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Family: Loricariidae, Subfamily Loricariinae

Common Names: Red Lizard Whiptail Catfish, Red Lizard Cat

Origin and Habitat: Some sources believe this is a distinct wild species from South America, but most accept that it was more probably developed by hobbyists in Germany, though the original parent species are unknown. It is a Loricarid, closely related to the species in Rineloricaria.

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful and somewhat secretive; males will be territorial when spawning. Well suited to almost any community aquarium with peaceful and non-aggressive fish.

Red Lizard Whiptail Diet

Omnivorous, but not as "vegetarian" as its relative the Whiptail Catfish. Will accept any sinking prepared foods, frozen bloodworms, small live worms, and vegetable matter like blanched spinach, yam, zucchini. Will not damage live plants as it browses their leaves.


Attains 4.5 inches; females are slightly smaller than males.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

10 gallons

Water parameters for Red Lizard Whiptail

Soft to medium hard (< 15 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH 5 to 7.5), temperature 22-28C/71-82F.


The precise origin of this fish is a mystery. It may possibly be a natural species, but most sources believe it is a man-made hybrid from one or more other Rineloricaria species, but which exactly is also unknown. The German aquarium resource publisher Aqualog introduced this species with the number L010a, but it bears no resemblance to L010. The "L" system was initiated by the German aquarium magazine DATZ [Die Aquarien und Terrarienzeitschrift] to identify the newly-discovered loricarid species prior to the scientific description and naming; these numbers are applied to all known species including those already or once named, so they are unique to each species.

The aquarium should be dimly lit and provided with a substrate of sand or fine gravel that is smooth; this fish likes to occasionally burrow, and sharp-edged materials will cause damage to the underbelly and mouth. Hiding places formed by bogwood or rock should be provided; PVC pipe is also suitable. A well-planted aquarium suits this species which likes to browse all surfaces for food. It will stop to rest for longer periods than many similar species, and may thus be almost un-noticed; in the writer's (Byron) aquarium they will hang vertically on the leaves or stems of Echinodorus plants.

The species will spawn inside a hollow such as PVC pipe, with the male guarding the nest in typical Rineloricaria fashion. Mature males have small spines (called odontodes) on the pectoral fins and around the head, but unlike other species not on the top of the head.

The "pure" strain of this species is now very difficult to obtain, probably only from Germany. It is more likely that fish available in stores will be hybrids. It was found that the original species, sometimes referred to as Leliella sp. "Red," would readily spawn with Rineloricaria lanceolata. Since the latter species is more prolific and easier to spawn, and this hybridization produces very red-coloured fish, commercial breeders preferred the hybrids. The pure species is preserved by some breeders in Germany.

The genus Rineloricaria was erected by Pieter Bleeker in 1862; the name is derived from the Greek rhinos [= nose] and lorica [= cuirass (which is a type of armour breastplate) of leather]. There are presently about 60 described species distributed from Panama down to northern Argentina, and on both sides of the Andes. This is the largest number of species in any Loricariinae genus. In 2008 alone, some 14 new species were described as Rineloricaria.

During the past ten years this genus has undergone classification changes which are still not fully resolved. Isbrucker et al.(2001) re-established the genus Hemiloricaria [Bleeker, 1862] as distinct, along with two new genera (Leliella and Fonchiiichthys), and on the basis of sexual dimorphism moved several species from Rineloricaria into these three. The latest classification, that of Rodriguez & Reis (2008), partly accepts Isbrucker et al. (2001) phenetic proposition of splitting Rineloricaria and Hemiloricaria; but they propose that Hemiloricaria should comprise a widely-distributed group of species (Amazon and non-Amazon species) whereas Rineloricaria would be restricted to species occurring in the Rio Parana and its tributaries, and the coastal drainages from Uruguay to northeastern Brazil. As of the time of writing, this has not been universally accepted.


Isbrucker, I. J. H., I. Seidel, P. Michels, E. Schraml and A. Werner (2001), "Diagnose vierzehn neuer Gattungen der Familie Loricariidae Rafinesque, 1815 (Teleostei, Ostariophysi)," Datz-Sonderheft, vol. 2, pp. 17-24.

Rodriguez, M. S. and R. E. Reis (2008), "Taxonomic review of Rineloricaria (Loricariidae, Loricariinae) from the Laguna dos Patos drainage, Southern Brazil, with the descriptions of two new species and the recognition of two species groups," Copeia 2008(2), pp. 333-349.

Tullmann, Sandor (2009), PlanetCatfish website.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron


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