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FAQs on Aspredinid Cats

Related Articles: Banjo Catfishes,

Related Catfish FAQs: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction,


Freshwater ID please - 5/9/2012
Catfish ID Dear Crew, First, thank you for such a valuable resource. Your expertise and willingness to help is amazing!
WWM: Thank you for your kind words
So I have had this fish for some time, but I have never really known what it was. It was sold to me as a Pleco, but I am pretty sure it isn't. I believe it to be a type of catfish, though I am having a tough time tracking down an ID. It is roughly 3"-4" long, and hasn't really grown much since I got it (around 4 months ago). It definitely likes to burrow under the sand and is normally not seen too often when the lights are on. I was really hoping you guys/gals might be able to help. Thanks crew!! Sincerely, Justin
WWM: You have a banjo catfish from South America. A very cool and interesting peaceful catfish.-Chuck

banjo cat... trouble, no data 4/5/12
My banjo cat is having problems. he seems to be struggling to stay at the bottom of the tank. he ends up floating at the top of the tank.
<Perhaps food decomposing...>
Sometimes he sucks on the glass to stay down but he just floats back up. I know he is alive because when I poke him he moves. Is this normal
<Not normal... Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/aspredinids.htm
and the linked FAQs file for the family above. Bob Fenner>

banjo catfish ? Bunocephalid sel., brackish misc. 2/28/10
Hey Neale,
<Hello again,>
You once told me my Banjo cat would not last long.
<Certainly is a "difficult" species with a variable success rate in community tanks. Being nocturnal and slow, it easily starves to death unless some provision is made for its needs.>
Best I can tell is it is a Bunocephalus coracoideus.
<The "standard" species of the hobby, but do also check out Bunocephalus verrucosus (formerly Agmus lyriformis), the other common species in the trade.>
He is in a 29 gallon with some Mbunas and 4 Checkered Barbs. Nobody bothers him (it).
<Good news.>
So, how "do" you know if this critter is happy or not? From what I've read he is behaving normal, though he hangs out in the plants and not the substrate. I use Carib Sea Rio Grande Smooth Pebble ( they state it is good for bottom dwellers, rays and the like. The other Banjos I recently saw where I got mine are in a sand substrate and do indeed bury themselves.
<My understanding is they actually live in leaf litter, so while yes, they like to burrow, sand is a substitute rather than the what they'd be burrowing into in the wild.>
All I saw was tail tips sticking out.
I also checked out the brackish Banjo you sent me the other day. Its a good looking fish.
<Indeed it is. But sadly, only ever seen this fish ONCE in 20 years of fish shop shopping.
If I should decide to ever go brackish I would like a Dragon Goby. Would they go together ?
<Possibly, but Aspredo and Platystacus spp. catfish are more low-end salinity beasts, and I'd be keeping them with Mollies, Knight Gobies, and other low-end brackish fish. For Gobioides spp., the catfish of choice would be Mystus gulio or Sciades seemanni, since both of these would thrive at the SG 1.005-1.010 you need for this goby. That said, at SG 1.005, both Gobioides and Aspredo/Platystacus should work fine. There is, by the way, a great review of these brackish water banjo cats over at Planet Catfish, here:
Their breeding method is absolutely fascinating, and a reminder, as if we needed it, that catfish really are the "do everything" fish. If we could get any and every catfish you wanted, I think many of us would be happy keeping nothing but catfish!>
And, after checking out Carib Seas web site the other night, I find it a hard decision as to which substrate to be best for the Gobies.
<Yes, it is tricky. For a brackish system, a mix of smooth silver (silica) sand and coral sand can work well. Plain pea gravel is also acceptable.>
I really only found one that I think would be right which is a light colored sand listed as burrower and soft belly safe. May be crushed aragonite, which would make for a higher PH ?
<Yes, to some degree, and brackish water fish won't mind.>
My water is already in the 8's.
<Shouldn't be a problem. The rate at which aragonite dissolves slows down as pH goes up, and eventually there's a balance around pH 8.2 where the aragonite does nothing more than buffer against acidification. This is precisely what happens in marine aquaria.>
In Advance, Thanks again ! I find your input most valuable !
<Happy to help.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: banjo catfish ? 2/28/10
Hi Neale,
I checked out Planet Catfish (a way cool place ! ) and my cat looks to be a Bunocephalus coracoideus. Each one pictured is a little different as is mine, and are all unique in color variation.
<Yes. But do bear in mind species of catfish are often NOT defined by things like body colouration, but instead more subtle traits like the number of rays in their dorsal fins. There are very many catfish, indeed fish generally, that can only be positively identified when they're dead and under a microscope. Bumblebee Gobies are the classic examples, with at least one scientist commenting that almost every single photo in aquarium books and magazines being misidentified!>
Mine looks like the tail of pic #3 with a very dark brown to black body of pic #4. He lacks the 'tall' bony looking ridge from the back of the eye to the dorsal fin like the B. verrucosus, but has a much smaller one. He is 2 3/4 " stem to stern and roughly 3/4 " wide, so I guess he's still a youngster.
<Likely so.>
I wanted to be sure he ate tonight so I found out how to drive Mbunas nuts.
(insert smirk here...) I feed this cat just like this twice a week...I locate the Banjo, he hangs out in the plants along the back wall, I then go to the front of the tank and gently insert a piece of clear tube above the cat and drop a Hikari wafer in the tube. At this point the Mbunas start going nuts chasing the wafer down the tube. Turn out the lights and hurry round the to the back side of the tank, and hang over the back of the couch with the feline cat and a flashlight. Here's the part that ticks off the Mbunas...So the wafer lands below the cat, the Mbunas want it, right ?, a little blast of flashlight drives them away, in a minute or so the wafer begins
to soften, the Banjo drops down and feeds, Mbunas swarm, flashlight chases them off. Banjo appreciates not being bothered during dinner.
Can't say he really enjoyed the light show, though.
The thing I did differently tonight was using the flashlight. So, you're most likely correct in saying he might be slowly starving. I will feed him like this now, but those Mbunas appear to be too smart and it probably won't take long for them to figure out the flashlight won't hurt them...groan.
<Yes, even with Corydoras, it's wise to feed them 2-3 times per week during the night. Almost all catfish prefer to feed at night, and if only fed by
day will not thrive.>
Plan " B " ... So, do you think the Banjo would work with Gups and Kuhli Loaches ?
That's the only other option I could do with the Banjo. They have the same substrate, are not rowdy and feed slower.
I really liked the Platystacus. Lots of color variation there, too. No two alike. Didn't like the Mystus gulio and did like the Sciades seemanni.
<These latter are very impressive, likeable fish. There's an article all about them in the next Conscientious Aquarist here at WWM, so stop by in a week or two.>
I tried keeping Dragon Gobies last year but was unsuccessful. They would start out well, even had one eating from my fingers but then they would not come up to eat and would lose color and die. I've beat myself up trying to troubleshoot this and the best I can figure is temp was too high, too much competition in feeding differences, not enough salt. The water was not truly "brackish". Nothing was right.
<Likely the case.>
My mom comes over twice a week and one day she came to the pet store with me. She collects dragon chachkies and saw the Dragon Gobies. So, then she says can I get one and keep it in your tank ? Arrgh. I went home and researched the fish and went and got one the next day. In three weeks it died. I am rather intrigued with this fish ( they're weird, fugly and really cool ) but I'm half afraid to try them again. I really got to liking them during their brief stay.
<Most folks do like these fish a lot; it's a shame the retailers aren't more explicit about their needs. They aren't difficult to keep, but they do need brackish water, plus a sandy substrate and the right mix of foods (algae wafers, live brine shrimps, and worms of various types).>
Here's the part that really hurt... after the first one died, I didn't tell mom but went and got two more, told her I got Puff a buddy to see if having a buddy would make him feel more secure. -Yea, she named it Puff, the magic dragon. They both died in three weeks too. I fessed up to Mom what had happened. We were both bummed. Perhaps if I run out of Guppies I will try them again.
<Guppies can live with Gobioides spp. just fine. Guppies thrive in brackish water if slowly adapted, and non-fancy (i.e., wild or feeder) Guppies can even live in seawater.>
I need to know much more on water, SG, how to read the tester, etc. Last year I didn't know squat. Ahhh, Rome wasn't built in a day. I'm getting better... thanks to you !
<Much written about brackish water fishkeeping here at WWM:
Do also read here for specifics on this fish:
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: banjo catfish ? 2/28/10
Hi Neale,
So Gups can live with those huge Dragon Gobies ?!!!
I would think a monster of the size of those Dragons would scare the poop out of the Gups !
<They might be a little concerned initially, but properly maintained
Gobioides won't eat livebearer fry, so they soon settle down.>
Especially when they start bouncing around, hee hee.
<Is fun to watch.>
15 more days and every body gets bigger homes. I'm waiting on one bio-wheel to get done and then it's time. I'll move Mr. Banjo over there then. Not enough room for him now.
Didn't know Corydoras like to feed at night.
<Is there preference. They will learn to eat by day, but in the wild, they're more or less nocturnal, I'm told.>
I have a small assorted herd and all are out snurfeling around during the day. When they are done vacuuming they go in the dark corner and snooze but there is almost always two that are out and about.
<I have several generations of Corydoras paleatus living together, and they're certainly fun to watch.>
I've been seeing some interesting behaviour with the Boesemanni Rainbows the past few days. I had 6 juvies flown in in Feb. of last year. Put them in a tank by themselves for a month and after that into the 45 with the Corys and three tiny Angels which now are pretty big, a pair of Checkered Australian Rainbows and some Danio roseus. Every morning from dawn until 9 a.m. I get the coolest show from these Boesmanis. 4 will pair off and go to a specific place in the bottom of the
tank. The one I am going to tell you about goes just above a hollow log.
His colors get very brilliant, top of the head from snout to first dorsal gets snowy white. He will go and pick a Boesemanni and get him / her (?) to follow him to the log. After some circling they then go eyeball to eyeball with the tails being apart. To look at this head on you would see a V shape.
Heads stay still and tails shake and vibrate like mad until the one brought down breaks away. After they get fed it all stops and is business as usual.
<Some type of spawning or social behaviour; may be rivalry between males, or flirting between a male and female. Morning sunlight is a famous trigger for spawning behaviour.>
What I'm seeing this past week is this males' ( and I am only assuming this is a male )snowy white head shimmering to gold like if you blow on the embers of a fire that has gone out. Haven't seen this shimmering gold before. At first I thought it was a reflection of the sun so I put my body so as to cast a shadow on them and he was indeed looking like the Aurora Borealis. Turning the colors on and off. I get this show every morning while I have my coffee. Is this a territorial thing or a courting dance ?
<Depends on their genders. Males tend to be more "hunch backed" than the females, and their colours slightly brighter.>
The other pair does this too but to a lesser degree. The third pair remain neutral. I got some pics of this this morning if you need to see.
I'll read those articles this evening. Going back to the topic of catfish , I looked thru the letter B last
night and was amazed at how many there were in just one letter ! Later !
<The Order Siluriformes is indeed huge and ancient. Do read the excellent Tree-of-Life summary of the group; you'll be surprised, I think.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Banjo catfish, sys. fdg., comp. 08/02/09
Hello to whoever is currently ensconced: I have a question - no urgency now - regarding banjo catfish.
<Fire away!>
Situation: I have an extra 20 gallon tank set up in which live (I think) 2 banjos . At least they were alive and seemingly well about two months ago when I transferred them from a smaller tank into this one.
<Not the most active of catfish. I assume these are the small brown ones, such as Bunocephalus coracoideus. In the wild they inhabit creeks, living underneath the leaf litter and essentially staying well hidden during the day. At night they forage for small invertebrates.>
Haven't seen them since.
<Absolutely typical for the family. The big brackish water species are perhaps marginally more active, but there's not much in it.>
Particulars: the tank is fine sand substrate over 3 inches thick with a large piece of driftwood, several rocks, pebbles, and some plants (mostly assorted crypts and wisteria at this juncture). PH 8.0, temp. 75 F.,
ammonia and nitrites have been 0 each time I checked.
<All sounds fine. The ideal aquarium would have some leaf litter along the bottom. Indian Almond leaves are favoured for this sort of thing, but some people use Oak leaves (they rot faster though).>
I hadn't anticipated a waste problem because I transferred the media from the smaller established tank to the Aquaclear HOB on this one and added a double sponge filter - all in all considering this to be overkill with the sparse habitation. Virtually every evening, I throw in some shrimp pellets or some freeze-dried Tubifex or some frozen mysis or bloodworms or something similar.
<I'd not expect them to show much interest in freeze-dried foods, but wet-frozen foods should be readily taken. Small good quality pellet foods, such as Hikari and Tetra brands, will probably be taken as well, once the fish are settled.>
Now, I had intended this tank to serve several other purposes as well as providing a home for banjos. For one thing, there are several plants that get eaten immediately in my other tanks - Cardamine, pennywort?
(Hydrocotyle spp.), water sprite, a low growing creeper called baby tears but it doesn't seem to be the same as the terrestrial variety, etc. I thought that I could grow them in this tank and feed trimmings to my other fish without having to repurchase.
<At least some of these plants are "light hungry" and will simply become etiolated in low-light tanks, eventually dying from exhaustion. Since Banjo Cats can't bear strong lights, I'd have thought this combination somewhat tricky to put into practise. Mostly, Banjos want leaf litter and open sand,
but you could certainly use shade-tolerant plants around the edges (Java fern, hardy Crypts, Anubias) with some floating plants above to deal with algae and provide shade.>
Anyway, all of these rapidly disappeared. Another event: I purchased 6 silver dwarf halfbeaks and thought this tank would make a good breeding place for them so I threw in a large clump of Riccia (the one B. Fenner refers to as 'the plant that ate Cincinnati') as hiding area for any offspring
<Despite Bob's comment, I've never had the least success with Riccia.>
The Riccia has largely disappeared also. So have the halfbeaks. I have not found a single body.
<Did they jump out? Halfbeaks are funny fish: they're very adaptable, but they tolerate sudden change poorly, and there's a bit of an art to settling them in. Still, I'd expect them to make good companions for Banjos.>
At first, with one or two not seen, I assumed some were hiding or maybe I could have one or two casualties without it being a cause for alarm. They all seemed hale and healthy for the first week or so though and then
started diminishing. I had been under the impression that banjos are primarily carnivorous - hence my choice of foods. Are they responsible for the plant loss?
<Unlikely; Banjos are mostly carnivorous, albeit towards small prey, and while they doubtless consume some decaying organic matter including algae, I doubt they eat healthy plants.>
Will they track down and eat other small fish such as the halfbeaks?
<No; they're very poor swimmers and have small mouths ill-suited to such things. They would quite possibly nibble at a dead halfbeak, but that would be about it.>
At present, there are also 3or 4 small swordtails in the tank that have not been harmed although they were added within a week after being born.
Possibly they just move faster. Anyway, this has not gone according to plan and I wonder if the banjos are indeed responsible or if I am missing key factors in some way.
<It's a mystery to me, this one. Assuming you have the small Banjo species mentioned above, then that's a fish that is noted for being very peaceful and well suited to placid community tanks.>
All things considered, could this tank be used as a breeding tank at all?
<Banjos will surely eat fish eggs, as will any catfish, but they should be completely safe alongside livebearer fry. I've personally reared halfbeak fry alongside adult Corydoras and never had any problems, and wouldn't expect Banjos to be any worse. There's something else going on in this tank... perhaps the fish are jumping out, being sucked into a filter, dying because of some environmental issue... something.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Mollies and banjos Hi guys, First of all I really love your site, I have learned so much. Anyway, to my question, I have a 55 gallon setup with 7 mollies (not sure of sexes but I asked for mostly females), 2 banjo cats, and 1 Cory cat. The take is pure FW right now and the mollies don't seem to want to breed. I have read on the site that adding salt, raising the pH, and keeping the temp. around 80 would get them going. I know the Cory would be ok but I am worried about my banjo's, I read that they like a lower than 7 pH, I love the little guys and I don't really wanna get rid of them. Would having the pH around 7.8 hurt them? What about the salt? I would love for my mollies to start having fry. Any help would be appreciated. <Hi Jason, Jorie here. How long have you had this setup? My guess is that as long as you indeed have some mixture of males and female mollies, they are breeding, and the fry are simply being eaten. Happens all the time. Couple of things you can do to try and save the babies: provide lots of plant cover, esp. floating plants (either fake or real...not sure what your tank is like), set up a separate birthing tank and QT one or two of the females for a while, until you see fry. Unless you are a serious hard-core fish breeder, I wouldn't suggest monkeying around with the pH, temp., etc. I've got a 44 gal. community FW tank that includes mollies and I keep it at 78 degrees, pH of around 7.5, pure FW, no salt, and these guys are *constantly* having babies! Nothing can stop them, it seems! You could add a bit of aquarium salt as per the container's directions, as that would only help improve the overall health of everybody in there. Just be patient and make sure to provide lots of hiding places for the fry...my hunch is you just aren't seeing the babies, but they are indeed being born!> Thanks, <You're welcome. Jorie>

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