Bio Facts: Catfish, Stick
Venezuela: Lake Valencia and the Torito river basins
Shallow freshwater – such as the shore – and places that consist of lots of driftwood or plants
Adult length: up to 6 in (16 cm); coloration and appearance: olive-green to yellow-brown with yellowish undersides. A very distinct irregular dark band, often beset with blotches, extends from the head to the root of the tail. The fins are transparent and the rays have dark spots. Each caudal lobe is normally with a dark band. The male’s snout or rostrum is broader than the female’s. When mature, the male’s rostrum becomes adorned with small bristles known as odontodes. The female’s thinner snouts will remain smooth at all times.
In the wild, they eat algae, plants and roots; in the Zoo, they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available pelleted fish food and algae wafers.
Farlowella catfish feed primarily on algae in their natural habitat. Species inhabit areas of gently flowing water in submerged dead leaves and sticks, among which it blends in as a form of camouflage. Some specimens can sometimes be found in swift current over rocks and submerged wood. These species appear scarce, but this may partially be explained by their mimicry. These species are open water brooders. The eggs are laid on open vertical surfaces such as submerged vegetation or rocks, in a single layer and are guarded by the male.
Stick catfishes are placid fish around other species; however, males will become territorial towards their own. They are complicated to feed in captivity, because they are rather timid and will not fight for their food. They often starve to death in community tanks. To overcome this, try feeding them when there is a reduction in light levels (such as twilight).
In the wild, stick catfishes spawn from between November and March. In captivity, they can spawn at anytime if the conditions are right. Information on breeding behavior is described from observations in captivity. The male cleans a hard surface (usually the aquarium wall) and the female lays her eggs last thing at night or early morning with upwards of 60-80 laid. The male mouths and fans the eggs with his pectoral fins and they hatch in 6-10 days, depending on the temperature. The fry’s yolk sac will disappear a few days later.
It is easy to see how they earned their common name – stick catfish. Their bodies are colored and shaped like sticks, and when they are still they look like sticks.
The genus name, Farlowella, is in honor of William Gibson Farlow, the famous American botanist of the last century, and the beginning of the 21st, whose main work was actually working with algae plants, one of many dietary items of the twig catfish. The species name, acus, means “pointed” or “needle” or “spine”. Another common name used is Whiptail Catfish.
The stick catfish is one the most commonly exported species of Farlowella for the aquarium. They are peaceful and sociable bottom dwellers and can be kept in most freshwater community tanks without problems, either singly or as a group. It thrives best in a tank of at least 24 in. (60 cm) or 35 gallons, and should be provided with plenty of shelter such as bogwood pieces, vine roots, vertical twigs or slender plant stems to allow natural behavior.
Water quality is another issue as Farowella does not take kindly to large wholesale water changes. They quickly succumb to the shock of such an action. A better idea is to make two or three small water changes per week with aged water so as not to upset their equilibrium.
As Farlowella acus are difficult to keep and breed, they are not recommended for beginners.
Recommended Compatible Species: They should live happily with tetra species (particularly the neon and black tetras). They also should be good tank mates with Discus, Apistogramma like Apistogramma cacatouides and Apistogramma Borelli, Corydoras catfish (particularly Corydoras sterbai and Corydoras aeneus) angelfish, clown loach, the common guppy and platy and most Gourami (such as the Blue Gourami, Dwarf Gourami and the Honey Gourami). They should also live happily with most Danio (particularly the Zebra Danio and Pearl Danio) and the killifish.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The twig or stick catfish first arrived in our animal collection in 2008.