Protopterus annectens, West African lungfish : fisheries, aquaculture

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Protopterus annectens (Owen, 1839)

West African lungfish
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Protopterus annectens
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Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes(genus, species) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Dipneusti (lungfishes) > Ceratodontiformes (Australian lungfishes) > Protopteridae (African lungfishes)
Etymology: Protopterus: Greek, pro = first, in front of + Greek, pteron = wing, fin (Ref. 45335);  annectens: Named in honor of Prof. Dr. Brien (Ref. 40587).

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Freshwater; demersal; potamodromous (Ref. 51243). Tropical; 25°C - 30°C (Ref. 2059); 22°N - 30°S

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Africa: large Sahelian basins, Comoé River, Bandama River and some basins of Sierra Leone and Guinea (Protopterus annectens annectens) (Ref. 2834, 81261), upper Congo River, middle and lower Zambezi basin and all east coast rivers south to the Limpopo River (Ref. 3498, Ref. 13337), and Lake Rukwa (Ref. 13337) (Protopterus annectens brieni). Reports from the upper Cubango and Okavango system (Ref. 11970) unconfirmed (Ref. 52193, 120641).

Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 100.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 3799); max. published weight: 4.0 kg (Ref. 3069)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Diagnosis: Protopterus annectens annectens has an elongate body and paired fins are long and filamentous (Ref. 81261). The trunk, with 34-37 ribs, is a bit longer and the tail a bit shorter compared to Protopterus annectens brieni (Ref. 40587).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Obligate air-breathing (Ref. 126274); Obligate air-breathing (Ref. 126274). Found in marginal swamps and backwaters of rivers and lakes (Ref. 30488). Carnivorous, food includes molluscs (Ref. 30488), but also frogs, fish and seed (Ref. 13851). In Kenya it feeds mostly on plant material, like roots (Ref. 30558). Strongly associated with life of aquatic plants in terms of breeding and feeding ecologies; nests are made in weedy areas (Ref. 30558). Normally lives on flood plains and secretes, when these dry up during the dry season, a thin slime around itself which dries into a fragile cocoon; normally hibernates from the end of one wet season to the start of the next, buut can live in its cocoon for over a year (Ref. 3023, 30558). For hibernating the fish literally chews its way into the substrate ejecting mud out of its gill openings, reaching a depth of 3-25 cm below the surface depending on the length of the fish; the lungfish wriggles around, thereby hollowing out a bulb-shaped chamber and coming to rest with its nose pointing upward; they breathe air at the mouth of the chamber's tube and then sink back into the expanded part of the chamber (Ref. 36739). As the water disappears the respiratory trips cease; air reaches the fish via the tube to the surface (Ref. 36739). Under aquatic conditions this lungfish can survive more than three and half years of starvation, showing the same behavior - no motion and same body posture - as an aestivating specimen (Ref. 51339).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Lungfish spawn in the swamps during the wet season, building a nest in which the eggs, white in colour and about 4 mm diameter, are laid; young are cared for by the males (Ref. 13851). Larvae hatch in eight days, and leave the nest in twenty days (Ref. 41544). Males of Protopterus annectens brieni excavate an U-shaped burrow to a depth of nearly 60 cm for spawning purposes; nest is usually placed amongst roots of aquatic vegetation where the male will attend to several females during the breeding season; males aerate the eggs with body and fin movements and provide protection to the young for some time after incubation (Ref. 13337).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Teugels, G.G., C. Lévêque, D. Paugy and K. Traoré, 1988. État des connaissances sur la faune ichtyologique des bassins côtiers de Côte d'Ivoire et de l'ouest du Ghana. Rev. Hydrobiol. Trop. 21(3):221-237. (Ref. 272)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 130435)

  Least Concern (LC) ; Date assessed: 25 October 2019


Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans


Human uses

Fisheries: minor commercial; aquaculture: commercial
FAO - Publication: search | FishSource |

More information

Common names
Spawning aggregation
Egg development
Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins Misc.
Swim. type
Gill area


Special reports

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Internet sources

AFORO (otoliths) | Aquatic Commons | BHL | Cloffa | BOLDSystems | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes: genus, species | DiscoverLife | ECOTOX | FAO - Publication: search | Faunafri | Fishipedia | Fishtrace | GenBank: genome, nucleotide | GloBI | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | MitoFish | Otolith Atlas of Taiwan Fishes | Public aquariums | PubMed | Reef Life Survey | Socotra Atlas | Tree of Life | Wikipedia: Go, Search | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82804):  PD50 = 0.6602   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00389 (0.00155 - 0.00977), b=3.10 (2.88 - 3.32), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)family-body shape (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  3.8   ±0.64 se; based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (tmax = 23 (in captivity); Fec < 1,000).
Fishing Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  High vulnerability (60 of 100).
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.