Maximum size : 15 cm

Leopard Bush Fish - Ctenopoma acutirostre : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma acutirostre) is an excellent choice for more advanced aquarists who want a long-lived, hardy, and exciting species to care for. In addition, these predators are well adapted to community aquariums, provided that you carefully select their tankmates. In their native, densely vegetated habitats, these fish employ a fascinating camouflage strategy by imitating fallen foliage and submerged debris, effectively deceiving unsuspecting passing fish. In these environments, they adopt a distinctive "nose-down" orientation, resembling harmless leaf litter to potential prey. This clever mimicry allows them to stealthily lurk and, with remarkable speed and agility, ambush moderately-sized fish that venture too close. 

This behaviour remains prevalent when kept in a home aquarium, underscoring why this captivating member of the Anabantidae family is best suited for a species-specific tank. This recommendation stems not only from their predatory tendencies toward smaller fish but also their susceptibility to harassment from larger and more aggressive species. While Leopard Bush Fish are generally not inherently aggressive when housed in sufficient numbers and provided ample space, their notably spacious mouths and nocturnal hunting habits pose a genuine threat to standard community fish.

Maintaining Leopard Bush Fish in captivity necessitates a well-considered approach, either as solitary individuals or as part of a group comprising five or more specimens. It is essential to emphasize that smaller groups, consisting of fewer than five individuals, tend to exhibit limited success and are not recommended. In scenarios involving larger groups, it is imperative to introduce all individuals simultaneously to preempt potential territorial disputes, which may otherwise be directed towards newcomers. The addition of specimens to an established group at a later juncture can induce significant stress among long-term residents, potentially compromising their acclimatization and overall well-being. Therefore, diligent attention to the composition and introduction of these fish is essential for their successful care in captivity.

Certain aquarists have reported successful cohabitation of these fish alongside Synodontis Catfish, Hoplo Catfish, larger members of the Loricariidae family, Siamese Flying Foxes, and larger Rainbowfish species. However, it is essential to underscore that the most optimal environment for these fish is unquestionably a dedicated planted aquarium devoid of other species. It is worth noting that when capturing Leopard Bush Fish from the aquarium, caution must be exercised, as the small spines on their gill covers pose entanglement risks. Therefore, a more prudent approach involves gently guiding the fish into a bag or a suitable container during the retrieval process.

The aquarium designed for housing Leopard Bush Fish should feature a lush and densely planted environment, predominantly incorporating tall, cascading plants and floating species to accommodate their proclivity for covert navigation. Additionally, the inclusion of strategically placed bogwood fragments and rocky caves provides essential shaded retreats to cater to their natural preferences. Given their rapid growth rate and eventual attainment of substantial adult size, an aquarium with a minimum length of 4 feet is advisable to ensure ample space for their development. 

In order to maintain optimal water quality and mitigate the potential adverse effects of nitrate accumulation, it is imperative to conduct regular small-scale water changes as part of routine maintenance. This conscientious approach contributes significantly to the well-being of these fish within their aquatic habitat. Maintaining a slight airspace between the water's surface and the lid is a paramount consideration for the well-being of these labyrinth fish. This provision allows them to periodically ascend and access atmospheric oxygen through the labyrinth organ. Additionally, the lid serves the crucial purpose of averting any potential incidents of Leopard Bush Fish leaping out of the aquarium, particularly when they are startled or agitated, ensuring the safety and containment of these aquatic inhabitants.

The Leopard Bush Fish boasts a rounded, laterally compressed body, elongated snout, large mouth, and big eyes. Their long dorsal fins and leopard-like patterned colouring are eye-catching, with dark brown spots scattered over their light brown bodies. Some specimens may even have a spot on their tail that resembles an eye.

Leopard Bush Fish Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Leopard Bush Fish is relatively straightforward. Males typically possess a roughly textured area at the base of their caudal peduncle, which is absent in females. Furthermore, males tend to exhibit a greater number of spines on their gill covers compared to females.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameCtenopoma acutirostre
Year Described1899
Other NamesLeopard ctenopoma, Spotted ctenopoma, Spotted Climbing Perch, Spotted Leaf Fish, Spotted Cichlid, Spotted Bushfish
OriginsCentral African Republic , Democratic Republic of the Congo
Max Size15 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 5+
Diet & FeedingCarnivore
ReproductionBubble Nester
LifespanUp to 10 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 5.5 - 7.5
GH 5 - 15
TDS 36 - 215
Ideal Temperature
68 - 78
20 - 25

Natural Habitat

The Leopard Bush Fish can be found in many diverse biotopes, including slow-moving waters, stagnant ponds and fast-flowing streams, throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the middle Congo River Basin, and the Democratic and Central African Republic from Boyoma Falls to Malebo Pool upstream. They are also present in several major tributary systems, including the Ubangi, Tshuapa, Kasai, Lefini, and Lomami. Adapted to these varied habitats, Leopard Bush Fish possess an incredible ability to mimic aquatic debris and fallen foliage to deceive passing fish. They sneak around in a "nose-down position," giving the appearance of harmless fallen leaves to potential prey. Once unsuspecting prey comes too close, the Leopard Bush Fish strikes with lightning-fast speed and agility, quickly ambushing moderately-sized fish.

 Congo River - Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo Flag


Reports of successful spawning of the Leopard Bush Fish in home aquariums are scarce. To increase the likelihood of obtaining a suitable breeding pair, purchasing a group of juveniles is recommended and allowing them to pair off naturally. However, it is essential to note that these fish reach sexual maturity between 5 and 10 years of age. It is believed that the Leopard Bush Fish and other egg-scattering Ctenopoma may be seasonal spawners as pairs often regularly spawn for several months before taking a break. This phenomenon does not appear to be related to water temperature or other parameters.

The spawning tank should be spacious and equipped with ample floating plants and a tight-fitting cover to facilitate access to a layer of warm, humid air necessary to develop the labyrinth organ. During spawning, the pair will engage in the usual anabantoid fashion, discharging eggs and sperm. The eggs will float to the surface and adhere to the floating vegetation. The adults exhibit no parental care, and removing them from the tank at this point is recommended.

The eggs typically hatch within 48 hours, and the fry becomes free-swimming shortly after. To start, infusoria should be offered for the first few days, followed by baby brine shrimp. Although the Leopard Bush Fish has been bred successfully several times in the aquarium, the fry's survival rate is typically low, potentially due to cannibalism. Nonetheless, the offspring's size can be substantial, with several thousand eggs being laid and deposited. Therefore, it is vital to have ample space available for the young fish if attempting to breed these fish.

Diet & feeding

Leopard Bush Fish have a natural diet mainly consisting of smaller fishes and invertebrates. However, they can adjust to other food sources in captivity. Nevertheless, it is recommended to avoid dried foods such as flakes and pellets as the main source of nutrition. Live foods such as bloodworm, daphnia, chopped prawns, small earthworms, krill, and ocean plankton are preferred for young fish.

Adults should be offered whole prawns, strips of fish flesh, live river shrimp, mussels, and larger earthworms. It is important to avoid avian or mammalian meats, such as heart, beef, or chicken, as these may contain lipids that cannot be metabolized correctly, potentially leading to health issues. Feeder fish, such as small goldfish or livebearers, are also not recommended due to their low nutritional value and the risk of introducing disease or parasites.

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