About the Twig Catfish
Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Care Level: Moderate. May tolerate only a narrow range of water parameters, have specific dietary requirements including frozen or even live foods, may have behaviors that severely limit potential tankmates or may require a specialized aquarium setup.
Origin: Columbia and Venezuela. Occurs in areas of heavy vegetation and tangled roots along the banks of slow-flowing forest rivers and streams and in floodplains and bogs.
Compatibility/Temperament: Suitable for any soft and acidic water community aquarium with other peaceful and non-aggressive fish. Slow feeding, it cannot have boisterous fish as tankmates. May be kept singly or in groups; male territorial disputes never result in injury.
The identification of this species is not a certainty. Of the more than 30 known species of Farlowella found throughout South America, only two are regularly exported. Most of the existing literature refers to these as F. acus and F. gracilis, but several authorities believe this is incorrect, and consider the fish offered as F. acus to in fact be the subject species. The sketch of F. acus [here F. vittata] and F. gracilis by Sterba reproduced above shows the differences between the two commonly-available species. Both are near-identical in their requirements in the aquarium.
The genus was named by Carl and Rosa Eigenmann (1889) in honour of the American botanist from Harvard, William Gibson Farlow (1844-1919), who specialized in algae plants. And this is certainly one of the finest algae-eating fish, comparable to the common Otocinclus. A trio of Farlowella will easily keep a 90g aquarium free of common green and brown algae.
This fish is truly a camouflage expert among aquarium fish; hanging or sitting motionless on a branch they are easily unnoticed, as illustrated in the first photo above. They move from surface to surface, usually with short "hops;" swimming when necessary is achieved by body undulations and propulsion from the caudal fin. They are believed to have a lifespan of up to 15 years; their frequent demise in aquaria is likely due to their demand for stable water parameters and conditions, and they should only be introduced to an established aquarium containing algae. They do not appreciate being moved, and once introduced to an aquarium should be left alone. Like most of the South American catfish, they are sensitive to chemicals and medications; when irritating substances are present in the water they will frequently select a plant leaf or object near the surface and remain motionless with their rostrum protruding above the water in an attempt to gain oxygen, and an immediate partial water change should be undertaken.
Farlowella differ from the other Loricaria fish in the positioning of the dorsal fin which is normally opposite the anal fin but on Farlowella it is behind the anal fin. Males have a broader rostrum (snout) and develop rows of bristle-like odontotes along it as they mature. Not difficult to spawn in very soft, acidic water and very dim lighting. The male guards the eggs; after hatching, the fry are difficult to raise since they require very soft vegetable matter.
Several different species [commonly referred to as Royal Farlowella, etc] attain a considerably larger size and are only appropriate in much larger aquaria. F. vittata was described by the great American ichthyologist Dr. George S. Meyers in 1942.
Twig Catfish Diet
Vegetarian; algae (common green) and diatoms (brown algae) will readily be grazed from every plant leaf and object in the aquarium. Must be supplemented with vegetable-based tablet and pellet foods such as algae and spirulina wafers. Will eat most prepared tablet foods. As a treat, cucumber slices, kale and blanched spinach may be offered.
Attains 6 inches.
Minimum Tank Suggestion
Length 24 inches but preferably 30-36 inches..
Ideal water parameters for Twig Catfish
Soft (hardness below 10 dGH) and acidic (pH below 7.0) water, temperature 24-27C/75-80F.