his our 190th factsheet
since our inception in 1997 has been written this
month by experienced catfish keeper and author Steven
Grant with one of his favourite species and family
with a look at the Craggy Head Banjo Catfish, Bunocephalus
is about one of my favourite species of catfish. The
Craggy Head Banjo Catfish is an apt common name for
these fish. The Craggy Head part obviously is due
to the bumpy craggy profile of the head, and the Banjo
part is due to the overall fishes shape resembling
You will sometimes
see these fish labelled as Bunocephalus verrucosus
scabriceps as well as Bunocephalus verrucosus
verrucosus. The subspecies B. v.
scabriceps has been synonymised with B.
v. verrucosus but is still accepted by some hobbyists.
Mees (1988) considered B. v. scabriceps as
a valid subspecies due to the range of B. v. scabriceps
of Amazonia (the Guianas in B. v. verrucosus),
and that in B. v. scabriceps the knobs on
the head and predorsal region are more strongly developed.
This has not been followed by recent works on the
their name(s) these catfish are a charming, peaceful
denizen for the community aquarium. Rather than just
used as scavengers, I would ask that you regard them
as species in their own right. By this I mean you
should make sure that you give them a substrate of
sand if possible (although they do not burrow like
some other Banjos so this is not essential), and that
you give them some leaf litter or plants so that they
have some cover. Don’t mix them with boisterous
or aggressive fish. You should feed them on small
catfish pellets, bloodworm, tubifex, and chopped earthworms,
making sure that enough food gets to the bottom for
them, or better still by feeding sinking food just
before you turn the lights out. If they start losing
their barbels it could mean that they are being pestered
by other fish or that the water conditions are not
right. They do better in slightly acidic water. If
you see them hanging near the surface they are probably
They will occasionally
shed skin like most Banjos do, but again if you are
finding lots of skin and see any lesions on the body,
please check your water parameters. This may all sound
like they are difficult fish to keep, but in fact
they aren’t and they are actually quite resistant
to skin infections or diseases. Just please make sure
you care for them adequately and you will enjoy watching
them for many years getting fat and shuffling around
gobbling up food! Who knows, you may even get them
of Guyana and Amazon River basin: Brazil, Ecuador,
Guyana, Peru and Suriname.
D 1/5; A 1/5-6; P 1/5; V 1/5.
Head depressed but not strongly so, profile of cranium
to dorsal fin arches, with varying bumps and notches.
Body after dorsal fin thin and elongated. Strong pectoral
fin spines and post-coracoid processes. Skin with
Base colour varies from light
brown to dark brown, with speckles and patches of
cream, grey, or white. The top of the head can sometimes
be lighter than the rest of the body, sometimes even
being nearly fully cream in colour.
Care & Compatibility
An extremely peaceful and lethargic
species. May eat fry but other than that will not
harm other fish. Should be kept with peaceful tankmates.
As yet unknown.
There are no proven external
sexual differences, but females appear to be more robust
in the body and have proportionately shorter pectoral
Will eat most pellet and live
foods. Frozen bloodworm and chopped earthworms are
Middle and lower section of the pectoral girdle. Pectoral fin: The
paired fins after head and before anal fin.
Predorsal: In front of the dorsal fin
Buno = mound;cephalus
= head.(with bumps on the head) verrucosus: Warty (relating
to the warty skin).
G. F., 1988. The genera of the subfamily
Bunocephalinae (Pisces, Nematognathi, Aspredinidae).
Proc. K. Ned. Akad. Wet. (Ser. C Biol. Med. Sci.)
v. 91 (no. 1): 85-102. Reis, R. E.,
S. O. Kullander and C. J. Ferraris, Jr.,
2003. Check list of the freshwater fishes of South
and Central America. i-xi + 1-729.