African Leaf Fish Care and Breeding Guide

African leaf fish have been quite popular among hobbyists lately due to their unique patterns and behavior. If you are planning to keep ALF at home, you need to get to know them.


As the name suggests, African leaf fish are indigenous to West Africa where you can find some slow-moving rivers.

Slow-moving rivers tend to be the best place for submerged vegetation, which can be a safe haven for these Polycentropsis abbreviata.

Appearance of African Leaf Fish

Appearance of African Leaf Fish

Some people call African leaf fish or ALF as Leopard Spotted Bush Fish, African Bush Fish, and many others.

Although they have various kinds of names, they still share the same patterns. African leaf fish have leafy patterns that you can find on their entire profile, from the head to the tail.

Many people mix up ALF and Leopard Ctenopoma or Ctenopoma acutirostre since they look alike. For this reason, you need to pay a careful attention to the details that belong to the typical characteristics of African leaf fish.

  • ALF has a small mouth that extends outwards. It is pretty sharp and protruding. ALF’s mouth might be small, but it will become much wider when they are eating, which makes it the most-wanted show that attracts hobbyists. In fact, ALF can swallow the prey that is almost as big as they are.
  • African leaf fish are basically a type of carnivorous and predatory fish. Therefore, they enjoy hunting their prey and eating it alive.
    As an aggressive hunter, ALF has the ability to camouflage themselves with the surrounding, which helps them trick their prey when they are hunting.
  • ALF is a kind of a slow-growing fish. They take several years to be completely mature and reach the size between 6 and 8 inches.
    Although their maximum size is 8″ long, the growth rate of most ALF, especially the ones kept in a tank can only reach 6″ long.
  • ALF has a long and thin figure which stretches outwards.
  • You can find round pectoral fins on both sides of the gills.
  • The anal and dorsal fins share the same length.
  • Distinguishing the male from female can be tricky. You can still recognize it, though. The male ALF have short spines on the gill covers while the females do not. The females have a convex ventral line. On the other hand, the males have a straight one.
  • The life span of an ALF is approximately 9 to 12 years.

Tank Requirements

If you are thinking about keeping an African leaf fish in a tank, you need to consider several things. One of which is the tank size.

Since ALF likes hunting, a 50-gallon tank would be your safe bet. This tank will allow your ALF to move around freely, especially when it is hunting for prey.

ALF is not as aggressive as what many people think. It is rather timid, instead. It likes spending most of the time hiding inside its “cage” while stalking its prey. Therefore, adding plenty of rocks along with crevices will help the tank feel homey.

Make sure that the temperature is between 78 and 89 Fahrenheit, or ─ approximately ─ 26 and 31 Celsius. You will also need to maintain a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, and the water hardness from 1 to 10H.

The African leaf fish loves to live in a dimly-lit habitat. Thus, dim lighting conditions should be maintained.

You can also opt for a densely planted aquarium, including floating plants that will help you diffuse the light. Echinodorus and driftwood are also a good choice as they promote the sense of security.


Leopard Buschfisch

African leaf fish have many surprising facts that have made hobbyists fall in love with them. The most amazing fact about ALF is their eating habit.

Just like what was said earlier, ALF are predators, meaning they enjoy hunting for their prey. Their small mouth can wide open to swallow many types of fish, from the small ones to the medium sized ones.

Try putting guppy and platy fish into the tank. You will be amazed by the way an ALF grabs and flick its prey in no time. It literally happens for a second.

Although African leaf fish enjoy eating live food a lot, it does not mean you cannot give them frozen foods, flakes, and pellets. There are several tricks you can try to offer fish pellets.

The first trick you can try is to flick meals to the tank mates. When seeing its tank mates eat, its appetite arises instantly. Once it moves closer, you can try giving it shrimps, tubifex worms, or crickets.

You can also try freeze dried Krill. Make sure you soak and peel off the outer shell before giving it to your ALF. You will also need to “flick” it under the water to trigger his ambush.


It is not a new thing that breeding fish in captivity is no picnic. That might account for their relatively high price. However, if you can provide dense vegetation along with a lowered water level in the tank, you can make it tangible.

There are some other factors that you also need to consider when trying to make your ALF breed.

  • You need to increase the water temperature.
  • Make sure that the tank is very dim.
  • Providing adequate live foods for both the male and female.
  • The males are responsible for building the nests which will be located in a place with thick vegetation to provide protection.
  • The females squirt lots of eggs into the nests when they are ready. Then, the males will fertilize them.
  • The eggs will hatch after 48 or 72 hours. Once they hatch, move the pair to another tank so that they will not eat their own young ones. Then, you can begin to feed them shrimp nauplii.

Tank Mates

You must’ve known that African leaf fish are predators. Therefore, avoid putting smaller fishes in the same tank. You can try putting gourami, angelfish, Bala shark, Pleco, Blood Parrot, and Silver Dollar as they can get along well.

Snails might be cute, but they are not suitable tank mates for an African leaf fish as they probably flick the snail’s antenna. You also need to avoid putting cichlids there since they are as aggressive as ALF which can trigger a war.

Many people say that African leaf fish is not for beginners. But if you can maintain the good condition that mimics their natural habitat, keeping an ALF in your tank is not a pie in the sky anymore.

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