Catfish are popular choices for freshwater aquariums, and one of my longtime favorites is Agamyxis Pectinifrons, commonly known as the Spotted Catfish. These charming black catfish with white spots are solitary during the day, but once the moonlight comes on, you can enjoy their sociable antics!
Talking Spotted Catfish Introduction
The Spotted Catfish (Agamyxis pectinifrons) is a hardy, easy-care species that is an ideal choice for medium to large sized freshwater and planted aquariums. Here are some quick facts about these vocal and friendly catfish:
- Native to the Amazon River Basin in South America, they have been popular with aquarists for decades due to their beautiful markings and peaceful temperament.
- A member of the Doradidae or Thorny Catfish family, they are one of several species capable of “talking,” or producing audible squawks and clicks outside their aquarium.
- One of three nearly identical species of Raphael catfish, the Spotted can be distinguished from the Stripped (Platydoras costatus) and the Southern Raphael (Platydoras armatulus) by its catch location. All three species may be sold under the same common name.
|Spotted Catfish, spotted raphael catfish, talking spotted catfish
|level of care
|up to 5.9 inches long
|Peaceful and shy;
sociable with each other
|Minimum tank size
add 10 gallons per catfish
|68 to 79°F
Appearance, size and shelf life
The Spotted Raphael has a cylindrical, arrow-shaped body with a prominent head and flattened abdomen. Its wide mouth is surrounded by three pairs of delicate barbels. Armored with thick, tough scaleless skin, they also have an upright spiny dorsal fin, spines on their pectoral fins, and bony scutes along their lateral line:
- Their bodies and fins can range from dark brown or black to nearly blue in color, usually darkening with age.
- Their abdomen is pale, and they have irregular, random spots on their bodies and fins that vary from bright white to bright yellow.
- They make their “talking” sounds by rubbing their pectoral spines against the fin cavity, and through a special muscle that connects the skull and swim bladder internally.
- But their scutes and pectoral/dorsal spines can also become entangled in fishing nets and even pierce their skin, so it’s best to avoid direct handling and use a glass or plastic container rather than a fishing net to transfer them.
Spotted catfish are medium-sized bottom dwellers rarely exceeding 5.9 inches in length. Their average lifespan in the wild is thought to be about 10 years, but fish breeders have reported that these catfish can survive. 15 to 20 years in captivity.
behavior and temperament
Spotted Talking Catfish are peaceful and somewhat shy community fish that spend their daylight hours hiding in their substrate or wedged into crevices between rocks and driftwood in their tank. Since they are nocturnal, they rarely emerge under bright lights and are best observed in a heavily shaded tank or using a moonlight.
Unlike aggressive species of catfish, the Spotted Raphael will not actively hunt the other members of the community, but it will. opportunistic snack of smaller fish. You can keep a single catfish in your tank, but they prefer to be kept in groups of 3-5 and can be quite social with each other at night.
How to Care for Your Spotted Raphael Catfish
It is not difficult to care for these spotted catfish as they are very hardy and tolerate a wide range of conditions. Let’s take a look at your ideal aquarium setup and community!
Tank Configuration and Habitat Requirements
Spotted catfish may hide during the day, but once the lights go out, their activities are quite energetic. Here are the key requirements for having a healthy group of catfish in your tank:
Although they are not very large, these catfish need a lot of space to hide and gather food. However, they are not suitable for Nano tanks, as you will need at least a 35 gallon Tank for a single catfish. If you want to keep a group of 3 to 5 catfish, you will need a 55 to 75 gallon tank.
Water and temperature parameters
Spotted catfish do well in temperatures from 68 to 79°F, so they may or may not need a heater for their tank. They prefer slightly acidic water from pH 5.8 to 7.5 but are not overly sensitive to water hardness and will tolerate 2 to 20 dGH.
Filtration, aeration and lighting
Spotted catfish prefer well-filtered, oxygenated water with a minimal flow rate. You may need to baffle your filter to prevent strong currents in the lower parts of your tank. An air stone and pump are helpful in maintaining high oxygen levels. They don’t like bright lights and prefer shaded tanks with decorations or floating plants. The best way to Observe your catfish at night with a blue LED or moonlight. .
Substrate, Plants and Decorations
It is best to use soft aquatic sand, soil, or fine gravel as a substrate in your tank to prevent your catfish from getting hurt by the hard gravel. Provide your catfish with plenty of large rocks, driftwood, and branches to hide in during the day. Dense stands of live plants can also provide shelter for juveniles. , and adults will not harm or eat them.
Spotted catfish are sensitive to aquarium waste products like ammonia, so changing their water on time and keeping their filter maintained and filled with fresh filter media is crucial to their health. Monthly water changes are usually sufficient for these catfish in 55 to 75 gallon tanks, although smaller tanks may need them more frequently.
Spotted Talking Catfish are omnivores and are not picky about their diet, and as scavengers they will help keep your tank clean of food debris. To avoid overfeeding and obesity problems, it is best to feed them once a day around dusk:
- Drop some sinking catfish or spirulina pellets near their hiding spot and you can train them to go out looking for food.
- You can also offer them treats like brine shrimp, bloodworms, crustaceans, or insect eggs a few times a week.
Compatibility and tankmates
While you can certainly keep your catfish in a single species tank, their peaceful nature makes them a great choice for medium to large community aquariums. Avoid keeping your catfish with fish, shrimp, or snails small enough to be a snack. Consider an Amazon-themed Tank with medium to large sized fish such as:
The talking spotted catfish is thought to be a bubble nest builder, but we don’t know much about its breeding behavior. Captive-bred fish are rarely available and only breeders have reported using artificial hormones to induce spawning.
Catfish are hardy fish that normally don’t have many health problems (other than obesity from overfeeding). They are susceptible to waterborne diseases carried by other fish and can catch diseases such as white spot disease from the community. As scaleless fish, they are especially sensitive to medications that contain copper, so be careful when medicating your fish tank catfish.
Spotted Raphael Catfish Aquarium Setup: List of Supplies and Equipment
For a community tank that includes a group of 3 talking spotted catfish, you will need:
- 55 gallon or larger aquarium with lid
- Aquatic sand, soil or fine gravel substrate
- Filter, air stone and air pump
- Decoration such as rocks, driftwood branches or roots, and live or plastic plants
- A bottle of water conditioner.
To feed your catfish, you will need:
- Commercial Sinking Catfish Pellets
- Spirulina granules
- Treatments such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, shrimp eggs, or mosquito larvae
Optional but useful equipment includes:
- aquarium heater
- Moonlight or blue light for night viewing
- Common (species) name: Spotted Raphael catfish (Agamyxis pectinifrons)
- Family: Doradidae
- Origin: Amazon River Basin in Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru
- Diet and feeding: Omnivore; The ideal diet is a mixture of sinking catfish and spirulina pellets.
- Care level: Easy
- Activity: At night and hides during the day; active scavenger at night
- Temperament: Peaceful and shy community fish, but sociable with each other
- Tank Level: Bottom Dweller
- Minimum tank size: 35 gallons; add 10 gallons per catfish
- Temperature Range: 68 to 79°F
- Water hardness: 2 to 20 dGH
- pH range: 5.8 to 7.5
- Filtration / Flow Rate: Well filtered and oxygenated water with little or no current
- Breeding: Extremely difficult to breed in captivity
- Compatibility: Ideal for communities in the Amazon Basin with medium to large fish such as cichlids, tetras and gouramis. Avoid sticking with small fish or invertebrates.
- Is it ok for planted tanks? Excellent choice for planted aquariums and will not eat or damage live plants.
When it comes to catfish in aquariums, the peaceful and shy Spotted Raphael is an excellent choice for community aquariums 35 gallons and larger. However, they prefer to be in groups and it is great fun to watch them rummage and play together under the moonlight. Have you eaten a spotted catfish? We’d love to hear your feedback or join us on social media and share your aquatic community with the whole gang!