The aquarium hobby is home to a wealth of different fish species. There are big fish, small fish, colorful fish, bland fish… and then there’s catfish, the strangest of them all. The twig catfish is not an exception in this: as its common name suggests, this species has evolved to survive by resembling a twig.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about keeping twig catfish from the Farlowella genus!
Twig catfish (Farlowella sp.) description
Farlowella catfish take camouflage seriously. They can easily be recognized from their very distinctive looks – if you can find them, that is. With their elongated body, pointed nose and brown-green coloration they blend perfectly into their natural habitat, the debris-littered banks of the Orinoco river basin. Here, they use their suction cup-like mouths to attach themselves to logs, roots and sticks, sitting motionlessly. The only time you’ll see these fish moving is when they’re grazing the surface for biofilm and algae.
With a maximum size of about 6”, the twig catfish stays relatively small. Males can be differentiated from females by their broader rostrum (nose) with jagged rather than smooth edges.
|Name (common, scientific)||Twig catfish, whiptail catfish, Farlowella sp.|
|Minimum tank size||30 gallons|
|Minimum group size||1|
Twig catfish (Farlowella sp.) aquarium
If you’d like to keep twig catfish in your home aquarium, there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important factor is that these fish are extremely sensitive to poor water quality and will quickly perish if you don’t maintain excellent cleanliness at all times. The tank should always be completely cycled before you can consider adding any fish, and even then it’s best to add the twigs at a later stage when you’re sure the water values are stable. Second, these fish have made sitting still and doing nothing their survival method. This means they’re very peaceful but easily outcompeted for food. They won’t deal well with more boisterous tankmates at all.
The ideal aquarium set-up for a twig catfish would be a South American stream biotope. A tank like this would have dark, stained water with plenty of organic litter in the form of driftwood, leaves and twigs. Moderate water flow is important to keep the water well-oxygenated. Some live plants that can tolerate low light conditions provide foraging and hiding spots. Tankmates should be calm and peaceful, like schools of small tetras and friendly catfish species such as the bottom-dwelling Corydoras.
If you’re not interested in replicating the twig catfish’ natural habitat exactly a normal peaceful planted community aquarium will also work fine, although the aforementioned conditions still apply.
Caring for twig catfish (Farlowella sp.)
As discussed earlier, pristine water quality is vital to the well-being of your twig catfish. Weekly water changes are a must, with the exact amount of water that should be switched out depending on the results of your (liquid) water test. Nitrates should be lower than 10, while ammonia and nitrite should never be present. Be sure to dechlorinate new water with a high quality dechlorinator and temperature match it to the tank water. Add it in slowly using a thin hose to prevent shocking the fish.
Twig catfish naturally mostly feed on micro-organisms and algae that grow on decaying material. Because our home aquariums are too small and clean to sustain them that way, you’ll have to supplement your twig’s diet. Daily feedings of algae-based foods (like spirulina pellets) and veggies such as blanched cucumber and zucchini will work well to keep the fish healthy. You can also supplement now and then using small live or (thawed) frozen foods like mosquito larvae.
Twig catfish from the Farlowella genus are an absolutely fascinating addition to your aquarium, but they require excellent tank maintenance to stay healthy. Not sure how to go about this? Why not outsource your aquarium maintenance so you can keep your hands dry, sit back and enjoy the fish with no stress. Contact FantaSEA Aquariums here to set up your own customized plan.