Leopard bush fish care guide

The leopard bush fish or spotted ctenopoma (Ctenopoma acutirostre) is a fish kind from Anabantidae family. Is a predator by nature and any small tank dwellers which it can swallow can become its prey. For example, juveniles and small sized fishes, various amphibians, fish eggs, insects, shellfish, small sized crustaceans and other spineless species.

Habitat in the wild

The leopard gourami origins from Africa. It inhabits in Congo river basin within the territory of modern Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The fish can be encountered in different biotopes varying from rivers to lentic habitats.

The leopard bush fish is most active during the night time and at day it usually hides among the thick underwater vegetation.

If the fish gets exited with the hunting process, it can even start to chase its prey, but more often it attacks from the hide by masking successfully among aquatic vegetation and waiting till its prey comes closer.

Scientific NameCtenopoma acutirostre (Pellegrin, 1899)
Common Namesleopard bush fish, bush fish, leopard gourami, ctenopoma, spotted ctenopoma, spotted climbing perch, spotted perch
Ease of keepingMedium
Lifespanup to 10 years
Tank size200 liters (53 US gallons and more)
Tank typeCommunity of large fishes
Temperature23-28 °C (73-82 °F)
Water hardness9–20 dGH
SizeUp to 20 cm (8 in), usual 17 cm (6.69 inch)


Adult species can full grown up to 20 cm (8 in) long. However, in a tank species very seldom exceed the length of 15 cm (6 in). The body is tall and a bit flattened from sides; its mouth is elongated and the eyes are large.

The fish has a patterned coloring – it has dark spots scattered over its yellowy-brown body and fins. Such a coloring is quite similar to leopard one and it completely hides the body outlines. There is a vertical bright colored stripe on the tail-stem.

The leopard bush fish has a dark colored tail which makes it complicated to define the actual size of the fish. There is also a spot on the tailset which shape resembles an eye. Sometimes you may encounter the species with so dark coloring that makes their spots barely visible.

The reproductive males have scales with notched edges and their unpaired fins have dark coloring. The latter of the female species have lots of small spots.

The leopard bush fish lifespan is about 8-10 years.

Difficulties in keeping

This is a rather enduring and undemanding fish kind. It is considered to be a real long-liver among its relatives. However, the leopard bush fish is rather timid, it prefers staying close to thick vegetation and snags. Hiding there the fish spends most of its time. It has a very calm and quiet temper. Mainly it tries to keep close to the bottom and it doesn’t swim higher than a middle water layer.

Other predator fish species can hardly find the leopard bush fish, since due to its specific coloring and body shape it easily disguises itself. The fish is especially active at night time. It loves chasing small sized tank dwellers.

Keeping in a tank

To keep a couple we’d recommend you to get a thickly planted tank of at least of 200 liter capacity (53 US gal). It is desirable to decorate the tank with branchy snags, caves, stony hills, etc. and at the same time you should leave enough of free space for the fish to swim.

As for the bottom substrate, it should be neutral; its composition and nutritiousness depend on the requirements of the tank plants growing in this particular tank.

The fish is a territory dependent one, that’s why it’s not a very good idea to introduce some new tank dwellers into the tank community that has already been formed.

Since, in this case there will be lots of territorial conflicts in the tank. The best option for successful keeping of such a fish is a species tank with a large bottom area.

Optimal tank water parameters are the following: T=23-28 °C (73,4-82,4°F), dGH up to 15°, pH 6-7, filtration, aeration and regular water renews are also required.

The fish doesn’t require bright tank lighting, it prefers dim light and you can get such an effect by using fluctuant plants for natural light scattering (Amazon frogbit, Water Lettuce).

One standard tank water filter is enough to simulate slow water flow. As for the water renew, it should be performed on a weekly basis and comprise 20% from the total tank volume.

A couple or a group of species can stay at one place for hours.

Tank mates

There are almost no issues with the bush fish compatibility in a tank. The tank mates can be fishes of the similar size which require the same tank conditions.

These can be angelfish (or another cichlids) that are quite common dwellers in amateur tanks, swordtails and other fishes which size is large enough, so they won’t be swallowed by a ctenopoma.

Small sized species representatives (neon tetra fishes, guppy, etc.) can be treated by the fish as a potential prey. Since the fish has only one restriction: its prey should fit its mouth, which is rather large.

However, you shouldn’t keep a fish together with cichlid species which are too aggressive, since they’ll definitely attack this calm and a bit timid fish.

The fish demonstrates rather tolerant behavior towards other species (like bichir or african cichlids) of similar size and it can become rather timid, since other active tank mates may scare it.

Therefore, to make sure that the fish won’t get stressed it is a must to have shelters in the tank. Flower pots, halves of coconut shells, thickly growing tank plants may be used as ones.

Intraspecific interactions between the fish species are based on dominance of alpha male on a specific territory and therefore in small tanks territorial fights are quite possible. You can avoid the issue, if the fish species grow up together and form their hierarchy as they grow.

Gender differences: male vs female

Gender dimorphism is almost absent in the appearance. The males have larger number of spines on their gill covers, than that of the females. Though, quite often it is possible to define the gender only basing on their behavior during the spawning period.

Diet and feeding

The best food is a live blood worm, tubifex and other live food of similar size. Frozen food will do as well in case of absence of live food. Optimal diet can consist of frozen shrimps, blood worm and even small live fishes, which the fish will eagerly chase.

As for fry food, the fish eats it rather reluctantly. But you can train it to eat some specialized dry food, for example, dry food for climbing perches produced by German companies Tetra and Sera.

There is no need in feeding it with plant food.


You can rather seldom encounter successful cases of the breeding in an amateur tank. The leopard bush fish is quite sensitive when choosing a mate and chances to form at least just one couple get higher if you get a group of several species of the same age.

A couple of breeders can be formed in a group of young species, since they form couples themselves as they grow.

There is an assumption that the spawning coincides with some specific season of the year. And during this season they regularly spawn and they stop during the inter-season.

As the mating season comes the fish performs some specific mating display, during which the fish extracts hundreds of eggs which float on the water surface and they are to survive on their own after this.

The fish has no developed parental instincts and it doesn’t demonstrate any care towards its future offspring.

Moreover, the adult species may even eat their own eggs, that’s why to preserve them you should carefully remove the eggs and put them into another tank with the same water parameters.

Since the eggs are lighter than water, they float on the water surface. Unlike other climbing perches, the fish doesn’t show any concern about their offspring and that’s why after spawning is over, you can remove the fish parents from the tank right away.

The egg stage lasts about 48 hours. Despite the fact that the eggs are rather large sized, the larvae that hatches from them are rather small with a large yolk sac. In two days the yolk sac is completely reabsorbed and the larvae turn into the juveniles and significantly gain in size. Then they start to swim in the tank looking for food.

In two days the yolk sac is completely reabsorbed and the larvae turn into the juveniles and significantly gain in size. Then they start to swim in the tank looking for food.

You can use brine shrimp nauplii as a starting feed for the juveniles. In spite of the high fertility (it lays about several thousands of eggs), in a tank conditions survival rate of the juveniles is extremely low.