South American lungfish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The South American lungfish is a freshwater fish that is native to South America. As the name suggests, this fish has lungs and can breathe air.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about South American lungfish care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

South American lungfish (scientific name: Lepidosiren paradoxa) are some of the most interesting fish in the world. They are a type of lungfish that is native to South America, specifically Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Lungfish are a very ancient species of fish that first appeared on Earth over 400 million years ago. They are one of the few fish that have retained the ability to breathe air, and they do so using a primitive lung.

In the wild, South American lungfish live in slow-moving rivers and ponds. They are mostly found in the Amazon basin, but they can also be found in the Paraná and Uruguay river basins.

South American lungfish are not a very popular choice for the home aquarium, but they are kept by some hobbyists. They are a very unique fish that is sure to interest anyone who sees them.


South American lungfish

The first thing you’ll notice about this fish is their large size. They can grow to be over five feet long and weigh over 100 pounds!

Their bodies are long and eel-like with a brown or olive green coloration. They have small scales that are tough to see unless you’re looking up close.

Running along the middle of their backs is a long fin that extends from their head all the way to the end of their tail. This fin is used for steering and stopping.

South American lungfish also have two smaller fins on their sides. These are used for balance and stability while swimming.

The most distinctive feature of this fish is their long mouth. It extends past their eyes and is filled with sharp teeth.

This species also has a lung that they use to breathe air. This is located behind their head and is used when they’re unable to get to the surface of the water.


The average lifespan of a South American lungfish is 10 to 20 years. These fish have been known to live for much longer in captivity though. The oldest recorded South American lungfish was over 100 years old when it died!


South American lungfish can grow to be quite large, reaching lengths of up to 6 feet! However, most captive specimens only grow to be 3-4 feet in length.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for South American lungfish is at least 125 gallons. This is a very large fish that needs a lot of room to move around. If you want to keep more than one lungfish in the same tank you’ll need to add at least another 55 gallons for each fish.

Water Parameters

The South American lungfish is a freshwater fish that is native to the Amazon River basin.

They are a hardy fish that can adapt to a wide range of water parameters. However, it is always best to provide them with water that is as close to their natural habitat as possible.

The ideal water parameters for South American lungfish are as follows:

  • Water temperature: 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 4 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to the inside of their tank, you don’t need to worry too much about decoration. These fish are content to spend most of their time at the bottom so there’s no need for a lot of fancy stuff.

A good substrate to use is sand. This will protect their delicate barbels and allow them to root around without any issues. You can also use gravel, but we recommend going with something on the smaller side.

As for plants, you can include whatever you want. These fish don’t tend to bother vegetation, but they might uproot something if they’re feeling frisky.

If you want to add some wood to their habitat, that’s fine too. Just make sure it’s fully submerged and free of any chemicals.

Other than that, feel free to get creative! These fish are pretty low-maintenance when it comes to their tank setup.

Common Diseases

South American lungfish are pretty hearty creatures, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick. There are a few diseases that these fish are prone to, the most common being ich.

Ich is a pretty common disease in freshwater fish, and the South American lungfish is no exception. This disease is caused by a parasite that attaches itself to the fish and begins to feed off of them.

The most obvious symptom of ich is the presence of white spots on the fish’s body. If you notice this, it’s important to act quickly. Ich can spread rapidly and kill your fish if it’s left untreated.

Other diseases that can affect the South American lungfish include bacterial and fungal infections. These are usually the result of poor water quality and can be quite serious.

If you notice any unusual symptoms in your fish, it’s always best to consult a vet. They will be able to give you a diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment.

Of course, the best way to prevent these diseases is by maintaining a clean and healthy environment for your fish. This means regular water changes and keeping an eye on water quality.

Behavior & Temperament

The South American lungfish is a strange creature that has both gills and lungs. It’s an ancient species of fish that has remained relatively unchanged for millions of years.

In the wild, these fish are found in stagnant ponds and slow-moving rivers in South America. They’re not very active fish and tend to spend most of their time at the bottom of their environment.

In captivity, they behave much in the same way. They’re not very active and prefer to stay in one spot most of the time. The only time you’ll see them moving is when they’re looking for food. They’re not aggressive fish and tend to get along with other peaceful species.

Tank Mates

The South American lungfish is a popular choice for community tanks. They’re not overly aggressive and can get along with most species.

These fish are also peaceful bottom-dwellers. This means that you can add fish that occupy different areas of the water column without any issues.

The only thing to watch out for is their size. When fully grown, these fish can reach lengths of over four feet! This means that you’ll need a tank that’s at least six feet long to accommodate them.

Other than that, here are some good tank mates for South American lungfish:


The South American lungfish is a fascinating creature. It’s one of the few fish that can live on land, thanks to its ability to breathe air. It’s also one of the oldest fish species in existence, dating back to the Devonian period.

This fish is extremely rare in the wild. As such, very little is known about their breeding habits. In captivity, however, they have been known to breed successfully.

The first step is to identify the sexes. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this. The best thing to do is to wait until they are ready to breed. The female will develop a thickened area behind the pectoral fins. This is where she will lay her eggs.

The next thing you need to do is set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 50 gallons in size. The water should be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit and neutral in pH. You’ll also need to add some plants and hiding places.

Once the tank is set up, you can add the lungfish. It’s best to add a single male and two females. The male will chase the females around until he finds a mate.

The female will then lay her eggs on a plant leaf or piece of driftwood. The male will fertilize them and then guard the eggs.

The eggs will hatch in about two weeks. The fry will be extremely small, so you’ll need to feed them live foods. After a few months, you can start to feed them pellets.


The South American lungfish is a great addition to any aquarium. They’re hardy, peaceful, and easy to care for, making them a great choice for beginner fish keepers.

While they’re not the most exciting fish to look at, they more than make up for it with their personality and charm.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance fish that will be a great addition to your community tank, the South American lungfish is a great choice!