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Family: Loricariidae, Subfamily Loricariinae

Common Name: Whiptail Catfish

Origin and Habitat: Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Found in smaller rivers and streams having a substrate of gravel or sand with wood and leaf litter and a moderate or less water flow.

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful. Well suited to a community aquarium of non-aggressive fishes.

Whiptail Catfish Diet

In the wild they feed on aufwuchs, which are algae mats that contain insect larvae, small aquatic crustaceans, zooplankton, protozoans, etc. They will relish quite a variety of vegetable foods such as lettuce, peas, zucchini, blanched spinach, etc., along with sinking foods that should include both plant and animal matter. They will graze algae; no damage to plants.


Attains 11-12 cm (under 5 inches).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Water parameters for Whiptail Catfish

Soft to medium hard (< 15 dGH), slightly acidic to slightly basic (pH 6.0-7.5), temperature 20-25C/68-77F.


The Whiptail Catfish is one of the most suitable of the Loricariinae family for the community aquarium; they are very peaceful, interesting, remain relatively small, and are quite hardy and adaptable to differing water parameters.

The common name refers to the very extended upper filament on the caudal fin, a trait shared by all species in the genus. There are three different species regularly offered as "Whiptail" Catfish--Rineloricaria fallax, R. lanceolata and R. parva--that have slight variations in pattern and the placement of the ventral scutes. It is also possible that some available fish may be hybrids between these three and other species. All have identical requirements in the aquarium. The average lifespan is 5-8 years.

Whiptails should be maintained in well-planted tanks having a small-sized gravel or sand substrate, with chunks of bogwood. Leaves can be laid on parts of the substrate. Overhead lighting should be minimal and/or diffused with floating plants. This catfish tends to remain on the substrate, but will also continually browse plant leaves, wood and rock as well as the substrate for algae and bits of food; they prefer to rest in wood crevices or under wood or rock outcrops. They do not eat plants.

Sexual dimorphism is fairly easy to observe; males possess odontodes along the sides of the head and on the pectoral spines and rays, and on the predorsal area of mature males. Rineloricaria are cave spawners; eggs are laid on the floor of a cavity and guarded by the male.

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 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.

The subject species was described by G.A. Boulenger in 1895 and placed in the genus Loricaria. Isbrucker assigned it to Rineloricaria in 1980. Isbrucker et al. (2001) moved it into Hemiloricaria but within a year it was back in Rineloricaria where it is presently deemed valid.


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.

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