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Feeding catfishes

by Francesco Zezza

Bottom Feeders, Algae Eaters, Scavengers: these are –among others – the names used to “nickname” catfishes (actually those fishes are all the above and much more) assuming they’ll live on anything (leftovers from more “precious” tankmates?), algae (they’re supposed to be algae cleaner, aren’t they?) and almost nothing more. However, feeding catfishes correctly is a really complicated issue. Many of them, mostly the Amazon ones come from biotopes facing significant weather changes all year long (simply think about dry/rain seasons in the Amazon Basin); the same thing, to a lesser extent is also true for African Synos mostly coming from Rift Valley Lakes. These situations causes most of those fishes – in wild - to feed, during the year, on an a range of completely different foods: ranging from: animal / vegetable matter up to – in extreme conditions – detritus, wood and other “low nutrient” stuff! This is a point that we have to understand if we are to really understand their feeding needs: proper feeding of catfishes is anything but easy, or – at least – most of them need a MUCH greater food variety than just leftovers, algae, sinking tablets and the alike. A further point to consider is the fact that most aquarist (including cichlidiots, like myself) are used to keep these fishes in “shared tanks, with other fishes. This also happens in the wild but sometimes they are  with wrong tankmates in our tanks. What do you have to feed your catfishes, then? In a single word: EVERYTHING! Their dietary needs range from animal matter (and here I’m NOT specifically referring to Synos but, as odd as it may seem, ALSO to some “plecos”); vegetable matter (here you can experiment on your own, my knowledge suggests: zucchini, potatoes - not that fond of them - lettuce, spinach, cucumbers (all fed raw) and ,of course, algae (either scrathed from tank’s furniture or offered.

TIP: wrap, using an elastic band, fresh vegetables to a stone to allow them to sink. Change this elastic band every now and then (it will rip, sooner or later, most catfishes have SHARP theeth!)

Do remember that some “Amazonians” need to chew wood (i.e.: bogwoods) since lignine is a must for a complete, and healthy, digestion; among those fishes I have to mention – at least – the Panaque genus. Synodontis (personal experience with Malawi Syno only in the past and actually a “Riverine Syno” doubtfully identied) seem to be fond of “live matter” such as mosquito larvae, daphniae, brine shrimps. These should be supplied in proper quantities so that they will reach the bottom of the tank (beware of filters!)

TIP: try to feed your catfishes at night (or, at least, using only actinic – blue - lamps). It is much more natural (to them) and easier for you (less fishes looking for food BEFORE it actually hits the bottom). Of course, as time passes by bright lights will become a minor issue.

 

Since supplying proper food to plecos is – as far as I know – one of the most complicated issues when keeping catfishes I add – here - a table showing the dietary needs of Loriicarids (with a few added data). This data have been supplied by Ingo Seidel in the Italian magazine Hydra (see cover below).

 

This issue came out of print at the beginning of year 2002. MCH authors would like to thank both of them and, at the same time, give each one (Mr. Ingo Seidel and Hydra magazine) the respective - dued - credits. I feel these info are extremely interesting when trying to fully understand the dietary needs of many of the - often underevalued - “scavengers” kept in our tank!

FEEDING NEEDS OF AMAZONIAN LORIICARIDS.

Species

Where from

TL (cm)

Diet

Acanthicus adonis

Brasil: Rio Tovantis close to Cametà

> 60 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Leporacanthicus galaxias (L7/L29)

Brasil: Rio Guamà, Rio Tocantins

30 cm

K; F; T

Scobinancistrus aureatus (L14)

Brasil: Rio Xingù close to Altamira

40 cm

K; S; F

Peckoltia cf. vittata (L15)

Brasil: Rio Xingù close to Altamira

12 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Baryancistrus sp. (L18/L81/L85/L177)

Brasil: Rio Xingù close to Altamira

30 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Pseudacanthicus sp (L25)

Brasil: Rio Tocantins

> 30 cm

K; F; T

Hypancistrus zebra (L46)

Brasil: Rio Xingù

10 cm

K; T

Baryancisytrus sp (L47)

Brasil: Rio Xingù

40 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Scobinancistrus cf. pariolispos (L48)

Brasil: Rio Xingù

> 30 cm

K; S; T

Ancistrus sp. (L59)

Brasil: Rio Guamà close to Ourém

15 cm

A; G;H; K; T

Pseudacanthicus sp. (L65)

Brasil: Rio Purus

15 cm

K; F; T

Hypancistus sp. (L66)

Brasil: Rio Xingù close to Belo Monte

14 cm

K; T

Pseudancistrus sp. (L17/L67)

Brasil: Rio Xingù close to Altamira

20 cm

A, G, H; K; T

Ancistrinae sp. (L75)

Brasil: Rio do Parà presso Portel

23 cm

A; G, H; K; T

Baryancistus sp. (L81)

Brasil: Rio Xingù

30 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Ancistrinae sp. (L82)

Brasil: Rio Xingù

20 cm

K; T

Panaque sp (L90)

Perù upper Amazon basin

> 50 cm

G; H; T

Leporacanthicus triactus (L91)

Venezuela: upper Rio Orinoco

30 cm

K, T

Pseudacanthicus leopardus (L114)

Brasil: Rio Negro

> 30 cm

K, T

Peckoltia sp. (L121)

Guyana ***

15 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Baryancistus sp. (L128)

Venezuela ***

30 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Peckoltia sp (L134)

Brasil: outlet of Rio Arapluns

10 cm

K; T

Ancistrinae sp. (L163)

Brasil: Rio do Parà close to Portel

> 15 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Baryancistrus sp (L177)

Brasil: Rio Iriri, outlet of Rio Xingù

30 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Ancistrinae sp. (L200)

Venezuela: upper Rio Orinoco

> 20 cm

A; G, H; K; T

Hypancistrus sp. (L236)

Brasil: Rio Iriri, outlet of Rio Xingù

15 cm

K; T

Hypancistus sp. (L250)

Brasil: Rio Iriri

10 cm

K; T

Scobinancistrys sp (L253)

Brasil: middle Rio Xingù

> 30 cm

K; S; T

Lasiancistrus sp. (L257)

Venezuela: upper Rio Orinoco

12 cm

A; G; H; K; T

Hypancistrus sp (L260)

Brasil: Rio Tapajos

12 cm

K; T

Pseudacanthicus sp. (L237)

Brasil: Rio Tapajos

> 40 cm

K; F; T

NOTE: TL is, sometimes, estimated because of lack of reliable information. Specimens kept in aquarium can get even bigger.

Quick reference table for shortenings used in column “diet”:

LETTER

Stands for

A

Algae and Aufwuchs

F

Fish, molluscs

G

Vegetal matter (such as: peas; cucumbers, salade, spinach)

H

Wood (bogwood?)

K

Small sized live food (insect’s larvae, Artemia)

D

Acquatic snails

T

Tablet and/or sinking food

***: no kind of information on the collection site. 

Finally, please, have a look at the following table: it reports catfishes I’m currently keeping (NOTE: hyperlinks will take you to the dedicated fast facts sheets, whenever available) stating:

·        Tank housing them: with a reference to their tankmates whenever this issue is of “real” importance (i.e.: size retated matters).

·        Genus/species: in order to identify them as clearly as possible (and, believe me, this is anything but easy!).

·        Number of specimens kept:: if a fish is kept alone this may mean it is a territorial species (common among plecos and synos), expensive/hard to find, big sized, singly collected in wild.

·        Collection area: if/when available.

·        More: few, short, added info

Tank

Genus

Species

Number

Where from

More

Large twin tank 260 lt (R side)

Ancistrus

sp.

1

-

Aquarium specimen

Mirabello LG

Ancistrus

sp.

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

Small twin tank 140 lt (L side)

Ancistrus sp.

sp.

2

-

Aqaurium specimens, a supposed pair

750 lt (Malawi T.)

Hypostomus

Plecostomus

1

-

Aquarium specimen, from 1985 on. > 40 cm in TL

750 lt (Malawi T.)

Glyptoperichthys

Multipunctatus

1

-

Aquarium specimen, from 1992. > 40 cm in TL

750 lt (Malawi T.)

Synodontis

sp. (eupterus ?)

1

-

About 20 cm in TL

Vogue 830; 125 lt

Corydoras

Elegans

10

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Corydoras

Schwartzi (?)

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Hypoptopoma

sp.

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Rineloricaria

sp. (3)

3

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Cochliodon

Hondae

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

Tank

Genus

Species

Number

Where from

More

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Panaque

sp.

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000, (still undescribed).

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Fam. Loricariidae

 

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000, (still unidentified; is nicknamed grisù).

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Hoplosternum

Thoracatum

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

360 lt (Amazon tank)

Amblydoras

Hanckokii

1

Peru (W)

From Amazon trip 2000

           

NOTE: NON loriicarids are listed in blue. 

Hereunder are listed other catfishes kept in the past, listed/described in the same way.

Other catfishes.

Tank

Genus

Species

Number

Where from

More

‘===

Gold Nugget Pleco

L018 or L177 or L081

4

Brasil

Wild Caught specimens

‘===

Hypancistrus

zebra, L046

3

Brasil

Wild Caught specimen (?)

           

 

A wild caught Cory, in the foreground and a wild caught Hophostrernum Thoracatum in the background, share an algae tablet. Eating is much better than fighting (when supplied food is enough) 

 

An unidentifyied (Wild ) peruvian Pleco eagerly feeding on algae tablets. This picture is a bit dark as it was taken at night.

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