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Catfish of the Month Right Arrow July 1999 • Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded July 01, 1999



Humbug Catfish, Chokladmal (Sweden), Striped Raphael Catfish, Striped Talking Catfish - Platydoras armatulus   (Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes, 1840)

You have to go all the way back to April 1997 to find the last time we featured a representative of this South American family of catfish (Agamyxis pectinifrons). So with humble apologies to all doradid fans, we continue with this fish.

Platydoras armatulusAlthough the price of these fish has increased slightly in relative terms over the last decade and the size of specimens offered for sale has dropped, in my opinion, they remain a very attractive fish for the price. Their main drawback is their extreme nocturnal nature. Raphael cats love to hide from the light and will wedge themselves into almost any dark place to avoid exposure - who needs sunscreen? This unfortunate behaviour means that to cater for these fish correctly you have to give up on being able to view them most of the time, in my mind this adds to the occasion when they are spotted "out and about".

One of the difficulties with this natural daytime shyness is a common problem faced by many catfish keepers - heater burns. These fish, if not given sufficient cover, can wedge themselves between the aquarium heater/thermostat and the substrate or aquarium glass. If they are so hidden when the heater comes on then you might be faced with a dead catfish, or at best an unpleasantly scarred fish that will be susceptible to secondary infection. Heater guards are one solution, but if you place the heater far enough above the substrate and supply alternative dark retreats then the fish will oblige by moving home the next time the lights are out.

When the lights are out both in the tank and in the room housing the aquarium, you can creep up to the tank and watch these fish go about there nocturnal activities (using a weak torch). If they are hungry you will find them in an almost continuous cruise around the aquarium in search for food. It is easiest to feed these fish at this time, for any food offered will be eaten by the night active fish. However with a little patience and skill you can train them to eat during the day. Assuming that the fish has taken up home in a particular cave or suchlike, put some food at its entrance at a regular time every day. If the fish is hungry enough, it will come out to eat. Eventually the fish will react to you moving the aquarium hood and will come out to feed at any point during the day sometimes even venturing towards the water surface.

The image to the side perfectly illustrates the barbed hooks that adorn the flanks of these catfish, they might look quite ornate from a distance, but cause real problems when trying to net these fish. Alternative methods, such as enticing the fish into an appropriately sized PVC pipe and removing both fish & pipe, have to be employed to avoid damage to net, fish and aquarist!

Platydoras armatulus are not commercially bred and so all specimens available for sale are wild-caught. With all such shipments, odd balls or "contaminants" can sometimes be found. These are similar species that are often thrown in with the intended species by exporters. They do not necessarily come from the same river or locality, but simply have passed through the same exporters or sometime importers facility. In this way the similar Orinocodoras eigenmanni can sometimes be offered for sale labeled as a Striped Raphael Cat or suchlike. This contaminant is most easily distinguished by its longer, more elongate snout and longer adipose fin. The contrasting white stripes on Platydoras armatulus are also considerably brighter, particularly on youngsters. Both these fish are identical in terms of care and full grown adult size.


Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

Jump to next section Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Platydoras armatulus  (Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes, 1840)
Common Name(s) Humbug Catfish
Chokladmal (Sweden), Striped Raphael Catfish, Striped Talking Catfish
Type Locality Río Paraná, but not below 27°30'S, South America.
Synonym(s) Doras armatulus
Pronunciation pla tee doh russ - are mat you luss
Etymology Platydoras: From the Greek platys, meaning flat, and doras, meaning skin (also a word commonly used in forming generic names for doradids); in reference to the depressed head. 
Jump to next section Species Information
Size 200mm (7.9") SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification This species has been misidentified as Platydoras costatus for decades, only in late 2008 was it recognised as P. armatulus. Orinocodoras eigenmanni can sometimes be offered for sale labeled as a Striped Raphael Cat or suchlike. This contaminant is most easily distinguished by its longer, more elongate snout and longer adipose fin. The contrasting white stripes on Platydoras armatulus are also considerably brighter, particularly on youngsters.
Sexing Adult females are wider when viewed from above.
General Remarks Talking catfishes get their common name from noises they make, mostly at night, by grinding their pectoral fin bone in its "socket". Click here to listen to this species.
Jump to next section Habitat Information
Distribution Widespread in South America being found in both Amazon and Orinoco basins.
La Plata, Paraná (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Amazon (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Amazon, Lower Amazon, Tocantins (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Piauí Rivers, Parnaíba (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Orinoco (click on these areas to find other species found there)
Show it on a map (Click the map-icon to show/hide map of species distribution)
pH 6.0 - 7.5
Temperature 23.0-30.0°C or 73.4-86°F (Show others within this range)
Other Parameters Slightly softer water is beneficial but not essential.
Jump to next section Husbandry Information
Feeding All aquarium fish foods, sinking catfish tablets offer the best method of getting food to the fish. Bloodworm and high protein dry food are also favourites. Try delivering food at night.
Furniture Caves or pipes are a requirement if this fish is to avoid long-term stress or the possibility of mistaking a heater for safe refuge.
Compatibility An ideal community fish, peaceful but rugged.
Suggested Tankmates Anything from tetras to cichlids, preferably South American, but will mix with all community fish.
Breeding Fry have been found in the aquarium, however spawning behaviour was not observed and is therefore unknown.
Jump to next section Further Information
References Hist. Nat. Poiss.v. 15 - pp275
Registered Keepers (1) TP (k: 2), (2) synoguy (k: 4), (3) natefrog, (4) Iwona (k: 4), (5) Kostas, (6) Sktchy, (7) Persephone, (8) Daniel Machado, (9) Chrysichthys, (10) Lornek8, (11) deter00005, (12) ivokilli, (13) call_apple (k: 3), who also notes: "3rd fish picked up at fall fish auction.", (14) Sarajute, (15) gage, (16) oldfish, (17) husky_jim, (18) Occellatus, who also notes: "My striped Raphael did not eat for the first week after it was introduced into my tank. On the 7th day, it started eating like a glutton. Fed it Hikari Carnivore Pellets mainly at night.", (19) mikelouth, (20) Attu, (21) jenny, (22) FishGeek, (23) hatecrew24/7 (k: 4), who also notes: "got 4 of these", (24) cymrucat, who also notes: "He now has a coconut home with anubias on the top and was put on a it of a diet as these fish will eat themselves circular !", (25) Jackp1ne, (26) Armadillo Del Rio, (27) Cooky_luvs, (28) Igowoof, (29) Greer, (30) ranmasan, who also notes: "A little reticent, but definitely a pleasure to keep!", (31) Kagerou, (32) Kattes (k: 3), (33) daniel60 (k: 4), (34) Dawg57, (35) Belial, (36) k1ttyme0w (k: 2), (37) Bas Pels (k: 2), who also notes: "In December 2012 I discovered a dead fish - I had it for 23 Years. The other two still seem fine. Currently the remaining 2 have moved, and are adapting well to their new tank.", (38) yogi69 (k: 3), (39) ali12345 (k: 3), (40) Benjamin, (41) LindsayB, (42) Plecofanatic1989, (43) nuth88 (k: 2), (44) Barracuda518 (k: 4), (45) orspearo666 (k: 3), who also notes: "very hardy. spawned once but eggs all eaten by other fish", (46) Freakdaddy, (47) NewFishKeeper, (48) mouseninja, (49) AK-Wolfman, (50) wheel1, (51) zenyfish, who also notes: "Very shy.", (52) Elric_Edward, (53) haxjester, (54) joepleco, (55) McDoes (p: 2), (56) SOBERKITTY, (57) gmer4life, who also notes: "its a pig it just wont stop eating.", (58) bitsygiggles, (59) Troender (k: 2), (60) myrheksa (p: 2, k: 9), (61) midnightrider, (62) CubCariboo, who also notes: "Name: "Sally" Very shy but will "Hide" in plain site so I can keep an eye on her(it) and is occasionally active under blue nightlight. Eats almost anything.", (63) Plunt, (64) griffl, (65) Ill (p: 2), (66) Lyssa, (67) coppernite (k: 5), (68) briggadane, (69) wardcorp, (70) jiapei, (71) miravns, (72) kubastanik, (73) aledk85, (74) AU Chief (p: 2), (75) pressureflip, (76) norfolkgarden, who also notes: "2 inches. neat fish. comes out often and one of the first to feed.", (77) iam1ru12, (78) zedogz, (79) koter73, (80) SoCalDiscus, (81) HeadHunter, (82) big_tank_boy, (83) gwa84, (84) fleahound (k: 2), (85) doesdavid, (86) Sandtiger, who also notes: "Deceased ", (87) Nick44 (k: 2), (88) smegforbrains (p: 2), (89) xander, (90) JimmyT, (91) Static, (92) Gopherboy (k: 2), (93) Sumners83 (p: 2), (94) chralis, (95) xxzeezeexx, (96) Phoxinus (k: 2), (97) ahodge84, (98) Tracey (k: 2), (99) thejudgement (k: 2), (100) LLLL, (101) Raz, (102) Reginator, (103) willis30, (104) NorthHawk, (105) darkhighlord, (106) crosfyter (p: 2), (107) fantonac (p: 3), (108) OddOscar, who also notes: "It likes to hide.", (109) walshy317, (110) Cory_lover (k: 2), who also notes: "Bought 2 lovely juveniles, but they're in a 4ft tank with lots of bogwood, and since then, have rarely seen them - extremely nocturnal!", (111) wonderdognc, (112) Wiccatfish (k: 6), (113) Freddy (p: 2), (114) Hoyo12, (115) Argentum, (116) jippo, (117) b.price, (118) Shovelnose, (119) guppyman, (120) jprp (k: 2), (121) Martin S, (122) lnumbers63 (k: 2), who also notes: "As at 25/10/2009 have only recently acquired them. Saw these beautiful fish being caught in a book on catfish years ago and became interested in them. Have hardly seen them since I got them but they seem to be doing well. ", (123) tcarrier, (124) arcsb, (125) Andie6, (126) ayrtoninst (k: 133), (127) astinus, (128) stuart henson, (129) JamieH, (130) Back (k: 2), (131) pickles4601, (132) Serian, (133) Djthomas, (134) dpk2313, (135) nicki, (136) coelacanth, (137) markhinch, (138) judeblackburn, (139) diane, (140) steve_ansell1, (141) Mike C (p: 2, k: 6), (142) mattholmes320, (143) huskybz91, (144) ichtyophile (k: 2), (145) smitty (k: 2), who also notes: "5/17/2012- Measured 7 inches", (146) miles3, (147) bongthecgb, (148) knifegill, (149) d3n2 (k: 3), (150) electrophyste (k: 3), (151) Kenny Tay, who also notes: "Very cute when well fed and bloated with food. Never seen to stop eating at all even in the day. Grew from 1" to 5" in 7 mths!", (152) salvador60, (153) theviper06 (k: 2), who also notes: "Teeny & Tiny", (154) MichaelC95, (155) TheFishGuy (p: 2), (156) TRD, who also notes: "Got this of a friend about a year ago since it kept eating all other bottom dwelling fishes. Including his ancistrus.", (157) chubbikins (k: 2), (158) sawilson2003, (159) tspaceace68, (160) jnakers, (161) tijani, (162) guardianfyre, (163) rhibear, (164) robb harriston (k: 3), (165) djechoskittykat (p: 2), (166) Bernie, who also notes: "He is at least 15+ years old. Five inches long. I wonder how long they live?", (167) NC24 (k: 9), (168) Mezel (p: 2), (169) Brisch, (170) mulley (k: 2), (171) Beth, (172) chimp, (173) hankinswood, (174) MMK1996, (175) Shaun, (176) bund, (177) Quo, (178) tropicalfishlover, (179) arapaimag (k: 2), (180) crkinney (k: 2), (181) nerdoutlaw, (182) kp90, (183) maximus (k: 2), who also notes: "Feeding tetra bits , NLS Thera + A and Frozen Bloodworms", (184) linden09, (185) browny85, (186) TheInfamous, who also notes: "Not very active. Hides between stones flat on the substrate. Very peaceful.", (187) cdc069, (188) Seagirt (k: 2), who also notes: "These two get along well as long as each has their own separate place to go to.", (189) tropical (p: 2), (190) wendy333, (191) bigamefish, (192) Catfish freak, (193) banuisce, (194) Armoured-Heads, (195) vb75, (196) monsterfishkeeper, (197) Margie, (198) francistrus (k: 2), (199) Mcjlance, (200) transporter42, (201) jimlaroche83 (k: 2), (202) Blackguard, (203) raphael.catfish, (204) slimrs, (205) Anthonyck (k: 2), who also notes: "6/13: Very active during feeding, any time of day. Mingling well with tank mates, and already noticeably bigger in two weeks,", (206) SonoAngel (p: 2, k: 4), who also notes: "After 4 years in tank the female finally comming out in daylight. The male still very shy, mostly nocturnal.", (207) johnarmstrong, (208) Doras (k: 4), (209) shano6084, (210) FerocactusLatispinus, who also notes: "R.I.P. Ebenezer "Scrooge". The cutest of the cats. :(", (211) rcjkirk, (212) DGR1980, who also notes: "Not sure on background of this cat as it came with the tank", (213) Superfins, (214) turfboss, who also notes: "In tank with 15 Demasoni juvies and 1 Asian Algae Eater", (215) theguy40267, (216) syno-kev, (217) stealth77, (218) wirikwiri, (219) fahaka, (220) Iiriva, (221) Misiak (k: 3), (222) shoegazer (k: 2), (223) linuxrulesusa (k: 2), (224) DKcincy, (225) Jass, (226) SirCastic, (227) the pleco guy (p: 3), (228) PlecosAndLoaches, (229) stephen.mabwa, (230) Kongstedt (k: 6), (231) keig0006 (k: 2), (232) MrDimmu, (233) Psy (k: 4), (234) MrsJP (p: 2), (235) nattt33 (k: 2), (236) robertsindyrat, (237) slayer5590 (k: 3), (238) bullseyejoey4, (239) p44236, (240) summoner2183 (k: 2), (241) Rebah, (242) PlecoMad (k: 2), who also notes: "Sale within UK only", (243) JessM315, (244) schant, (245) BlackSouL, (246) Amneris3, (247) ad88 (k: 2), (248) Sean B, (249) emacartoon (p: 2, k: 5), who also notes: "Good hardy fish. Lots of personality.. When they're not sleeping.", (250) nicofish, (251) dmcat (k: 2), (252) Divemaster, (253) French47, (254) Igor Hotasi Simamora (k: 13), (255) TuCanSam, (256) jodilynn, who also notes: "Sadly, the worker at the pet store was very rough when removing "Ralph" from the net, very banged up, hopefully the little guy pulls through.", (257) CL27, (258) thecameraguy, (259) CatWhat, (260) KGlo, who also notes: "A pretty interesting fish. A little bit territorial. Loves to hide and dig.", (261) mark24, (262) greenterror66, (263) Shaydee1990, (264) chewy922, (265) segy, (266) in_the_seance, (267) rcbows (k: 2), (268) Malek (p: 2, k: 3), (269) Johnny579, (270) miniloo78, who also notes: "I love this fish, we call it bug, its eaten its fair share of other smaller fish, but as a rule hides in full site under the biggest bit of bog wood, bug shares a community tank with no real problems other then the odd disaperence. Resently changed the food feed to this tank bug seem contented. 8yrs and going strong.".

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Last Update 2014 Oct 03 05:47 (species record created: 1999 Jul 01 11:22)

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