeepers adding small quantities of salt to their African Pipefish Aquariums, but I personally don’t. I choose to keep them as true freshwater specimens. I haven’t had any issues.

African Freshwater Pipefish Behavior In The Aquarium

African Freshwater Pipefish are best kept in a species only aquarium. This isn’t because they are aggressive, but quite the opposite. Freshwater Pipefish need to be kept in a species-only aquarium because they are so easily out-competed for food.

Freshwater Pipefish swim very slowly and they only eat very small live or frozen foods such as freshly hatched brine shrimp or cyclops. For this reason, the only suitable tank mates are those that don’t compete for food. Surface-dwelling fish like Hatchet Fish may work. I keep a small Bristlenose Pleco in with my pipefish.

What Do African Freshwater Pipefish Eat?

As mentioned above, the main issue keeping African Freshwater Pipefish is feeding them. They have very small mouths and need to eat very small foods. Pipefish need to eat freshly hatched brine shrimp or cyclops. They may also take microworms and daphnia. I tried to transition mine onto micro pellets, but they were not interested.

Breeding African Freshwater Pipefish In Captivity

There are reports of African Freshwater Pipefish being bred in captivity at farms, but the chances of breeding them in the home aquarium are slim. There are few reports of how the African Freshwater Pipefish breeds, but it is well reported that the male holds up to 100 fertilized eggs in a pouch under his tail whilst they develop.

Once released the baby Pipefish will take freshly hatched brine shrimp and infusoria

In Conclusion

African Freshwater Pipefish is a tricky fish to keep, not due to aggression but rather their desire to eat the tiniest of live foods. If you are looking for a fresh challenge, the African Freshwater Pipefish could be for you.

About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James