Maximum size : 7 cm

Dwarf Ctenopoma - Microctenopoma nanum : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

Table of contents


The Dwarf Ctenopoma (Microctenopoma nanum) is a sociable species that can thrive in a community tank when appropriate tank mates are chosen. While they are best kept in pairs, it is possible to maintain multiple males together with proper hiding places and broken lines of sight to mitigate aggression and territorial behaviour, particularly during spawning conditions. While a species-only setup is preferable, the Dwarf Ctenopoma can coexist with other small, peaceful fish that inhabit both the upper and lower regions of the aquarium. Suitable tank mates may include Tetras, Rasboras, killifish, and Hatchet fish. Providing compatible tank mates will help these shy fish become more active and visible. It is important to avoid housing them with tiny fish or fry, as they may become prey, and aggressive or larger species should also be avoided.

To create an optimal environment, the Dwarf Ctenopoma thrives in a well-established aquarium with a dark substrate and ample hiding places consisting of plants, driftwood, and smooth rocks. The addition of floating plants can be beneficial, as they help diffuse light and provide a sense of security for these timid fish. Efficient filtration with gentle water movement is essential, and regular small, partial water changes contribute to maintaining low nitrate levels. While the Dwarf Ctenopoma can adapt to varying water conditions, they display their best colours in soft, slightly acidic water. Enhancing the natural ambience can be achieved by incorporating dried Indian Almond leaves as leaf litter.

The Dwarf Ctenopoma exhibits distinctive physical characteristics, featuring a rounded and elongated brownish body adorned with eight transverse dark stripes extending from the body to the base of the caudal fin. Notable traits include prominent eyes, a fan-shaped caudal fin, and a large dorsal fin with a serrated appearance. These unique attributes contribute to the charm and appeal of the Dwarf Ctenopoma, making it an attractive addition to a well-designed aquarium setup.

Dwarf Ctenopoma Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Dwarf Ctenopomas is generally uncomplicated. Sexual dimorphism is evident in their physical characteristics, allowing for easy differentiation. In most cases, males display a larger size and more vibrant colouration compared to females. Notably, during spawning conditions, the colours of male Dwarf Ctenopomas become even more pronounced, further distinguishing them from their female counterparts.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameMicroctenopoma nanum
Year Described1896
Other NamesDwarf Climbing Perch
OriginsCameroon , Democratic Republic of the Congo , Gabon , Guinea
Max Size7 cm
Aquarium LevelBottom - Middle
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asPairs
Diet & FeedingCarnivore
ReproductionEgg Depositor
LifespanUp to 5 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.0 - 7.5
GH 5 - 15
Ideal Temperature
64 - 75
17 - 23

Natural Habitat

Dwarf Ctenopomas are endemic to the diverse aquatic ecosystems found in the southern regions of Cameroon, Gabon, Lower Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Within these areas, these fish primarily inhabit the expansive Congo River Basin in Africa. In their natural habitats, Dwarf Ctenopomas thrive in slow-flowing water environments characterized by warm temperatures and a slightly acidic pH. It is noteworthy that these aquatic habitats often exhibit lower oxygen levels. To further establish their presence, Dwarf Ctenopomas favour areas surrounded by dense marginal vegetation, which provides essential shelter and protection for these remarkable fish.


Breeding Dwarf Ctenopomas can present some challenges, but with proper care and conditions, successful breeding is indeed attainable. These fish typically reach sexual maturity after reaching two years of age. To create an optimal breeding environment, a separate tank with a capacity of approximately 50 litres is recommended. The water temperature should be maintained at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is crucial to include an abundance of floating plants in the breeding setup.

Spawning usually takes place during the evening hours. The breeding process typically involves quick breeding over the substrate, with the parents showing little to no interest in caring for the eggs. Bubble nests are not constructed by the fish during this process. The small eggs tend to float to the water's surface and often attach to floating plants. It is important to note that the parents may consume the eggs, so it is advisable to remove them from the tank at this stage to ensure their survival.

Approximately 24 hours after being laid, the eggs will hatch, and the fry will become free-swimming within two to three days. During their early stages, the fry is tiny and requires appropriate nourishment. Initially, feeding them with infusoria is recommended for the first week. Following this period, the fry can gradually transition to accept microworm and baby brine shrimp as part of their diet, which provides the essential nutrients for their growth and development.

Successful breeding of Dwarf Ctenopomas requires close attention to water conditions, maintaining appropriate temperatures, and providing a suitable diet for the growing fry. By adhering to these guidelines, aquarists can enjoy the rewarding experience of breeding and raising these captivating fish in a controlled and supportive environment.

Diet & feeding

Dwarf Ctenopoma exhibit a preference for live and frozen foods, which offer optimal nutrition and appeal to their natural feeding behaviour. They readily accept a variety of live foods, including bloodworms, mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, and daphnia. Additionally, freeze-dried options such as krill can be offered to provide dietary variety. It is important to note that dried foods like flakes and pellets may be ignored by Dwarf Ctenopoma, leading to uneaten food particles accumulating in the aquarium and compromising water quality. Thus, it is advisable to prioritize the inclusion of live and frozen options to meet the nutritional needs of these fish effectively.

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