Elephant Nose Fish

Gnathonemus petersii

About This Animal

SIZE: Up to 9 inches (22.5 cm)

RANGE: Native to the rivers of West and Central Africa, in particular the lower Niger River basin, the Ogun River basin and in the uppe

HABITAT: Dark and muddy bottoms which support heavily vegetated areas in slow-moving rivers

DIET: Small aquatic insects, worms and shrimp

ON EXHIBIT: Rivers of the World gallery

The Elephant Nose which is also called Peter’s Elephant Nose Fish, Long Nosed Elephant Fish and Ubangi Mormyrid (after the Ubangi River) is a very unusual looking fish.  What looks to be the nose of an elephant is actually an extension of its mouth.  This trunk-like extension is used for food foraging, communicating, navigating and self defense.  

The elephant nose is nocturnal and somewhat territorial in nature.  It produces a weak electrical field from specially adapted muscle tissue which helps the fish locate food, a spawning mate and potential predators.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, elephant fish are of least concern.  They are widespread through West and Central Africa.