Spotted Leaf Fish: Everything to Know about the African Polycentropsis

Spotted leaf fish is an extraordinary species that is rare in the hobby. It is also not recommended for the beginners since this aquatic animal becomes a ravenous predator.

However, the African Polycentropsis has a camouflage of a dead leaf. This tactic has endeared it to fish-keeping hobbyists. The ability to change color to fit the surrounding becomes an attractive view for the bystanders.

Although spotted leaf fish is rarely chosen, try to keep this amazing species in the freshwater tank as an interesting study subject. Therefore, here is some information to make you more familiar with the Polycentropsis.

Physical Appearance of African Polycentropsis

spotted african leaf fish between the plants
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Polycentropsis abbreviata is the scientific name of the African sea animal that has a leafy pattern extending from the head to the tail. At a glance, its appearance resembles the Leopard bush fish that has a spotted brown body.

Thus, people will get confused with both fishes if they do not pay attention to the detailed characteristics of the spotted leaf fish.

This slow-moving species features a pointed mouth that is similar to the gourami. It juts out to the front part of the head.

The interesting part is that the African freshwater fish can swallow the prey that is as big as its size. Its small mouth can be larger while opening to eat up ravenously.

Thus, the ability to widely open the mouth while catching the food becomes an amazing characteristic of the spotted leaf fish. It is the reason for some aquarists to house this species in their tank.

A mature spotted leaf fish reaches 20 centimeters as long as Leopard bush fish size in nature. It has an extended body with an elongated tail.

There are two large and round pectoral external membranes on the gills. Furthermore, the dorsal and anal fins almost have the same length.

Native Countries of Spotted Leaf Fish

spotted leaf fish
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Polycentropsis abbreviata is natively found in West Africa. It dwells in the slow-moving rivers in  Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, and Gabon.

The water bodies in those areas offer ideal conditions that are rich with swamped plant life. This species also inhabits creeks, pools, swamps, and other regions.

Compatible Species of Spotted Leaf Fish

african spotted leaf fish compatibility
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Leopard bush fish tank mates are compatible with this leafy fish. Other companions that are suitable for sharing the same aquarium are Pleco, Bala Shark, Silver Dollar, and gourami.

Avoid pairing spotted leaf fish with small and medium fish due to its predatory.

However, do not share the same place with cichlids since they will stir a war with Polycentropsis abbreviata. Thus, it is nor recommended to mix the same aggressive sea animals in the tank.

Spotted Leaf Fish and Pleco

spotted african leaf fish with cichlids
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Pleco is a tropical fish that can be housed with spotted leaf fish. This suckermouth catfish is safe to pair with smaller species than its size.

Also, it will perfectly combine with loaches, cichlids, gouramis, and guppies.

Bala Shark

spotted leaf fish vs bala shark
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Bala sharks are peaceful fishes that can live together with Polycentropsis abbreviata. These gentle giants will also make good companions with gouramis, Corydoras, and rainbowfish.

A school of three Bala sharks and the leafy fish will create a dramatic look in a large aquarium. Remember to apply for rocks, driftwoods, and aquatic plants.

Silver Dollar

Silver Dollar vs Chalk Bass
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Silver dollars are great companions to start with spotted leaf fish. The round-shaped silver species have other ideal tank mates such as Angelfish, giant Danios, green terror cichlids, and pacus. Furthermore, keeping the fish in small groups is the best.


Gourami and Chalk Bass
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Dwarf, giant, and other gourami species become a wonderful addition to the tank with spotted leaf fish. They offer attractive colors and diversity. These are shy fishes, so a pair of them will swim together in the aquarium.

Sexual Dimorphism of Spotted Leaf Fish

african spotted leaf fish
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It seems hard to identify the genders of spotted leaf fish. An easy way to determine the male from female is the line-markings on their bodies.

The females usually have a convex ventral line. Meanwhile, the males feature a straight ventral band. The females will turn into a lighter pattern during the spawning.

Additionally, the spotted leaf fish males have a slim yet large body with more vibrant colors. They also feature big pointed anal and dorsal fins.

You will also find egg-shaped markings on the anal fin of the males. Then, there is a bump on its head. This nuchal hump is more protuberant than the females’.

The spotted leaf fish females can develop the nuchal hump while breeding although it will be smaller. Generally, the preponderant male has the largest bump than others.

Sexual Reproduction

sexual reproduction of spotted leaf fish
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Spotted leaf fish cannot breed in captivity until you provide some ideal conditions to the aquarium.

Apply dense plant life with a low water level to support a successful propagation. Importantly, the main factor is feeding the male and female with live foods.

Moreover, consider other aspects like raising the temperature and setting up with a limited amount of light. After establishing the proper condition in the tank, the fishes will start spawning.

A dense vegetation area is a must for successful breeding. It is because the males will build several nests on that site.

Thus, the thick plant cover will provide good protection. While waiting for the females, they can make some nests on the thick vegetated place.

When the females are ready, they spurt lots of eggs into the nests. Then, the males will fertilize them for about 72 hours. After three days, a brood of hatched young spotted leaf fish occurs.

After hatching the eggs, move the pair of spotted leaf fish to another tank. The parents tend to predate their fry. Then, you can feed the fry on saltwater shrimp for the best food.

Furthermore, the juveniles require pollution-free water with good maintenance of pH and temperature. Always keeping the liquid quality to establish a safe condition in the aquarium.

Diet for Feeding

disease of african spotted leaf fish
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Spotted leaf fish is a greedy predator that loves hunting its prey. Guppy and platyfish can be delicious live foods when they are kept in the same tank. Thus, it can eat up any species of small and medium aquatic animals.

Therefore, live foods must be in stock as many as possible. Mosquitoes and worms can also satisfy the leafy fish’s appetite.

On the other hand, frozen and flakes can be provided as alternative foods. One of the effortless ways to raise the appetite of fish pellets is by giving the meal while other companions are eating.

It is an effective technique to avoid the hassle of feeding flakes and frozen foods. Flicking the meal to other companions is the key. After the spotted leaf fish comes closer, offer shrimps, tubifex worms, or crickets to the African Polycentropsis.

Complete Guide Care of Spotted Leaf Fish

spotted african leaf fish care
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To keep the spotted leaf fish healthy, it is necessary to provide an aquarium with the mimic of its natural ecosystem.

Good maintenance will make the African Polycentropsis last for more than ten years. Consider these following conditions to establish a proper home as well as in the real habitat.

Ideal Tank Conditions for Spotted Leaf Fish

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Spotted leaf fish loves stalking other species from its hiding area. Therefore, provide a large size of tank to increase the extensive movements. A 50-gallon aquarium is ideal to give more space.

It is also essential to provide a proper condition with dim lighting. Then, maintain a temperature of 31 degrees Celcius. Don’t forget to set up a minimum water movement with the hardness of 1 to 10H and a pH of 6,5.

Perfect Addition of Vegetation and Hardscapes

should you have more than one african spotted leaf fish in a tank
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To create a real habitat for the spotted leaf fish, attaching Echinodorus to the aquarium will be a good option.

Consider adding the recommended plants only since any species will not be suitable for the African Polycentropsis.

Additionally, create artificial caves by arranging plenty of stones with fissures. Those narrow openings of the rocks establish comfortable hiding areas for spotted leaf fish.

Besides, give a sense of security by applying driftwoods. Place some tree roots on the foreground and mix with other hardscape materials in the aquarium.

Similar Species

what kind of fish does petsmart sell as the spotted leaf fish
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When it comes to leaf fish species, the beginners might be getting confused about other aquatic animals that look like the African Polycentropsis. Notice some details to differentiate each appearance.

Guyana Leaf Fish

Guyana Leaf Fish
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Spotted leaf fish resembles Polycentrus schomburgkii that is native to South America. Both species are closely similar since they have the same length. The Guyana leaf fish inhabits fresh and salty waters.

This aggressive leaf fish also has a large mouth to devour its prey. Do not pair with cichlids that have the same aggression. Moreover, this species accepts live foods only such as guppies, earthworms, and ghost shrimps.

Leopard Ctenopoma

Leopard Ctenopoma
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The unique beauty of the leopard Ctenopoma looks similar to the African Polycentropsis. This underrated freshwater fish has spotted brown patterns on the body. It comes from The Congo river basins.

In conclusion, providing live foods is more challenging for beginners. Some aquarists who can fulfill the needs of the African Polycentropsis still keep this leafy fish in their tank.

However, spotted leaf fish are attractive since it has a large mouth that can swallow the prey with the same size. It also can camouflage to fit the surrounding. Enjoy the amazing changing coloration from marbled to beige or even black.


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