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Twig Catfish


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Mar 31, 2005
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Norfolk, UK
Common Name(s): Twig Catfish

Scientific Name: Farlowella vittata

Family: Loricariidae

Origin: South America - Venezuela, Rio Uribanto

Maximum Size: 18.0cm. (7ins)

Minimum Tank Size: Ideally 30 US Gallons (or at minimum 24” long / 20 US gallons)

Life Span: I have been unable to establish this.

Water Parameters: Preferably a neutral pH with fairly soft – medium hardness water.

Care: The Twig catfish is a nocturnal, very gentle, shy, non territorial catfish and should ideally be kept in a tank where it doesn’t need to compete for food. Avoid tankmates that are strongly territorial bottom feeders. A well planted tank is a must and ideally with plenty of bogwood to rest on and hang from.

Feeding: They are primarily vegetarian and feed on algae. So a well planted mature tank is very important. Also feed algae wafers, cucumber, zucchini, courgette and shelled cooked peas.
Due to their shy & slow nature, it will simply slowly starve to death if kept with greedy eager feeders.

Sexing and Breeding: This is fairly easy. The male has “bristles” on his rostrum (nose) and the female doesn’t. Please refer to the first picture below (male on top and female below).
The male is also more slender than the female.

Breeding is quite uncommon in aquaria but not unheard of. The female will lay up to 80 eggs on a clear hard surface, generally in the very early hours of the morning or last thing at night. The male will then fan them with his pectoral fins until they hatch in 6-10 days. In the very well planted, mature tank the fry can feed on microbacteria supplemented with lettuce, courgette (zucchini), shelled peas and cucumber.

Notes: Twig catfish are not the easiest fish to keep. Unknown deaths are often noted (I have had them myself). I have lost a couple of seemingly healthy Farlowella vittata that were well-settled in the tank for several months and were eating normally in a mature healthy tank with stable parameters.

There are nearly 60 species of Farlowella that, in the main, look very similar. The species was identified by its distinctive rostrum and ventral plates arrangement. F. vittata has a longer thinner rostrum.

Very large water changes should be avoided as they do not take well to a sudden change and can result in shock and death. They are also known to “play dead”. When doing tank maintenance you should take great care around them. They are very ungainly swimmers and when startled can swim at great speed – right into a glass wall (I’ve seen this a few times with fairly new fish). With all the above in mind, I will only recommend them for a mature tank (6+ months).

Warning: They have a tendency to latch on to heaters, so please ensure your heater has a heater guard!

(Please do not use any of my photos without my permission)

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