his month we concentrate on a family
of fish that are, on the most part, overlooked by even the most
ardent catfish hobbyists. The Aspredinidae family are what is
known in the hobby as " Banjo Cats" or "Guitarrita"
(little guitar) owing to their long flattened banjo/guitar shape.
They are even cited as "Frying Pan Fish". You will probably
get my drift now on the shape of this months factsheet individual,
namely, Bunocephalus coracoideus, the "Banjo Catfish".
The Banjo Cat is
a rugged looking individual with its lumps and bumps and can not
be classed as pretty in the sense of the word, but has a charm
all of its own in the catfish world. Its head is very broad and
flat with very small eyes, 3 pairs of barbels with the maxillary's
reaching to about a third of the length of the strong serrated
pectoral spine which you can observe in the bottom head shot.
As you can also see in the photo the best substrate for them is
sand where they can bury themselves for the best part of the daylight
hours and only appear at night where they can be seen scurrying
across the bottom looking for food. They can propel themselves
through the water by taking water into their mouths and then propelling
it out of their gills thus causing a burst of speed across the
It is said that they shed their skin periodically but I would
surmise that this would coincide with a downturn in water quality
in their tank thus causing stress and the shedding of the skin.
The Aspredinidae family is divided into
two subfamilies, Bunocephalinae, this months subject, and Aspredininae
and can be told apart by the longer anal fin of the latter, and
also the longer body. Below you can see the differences in the
species Platystacus cotylephorus,
the "Banded Banjo" from the subfamily Aspredininae,
and Bunocephalus coracoideus from the Bunocephalinae subfamily
in the top picture.
Sexing out this species is not easy but
a rule of thumb is that the females are larger and fuller in the
belly and usually a little darker in colouration. Can be kept
in groups and are non aggresive inmates in a shallow tank. The
main problem is seeing them as they are a nocturnal species and
you may be able to spot them if you feed at lights out in the
dusk of a half lit room or fishhouse.
To finish off, this is a peaceful catfish which has its own small
fan club here in the U.K. especially in the Catfish
so if you live in the United Kingdom or are visiting, why
don't you came along to one of the meetings and find out more
about this odd catfish.
D 1/4; A 1/6-7; P 1/5; V 1/5; Head and anterior
part of body very strongly depressed and broad, tapering posteriorly.
Caudal peduncle very long and compressed. Pectoral fin-spines very
stout and serrated. No adipose fin. 3 pairs of barbels, of which
those on the maxillary are the longest and reach to the pectoral
fin when laid back. Skin naked; flanks with rows of tubercles.
Depending on health, uniform dark brown to
pale brown with dark bands and blotches. The whole body is strewn
with small pale spots. Underside paler, often with brown blotches.
Fins translucent brownish with pale brown to black blotches; caudal
with a dark edge.
No problem to keep in a community tank and
they will forage out in the open when food is introduced.
This is one of the few Banjo's that have been
spawned in captivity. The eggs which can boast a total of 4,000
are laid in the sand and would probably be better served if they
are removed to a smaller tank or container, and when hatched will
need to be fed very fine first foods such as brine shrimp and micro
worm, after they have used up their yolk sac. They can then be weaned
onto small worm foods such as grindel worm and tubifex.
Adults when settled in their tank are not
fussy feeders and can be fed a healthy diet of worm foods such as
frozen bloodworm and tubifex and also tablet food at lights out.
Sterba's Freshwater Fishes of the World no 1.
Buno = mound; cephalus = head.(with bumps
on the head)
coracoideus : Like a raven, black.
Burgess, W.E. 1989 An atlas of freshwater and marine
catfishes. A preliminary survey of the Siluriformes. T.F.H. Publications,
Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey (USA). 784 p.
Top & Second. ©
Bottom: Allan James