Farlowella acus (Kner,
he common name of "Twig Catfish" certainly sums up this
member of the Loricariidae family as one look at the picture shows
an animal reassembling a twig or stick and it is now sadly a forgotten
"pleco" with the onslaught of the L-numbers in the last
10 years or so relegating this once sought after catfish to the
memories of yesteryear.
The genus name of Farlowella is
named in honour of William Gibson Farlow the famous American botanist
of the last century, and the beginning of the 21st, who's main
work was actually working with algae plants which brings us to
the one of the most favourite foods of this slender catfish "algae".
It is quite difficult to get a right balance in feeding this species
as greens are predominately its main food and they do not do all
that great on meaty foods such as bloodworm, frozen or live, or
any other types of worm food, algae wafers are another good possibility.
Water quality is another issue as Farowella do not take
kindly either to large wholesale water changes as they quickly
succumb to the shock of such an action. A better idea is to make
two or three small water changes per week with aged water so as
not to upset their equilibrium.
There are at present 36 species of Farlowella with F.acus,
F.vittata and F.gracillis being the most commonly
exported varieties. There is large and slight differences between
the different types which sometimes can lead to confusion in the
hobby not to mention the headaches that the Judges on the show
circuits have to put up with (so I won't mention it :-)) One very
important I.D. is the ventral scutes on these species and it is
one way of differentiating between them. Below are two line drawings
of such a scenario.
Also in the line drawing above you can see
the differences between the elongated snouts of the two species
with F.gracilis being the longer and slimmer with F.acus
with the shorter snout, and also the threadlike appendages adorning
the caudal fin of F.gracilis.
The identify of members of this genus is
carried out by looking at the ventral plates (underneath the mouth
to anal area) to identify to species. F.acus (F.acus
species group) has two rows of abdominal scutes, no median scute
at the base of the pelvic fins (occasionally found in species
of the Farlowella curtirostra species group), and fairly
long breeding odontodes on the snout (found on no other species
To sex out this species is comparatively easy as the male
(in breeding condition anyway) has a broader snout
(rostrum) from the female and is adorned with short bristles.
Sometimes it is hard in young specimens to tell this difference
but I have always found a sure fire method by running your fingers
along the snout of a captured specimen and you can feel the slight
roughness of the male compared to the female.
The photograph above was captioned as a pair
but I am sure with the differences in the ventral scutes and the
bristles on both of the rostrums, that we have a male F.acutus
on the left (two rows of plates) and a male F.gracilis (three
rows of plates)on the right of the picture.
Farlowella acus is a native of Venezuela and some records show
catchment areas of Colombia and Brazil but they may have been specimens
of other species of Farowella such as F.gracilis or
D1/6; A1-5; P1/5-6; V1/4-5; 33-34 bony scutes
in a lateral series. On the belly the rows of of lateral scutes
are closely aproximated. Snout 4-4½ times in the distance
from its tip to the anus (snout tip to front of mouth).
Olive-green to yellow-brown, underside yellowish.
A very distict irregular dark band, often beset with blotches, extends
from the head to the root of the tail. Fins transparent, the rays
with dark spots. Each caudal lobe with a dark band.
An easy catfish to keep? no I don't think
so as there have been many unexplained deaths attributed to this
species (myself included) and as such would need dedicated care
from an experienced catfish keeper who has worked with this species
or its close cousin from the easier kept Sturisoma
genera. As this is a very timid species, if housed with other
inhabitants you would be better keeping away from boisterous fish
such as some of the Barb species (such as tigers) and definately
Cichlids. Better companions would be the unobstrusive Corydoras
species and small Characins or Rasboras.
In the aquarium the male will clean a hard
surface usually the aquarium wall and the female lays its eggs last
thing at night or early morning with upwards of 60-80 laid. The
male mouths and fans the eggs with his pectoral fins and they hatch
in 6-10 days depending on the temperature, thereafter the problems
start as you will have to feed them more or less right away on the
right foods. This is where a well matured and planted aquarium would
be beneficial as the fry can feed of the established plant material
and the micro bacteria in the tank and also be supplemented with
lettuce, corgette (zucchini) and cucumber but it will not be an
easy task as high losses are reported in the first few weeks of
life until they can get a foothold on life. A good method of feeding
which has had a good success rate, is green peas squeezed out of
the shell and crushed into a paste which you can then sprinkle at
the front of the tank so you can see at the end of the day what
has been left over, and then subsequently siphon the waste out and
replace again. This should be done every day. In their natural habitat
they spawn from between November and March but can be induced at
any time (if in good condition) in captivity.
They are mostly vegetarian with algae being
their number one source of food for adults and young fry so the
above mentioned foods along with vegetable laden tablets should
Gunther; Sterba's Freshwater Fishes
of the World 2
Named in honour of W.G.Farlow of Harvard University.
a neadle or spine.
Riehl, R. and H.A. Baensch 1991 Aquarien Atlas.
Band. 1. Melle: Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde,
Germany. 992 p.
Catfish Association of Great Britain; Vol.1
Retzer, M.E. and Page, L. M.
; Systematic of the Stick Catfishes, Farlowella Eigenmann &
Eigenmann (Pisces, Loricariidae) Proceedings of the Academy of Natural
Sciences of Philadelphia, Vol. 147, (1997), pp.
Top & Bottom Pictures: Sam Storry.
Line Drawing: Sterba,
Gunther; Sterba's Freshwater Fishes of the World 2