Bunocephalus verrucosus (Walbaum,
his 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
This factsheet 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 a banjo.
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 Aspredinidae.
Regardless of 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 being bullied. 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 to breed!
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.
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 relished.
= mound; cephalus = head.(with bumps on the head)
verrucosus : warty (relating to
the warty skin)
Mees, 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.
In front of the dorsal fin spine.
The paired fins after head and before
Middle and lower section of the pectoral girdle.
Tubercles: Tentacle-like projections.