|Synonyms||Hepsetus akawo, H. fulvus, Hydrocyonoides odoe, Salmo fulvus, S. odoe, Sarcodaces odoe, Xiphorhamphus odoe, Xiphorynchus odoe|
|Distribution||Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo.|
|Maximum Size||50cm+ (19.7"+)|
|Temperature||26-28 deg C (79-82 deg F)|
|Water Parameters||Will acclimatise to a wide range of conditions. pH: 6.0-7.5, dH: up to 18 degrees.|
|Compatibility||Community of large, robust fish only.|
|Lighting||Dim (brighter lighting should be diffused with plants)|
The African Pike Characin is known from the from the Sassandra River, Ivory Coast, eastwards to the Kienké River in Cameroon, and the Chari River, Central African Republic. Here, it is found amongst the marginal vegetation of a variety of deepwater habitats, including upper river courses and smaller tributaries, coastal lagoons, and lakes - favouring areas where the large, predatory Hydrocynus alestids are absent or scarce. The African Pike Characin is a large sized, ambush predator that requires an aquarium at least 8ft long with powerful filtration to match. Juvenile fish grow quickly, so spacious quarters are required from the outset. Ideally the tank will be mature, with tangles of driftwood and dense thickets of tall plants to provide shade and hiding places. Floating vegetation can also be useful in helping to diffuse the light and will provide additional shelter and security. These elongate fish tend to lunge at their food with lightning speed, so they must be provided with adequate swimming space, along with some very tight fitting coverslides to prevent them from accidentally jumping out. Prior to setting up a tank for this species, it is worth purchasing some structured 3-D aquarium-safe background and attaching this to the inside glass of the back and sides. This will help to prevent the fish from damaging their jaws when swimming at speed into the otherwise unseen glass at the sides. Filtration should be efficient with a moderate - but not overpowering - water flow, and a good level of oxygenation. As a riverine species, these fish will not tolerate a high nitrate level; ensure partial water changes are carried out on a frequent basis to help keep organic wastes to a minimum. In voluminous aquaria, juveniles may be kept in groups, but as they mature they often become increasingly aggressive towards conspecifics and may need to be separated for their own safety - particularly if individuals grow at different rates (the larger specimens will relentlessly bully the smaller fish). For this reason, it is often better to house just one per tank, allowing it to grow up alongside other large fish that can look after themselves - but do observe carefully. Possible companions could include other large characins, sizeable cyprinids, large armoured catfish and the like. Avoid overly aggressive tankmates such as some of the larger Central American cichlids. Do take care when carrying out routine maintenance on the aquarium, as although accidental bites are unlikely, they are possible if the fish feels threatened/defensive, or if it mistakes the fingers for food - they possess needle-sharp dentition.
Smaller specimens will enjoy bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, Spirulina/vitamin-enriched brineshrimp, and Mysis shrimp. Move on to bigger foodstuffs such as krill, prawns, earthworms, mussel meat, cockle meat, lancefish, pieces of white fish flesh etc.etc as the fish grow. Unlikely to take dried foods.
This species has been bred in the home aquarium, but it is a rare occurrence. In the wild, several thousand eggs are deposited in a thick bubble nest at the water's surface constructed amongst floating vegetation. The eggs actually sit just above the water line, and upon hatching, the larvae wriggle down through the bubble nest to the water. Here, they attach themselves to the underside of the nest using a special cement gland (which produces a sticky secretion) on the top of their heads, and hang in this tail down position for around 4-5 days. The adults guard the nest during this time, and any fry that fall away from the nest are quickly taken up and transferred back to the underside of the nest. Once the fry are developed enough to begin moving away from the nest, they will not stray far and will attach themselves to adjacent vegetation. As they develop further, the fry rely less and less on their cement gland and after a week or so will become free-swimming.