How to Care for Your New Banjo Catfish

Aqualand Info on Bunocephalus whatever

 
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Banjo Catfish Factoids

Origin

Amazon tributaries in many countries

Adult Size

Up to 6 inches.  Smaller more likely.

Sexual Differences

Mature females larger and plumper

Temperature

Whatever.  Not picky.

Attitude

Nocturnal.  Sedentary (lazy loafers) during day.

Security

Blends into the woodwork

Foods

Not picky

Substrate

Sand preferred.  Likes hiding places.

Water

Not picky

Biggest Threat

Improper diet, bad water, overcrowding

Breeding Comments

Spawns like corys but protects eggs


LA
Intriguing looking catfish -- lotsa bumps.

Appeal.  Here’s a strange looking catfish that you seldom see. Banjo catfish do look like a tiny banjo or “guitarrita.”  Banjo cats cost much less than most “interesting” catfish.

LA
Banjo catfish are well adapted to "blend in" to nearly any substrate.

Hard to See.  Banjo catfish are excellent hiders and have the colors and bumps that enable them to blend into nearly any tank décor.  Bunocephalus” means bumpy head which makes them look like a flat, bumpy rock.  They prefer to remain motionless during the day, which add to their camouflage.  You can easily pass them by as you browse your favorite fish store (Aqualand, we presume).

 

LA
In case you wondered where his little bitty beady eyeballs were.

LA
This little guy looks nothing like the prior banjo catfish.

Origin.  Several different species of banjo catfish can be found in the various tributaries of the Amazon.  We get different species from time to time and would be hard pressed to tell one from another.

Drawbacks.   As mentioned earlier, these guys like to hide during the day (and are very good at it).  Some people call them “invisible fish.”

Observation.  What the heck good is a fish you can’t see?  Turn your lights off for half an hour and use a cheap flashlight.  If you use a Magnum flashlight, cover most of the lens with your hand.  Otherwise, they hit the bottom as soon as that torch hits them.  Or add an incandescent fixture with red bulbs.

LA
At almost two inches long, this is one of the smaller banjos we've seen>

LA
New contenders for smallest "trophy" in a 2-inch bowl.
 

Size.   Most banjo catfish top out at half a foot long.  Some species grow larger.

Sexing.  Females grow larger and plumper.  Sexing them matters very little unless you plan to breed them.

Temperature.  If you keep your banjo catfish at regular community tank temps, he (or she) will be happy.

LA
I'm not holding on to this guy, he's holding on to me.

LA
This recently deceased specimen shows why his pectoral fins can pinch.

They Can Pinch.  Just like plecos and many other armored catfishes, the unarmored banjo catfish will try to pinch you if you pick him up.  Of course, most people have more sense than to try to pick them up.  And like many other catfishes, they will growl when you pick them up.

Groups.  Banjo catfish fare fine as individuals but prefer to school with other banjo cats.  When feeding at night, they like to travel in a pack.

Water.  You need not stress over pH.  You can keep your banjo catfish with community fish or discus.  Because of their sedentary ways, they actually make good discus buddies.

LA
Banjo catfish show fairly well over a light colored sand.

Substrate.  Where they come from, they live over (and under) sandy, muddy bottoms – much of it littered with leaves.  Provide this if you never want to see your banjo catfish.  Better, put them over white sand and they really stand out.

LA
You could put 30 guitarritas in this 29 and never know they were there.

Tank Décor/Security.  If you add plenty of plants and other décor to their tank, you will rarely see your banjo catfish.  They also seek out caves, crevices, and crannies (even a flat rock) to hide in, under, behind, or between.

LA
This opaline gourami is making sure we do a good job photographing this banjo catfish.

Tank Mates.  Baby guppies and baby neon tetras might be in danger, but banjo catfish do not pester other fish – even at night.  They are not determined predators (like pictus cats).  Banjo cats ain’t mad at nobody.

 

Banjo Catfish Food.  While not picky, banjo catfish enjoy live and frozen foods – especially worms.  They do fine on flakes and pellets.  However, since they eat at night, they’ll be on short rations unless you add their food right before you turn off their lights.  They wake up when your lights go off.

Breeding Reports.  We’ve never bred banjo catfish.  We’ve seen reports of thousands of eggs at a time.  However, these were banjos breeding in schools.  The pictures of the little ones (from Germany) were really cute.  A group of tiny guitarritas is very appealing.

Last Comments.  Once you figure out how to see them, banjo cats are an intriguing fish.  LA.

© 2006  LA Productions
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Some Outtakes:

LA
Ventral view of small banjo catfish.

LA
Dorsal view of a larger banjo catfish.

LA
Attempt to photograph his mouth.

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