Catfish of the Month Right September 1997

Farlowella vittata
Striped Twig Catfish, Stribet Grenmalle (Denmark) - Farlowella vittata   Myers, 1942

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded September 01, 1997.

By anyone's standards, these are odd looking fish. They can be found for sale from time to time in good retailers but you have to look hard to spot them if they are in a decorated tank. They are very inactive fish; their twig-like shape and camouflage conceal them most effectively against bogwood or similar backdrops.

Inactivity aside, the fish will stay visible if housed in a dimly lit situation with peaceful slow moving fish. The biggest problem with keeping Twig Catfish is fluctuation in water quality. I have seen these fish die after a fairly 'old water' tank was given a 25% untreated water change. The three individuals were simply found dead the next morning although the tank contained a number of tetras and a large shoal of Paraotocinclus, the latter of which survived, looking completely unaffected.

The fish is an algae eater although much prefers eating algae off long plant leaves and wood rather than the aquarium walls. Care is needed when moving these fish as their snout-like anterior protuberance is prone to bumps and knocks and will more often than not become infected if damaged in transit.

There are nearly 60 species of Farlowella and also a few related genera (Sturisoma especially) that look very similar. As these fish are almost always wild caught and imported, you can find a rarity in amongst large shipments from time to time. Oddly you never see Farlowella species for sale smaller than around 3-4'; perhaps the youngsters do not travel well? So you'll just have to take on the (not inconsiderable) challenge of breeding these elegant sucker-mouths to find out what juveniles look like.

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

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Farlowella vittata  Myers, 1942
Common Names Striped Twig Catfish
Stribet Grenmalle (Denmark)
Type Locality Tributary of Río Uribanto [Uribante], Tachira State, Venezuela.
Synonym(s) Farlowella agustini, Farlowella angosturae, Farlowella guaricensis, Farlowella roncallii
Pronunciation far LOW ella - vit hat ah
Etymology This genus is named after W. G. Farlow, from Harvard University. This specific epithet refers to its striped (vittatus=striped) appearance.
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right Spawning, Embryo & Fry Development in Farlowella vittata
Article Link - Shane's World Right Reproduction Right Breeding Farlowella
Down Species Information
Size 225mm or 8.9" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification The genus Farlowella is distinguished by its elongate and slender body with a pronounced rostrum (of variable length), having the dorsal fin located near the middle of the body and only slightly anterior to the anal fin (vs. having the dorsal fin conspicuously closer to the head than the tail, and significantly further anterior than the anal fin), and having a brownish color with two lateral dark stripes beginning at the tip of the rostrum, passing through the eyes and ending at the tail. A key to the genus can be found here.

There are at least 25 [Retzer & Page, 1997] species of Farlowella that, in the main, look very similar. The species was identified by its distinctive rostrum and ventral plates arrangement. In particular having two rows of plates on the ventral (belly) area.
Sexing The male's "snout" is broader and when mature sports small bristles called odontodes. This is clearly shown in one of the images above. The female has a thinner snout which always remains smooth.
General Remarks For those collecting these fishes in their natural habitat, it is worth noting that several junior synonyms exist that are found in different biotopes. Farlowella angosturae Martín Salazar, 1964: Type locality: Caño Largo al oeste de Cuidad Bolívar, Edo. Bolívar [Venezuela]. Farlowella agustini Martín Salazar, 1964: Type locality: Una quebrada límite entre los Estados Cojedes y Carabobo, carretera Campo Carabobo Taguanes, afluente del río Chirigua que a su vez lo es del río Pao [Venezuela]. Farlowella guaricensis Martín Salazar, 1964: Type locality: Río Guárico, en el puente de Uverito, carreteria San Juan de Los Morros a Ortiz, Guárico [Venezuela]. Farlowella roncallii Martín Salazar, 1964: Type locality: la quebrada El Ahorcado Aguirre, afluente del Río Tirgua Carabobo [Venezuela].
Down Habitat Information
Distribution South America: Orinoco River basin.
Orinoco (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Least Concern, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2020.
pH 6.0 - 7.0
Temperature 24.0-27.0°C or 75.2-80.6°F (Show species within this range)
Other Parameters Attention to water quality is essential for the long term prosperity of this species.
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding Green and soft brown algae, cucumber and lettuce. User data.
Furniture Bogwood, particularly tall, spindly root-like structures. Tall plants such as Vallisneria or Amazon swords. Roof slate if you can get it.
Compatibility Peaceful, to the point of being timid. Not the most active fish, it can spend much of its time sitting perfectly still.
Suggested Tankmates Tetras or Rasboras are best. Avoid fast or "nippy" fishes such as Danios or Barbs. Will do well with Corydoras catfish, but larger catfish or cichlids are to be avoided.
Breeding See Shane's World article.
Breeding Reports There are 6 breeding reports, read them all here.
Down Further Information
Reference Stanford Ichthyological Bulletin v. 2 (no. 4), pp 103, Fig. 12.
Registered Keepers There are 171 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
Wishlists Love this species? Click the heart to add it to your wish list.
There are 5 wishes to keep this species, see who wants what.
Spotters Spotted this species somewhere? Click the binoculars!
There are 55 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2023 Aug 12 06:59 (species record created: 1997 Sep 01 11:22)

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