About the Striped Raphael Catfish
Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Care Level: Easy. Does well in a slightly more narrow range of water parameters and shouldn't be used to cycle an aquarium. Will eat most prepared foods. May have some specific care requirements in terms of particular water parameters, social behaviors, food items etc.
Origin: South America. Rio Parana basin in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Introduced elsewhere. Found among bogwood and vegetation in still water (swamps) and quiet streams.
Compatibility/Temperament: Non-aggressive and peaceful, but likely to eat small fish, shrimp. Nocturnal, it will remain hidden in brightly-lit tanks. It must be provided with several hiding places such as tunnels and crevices in wood. These must be larger than the fish's girth, as they can force themselves into small spaces and be unable to free themselves.
This fish has several common names, including Striped Raphael Catfish, Humbug Catfish, Talking Catfish, Chocolate Catfish, and Thorny Catfish; some of these derive from traits that will be explained below.
Fishbase lists four species in the genus Platydoras, following the extensive work by Piorski et al (2008), three of which (P. armatulus, P. brachylecis and P. costatus) are very similar in appearance; the fourth, P. hancockii, lacks the black and white stripe pattern. Platydoras armatulus is the species most often seen in the hobby as the Striped Raphael Catfish.
Striped Raphael catfish are relatively easy to keep. Care must be taken when handling this fish as it has sharp pectoral fin spines [hence, "Thorny" Catfish] which can cause serious damage to the fish nets and even the hands if not handled properly. It is safer to catch this fish in a long jar or similar container rather than using a fish net.
They are not fussy with water conditions but do tend to be better is soft and slightly acidic water. Take note that it is always advisable to provide plenty of hiding places for these fish to avoid long-term stress which can be detrimental to their health. At first, these fish are shy and will often not show up for a few weeks, even months. Later on, they will eventually show up parading almost in front of the tank looking for foods, if not during feeding time.
They are suitable with plenty of community fish although care must be taken not to mix them with fish that may appear tempting for them to eat. They, like other fish, can be opportunistic and may try to gorge fish that will fit their mouths.
The Raphael Catfish will make grunting, "barking" noises when taken out of the water, hence one of their common names "Talking Catfish." This sound is produced by grinding their pectoral fin bone in its socket, and they frequently make this noise during darkness.
Mature females are wider than males when viewed from above, but aside from this there are no external indicators of gender. There are reports of fry appearing in the aquarium, but no details on the method of spawning which seems to have been unobserved.
For many years this fish was believed to be the species Platydoras costatus until Piorski et al. (2008) sorted out that P. armatulus is the true species. Initially this species was described by A. Valenciennes (1840) as Doras armatulus. Bleeker (1862) proposed the genus Platydoras for the species then described as Silurus costatus, and the following year Bleeker expanded the genus description and moved the subject species into it. The name derives from the Greek platys [= flat] and doras [=skin]. The family name Doradidae [the Thorny Catfish group] also derives from doras and literally means "flat head," referring to the depressed head of these fish.
Piorski, N.M., J.C. Garavello, M. Arce H. and M. H. Sabaj Perez (2008), "Platydoras brachylecis, a new species of thorny catfish (Siluriformes: Doradidae) from northeastern Brazil," Neotropical Ichthyology, v. 6 (no. 3), pp. 481-494.
Platydoras entries in Fishbase.
Striped Raphael Catfish Diet
In its natural habitat, feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, worms and organic debris. These fish are greedy eaters and will gorge anything; do not overfeed. They tend to eat meaty foods which includes chopped earthworms, live or frozen bloodworms, blackworms, and shrimp, plus prepared sinking foods.
Attains 8 inches, but in the aquarium usually around 6+ inches.
Minimum Tank Suggestion
48 inches in length to provide sufficient space.
Ideal water parameters for Striped Raphael Catfish
Soft to medium hard (< 20 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.5), temperature 23-30C/73-86F.