coracoideus (Cope, 1878)
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 substrate.
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 meetimgs and find out more about this
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