The Bowfin, or Dogfish, is an unusual pet. But, remember, it bites. It is a creature of ancient heritage that does well in an aquarium, but its disposition, appetite, and large size make for a single-species tank, at least 20 gallons when small. It should be unheated and decorated with gravel and rock. They eat just about anything live and small enough to swallow, and like earthworms, killies, feeder goldfish and such. They will also eat strips of beef and fish, but be careful with these, and keep the tank clean. The Bowfin will eat its siblings if they are smaller.
Bowfins usually reach a length of about 2 feet and weigh 2-5 pounds, although
they may occasionally reach weights of up to 12 pounds. Be prepared to put a single fish in a large tank when it grows.
Millions of years ago the family Amiidae
contained many species and had nearly a global distribution. Today, they are the lone survivors of an earlier primitive family
of fish known mostly through fossils. Gradually members
of this very ancient lineage became extinct until today only a single species,
Amia calva, remains.
Amia's distribution is restricted to North America,
covering the majority of the Mississippi basin, extending east along the Gulf
Coast, covering the entire peninsula of Florida and extending north up the
Atlantic Coast to the Pennsylvania/New Jersey section of the Delaware River. As
with many North American aquatics, Amia migrated east through the Great
Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River basin into Lake Champlain.
They have retained much cartilage in
the skeletal system and have bony plates covering the semicartilaginous skull.
A distinctive bony gular plate is located on the under-surface of the throat
between the lower jaws. The Bowfin's olive-colored body is stout and slightly
elongated. Amiais an easily recognized fish. It has a single continuous dorsal
fin that runs from the mid-body almost to the tail. Amia's tail has a
single lobe and appears to be nearly circular. There is frequently a black spot
at the base of the tail near the dorsal edge. Amia has a rather large
head with two barbels projecting anteriorly from its nose. Unlike most of the
other fish, Amia's swim bladder functions much like a lung, allowing this
fish to gulp air when dissolved oxygen levels become dangerously low in the weed
beds where it lives.
It is a warm water species that prefers standing or sluggish water with abundant plant growth. They feed on other
fishes and invertebrates. Bowfins are spring spawners. In the spring, they breed in weed beds. Males build
circular nests from 15 in to about 3 ft in diameter. Unlike nests of sunfish or
bass where the male clears a circular depression in the sand, Amia males
often build nests in fibrous root mats, clearing away stems and leaves. One male
may breed with two or three females. After breeding he continues to guard the
nest until the young hatch eight to ten days after deposition. Baby Amia
swim in schools and are protected by the male. They retain this schooling
behavior until they are about 4 in long.
Bowfins feed on all sorts of aquatic animals-crustaceans, adult
insects and larvae, and small fish. Generally, they are a scarce fish of no
commercial value. They are dogged fighters when caught on sporting tackle,
but their flesh is generally considered poor eating. Considered pests by many anglers, they can none-the-less be lots of fun on the end of a line.
The eggs are cultivated as a low grade caviar substitute.
Community tank. Generally peaceful.