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!
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
You have a banjo catfish from South America. A very cool and interesting peaceful catfish.-Chuck
banjo cat... trouble, no data
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
<Not normal... Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/aspredinids.htm
and the linked FAQs file for the family above. Bob
banjo catfish ? Bunocephalid sel.,
brackish misc. 2/28/10
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).
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
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
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
In Advance, Thanks again ! I find your input most valuable !
<Happy to help.>
Re: banjo catfish ? 2/28/10
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
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.
I wanted to be sure he ate tonight so I found out how to drive Mbunas
(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
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
<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
<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
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:
Re: banjo catfish ? 2/28/10
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
Gobioides won't eat livebearer fry, so they soon settle
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
tank. The one I am going to tell you about goes just above a hollow
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
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
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
Banjo catfish, sys. fdg., comp.
Hello to whoever is currently ensconced: I have a question - no urgency
now - regarding banjo catfish.
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
<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
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
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.
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,
(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
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
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
<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
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
<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
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.