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Gnathonemus sp.

Common name: elephant nose

Photo by Jim Green

The elephant nose is a fun fish to own. When I first saw one, I knew I had to have this unique little fellow in my collection. Not knowing anything about them. I simply introduced it to my tank like you would any other fish. The next day it was dead, laying on the floor. The 55 gallon aquarium had a lighted hood on it, but the rear section of it was completely open. When I read up on this breed, I learned that they are well known for this suicide act. When I purchased my second elephant nose, I made certain the majority of the open space was closed in with the clear snap on type of molding. Incredibly, this 3" fish somehow got through a hole by the heater which was maybe 1/2" by 1/4". I was distraught over this loss because I really wanted an elehpant nose!

I spoke to a professional, whoo said my first mistake was obtaining only one. They need to be in groups of 3 to 5 to feel comfortable in any setting. Then he explained that the elephant nose is a very intelligent fish as compared to other species. They know no other world than the water, but at the same time they realize they are isolated in a box (aquarium). They think that if they use whatever means possible to get out, that they will be in a much larger body of water that you (the aquarist) occupies. Little do they know, we don't live in water as they do. And so a tragic lesson is learned.

Armed with this knowledge. I bought 3 more, and completely closed all possible escape holes. Yahoo! Since then I've learned much more about the species first hand. To those who have never seen an elephant nose, they remind me of a miniture dolphin. At frist my guys were nervous and flighty and were reluctant to eat. Elephant nose do not care for bright light and if exposed to this, will quickly run for cover to shelter their sensitive eyes. In a dimly lit room, they immediately come out to play. Games like follow the leader, where one will use whatever the tank offers to create an obstacle course. With speed and amazing accuracy, the other two followers will match every move the leader makes. Then they stop for a minute as though planning a strategy, then another fish takes the lead.

My elephant nose are now eating bloodworms and tiny bits of earthworms from my hand. In fact, whenever I put my hand in the tank to clean or move an object, these guys take delight in darting between my fingers and nipping at the small hairs on my hands. The nose is actually a probing device to find food in crevices etc. This probe is actually on their jaw. The small mouth is loctated just above it. When a morsel of food is found, they can simply push the very flexible probe backward allowing them to grab the food with their mouth. While searching for food, they can swing this probe in any direction in the same manner as an elephant would with its trunk. You must not let excessive food accumulate in the tank, as these guys are very easily effected by ammonia or poor water quality. I always use an ammonia remover in the filter and water conditioner. When setting up a new aquarium or when you do a complete water change you must put aquarium salt back in as prescribed on the box.

When elephant nose are curious and nervous, they will back up to the source to investigate with their tail. The reason they do this is because then can emit an electric shock through the base of their tail if something were to bite down on them. They would never do this unless their life was threatened, so there is no fear of being zapped unexpectedly. They don't like to be housed with bothersome fish. For the moment, my elies reside with a black ghost knife and a clown knife. Both of these share the same preference for dim light and generally keep to themselves. I dont think my elies would jump out now if they could. They seem to be very content where they are (but I dont take any chances). The elephant nose is a great conversation piece and a fasinating pet to own.

Jim Green Huntsville, Ontario, Canada

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