This month we welcome back regular contributor, Chris
Ralph with a look at an old favourite in the hobby
the "Spiny catfish" and a host of other
common names such as the Milky Catfish, Talking Catfish,
Chocolate Talking Catfish, Chocolate Raphael or Bacu.
We hand you over to Chris now and a insight into this
old member of the Doradidae family.
is very popular amongst a number of catfish enthusiasts
myself included. Unfortunately it is not commonly
available to the hobbyist, but is sometimes imported
amongst other representatives of the family Doradidae.
When this fascinating catfish is available expect
to pay £10- £12 for an adult fish (2005
u.k. prices). In their natural habitat these catfish
are said to be abundant in the calm waters of swamps
and mangroves. These catfish are most active at night
preferring to take refuge during the day.
cataphractus belongs to the family Doradidae
(Thorny Catfishes) from South America namely the Amazon
River basin and coastal drainages of French Guiana,
Guyana and Suriname. Acanthodoras cataphractus
is also documented as being native to Brazil, Bolivia,
Colombia and Peru.
cataphractus prefer to be kept in water which
has a pH in the range of 6.0-7.5, and hardness in
the range of 4.0 to25.0°dGH. This catfish is ideally
suited to temperatures in the range of 22-26ºC
would suggest a minimum size of 36” x 15”
X 12” for a shoal of these fascinating catfish.
The preferred substrate for keeping these catfish
should be good quality aquarium sand such as BD Aquarium
Sand, or very smooth rounded gravel in order to prevent
their barbels from being damaged. The aquarium should
provide some shelter in the form of rocks, bogwood
and aquatic plants. As with all other species of fish,
water quality and general husbandry is very important,
and I would recommend that a minimum of 25% water
is changed on a fortnightly basis.
Cataphractus americanus, Doras blochii, D.brunnescens,
D.castaneoventris, Callichthys asper
Amazon River basin and coastal
drainages of French Guiana, Guyana and Surinam.
15.0cm. (6ins) (standard length
– this is the measurement of the fish from the
tip of the snout to the base of the caudal peduncle).
The body shape of Acanthodoras
cataphractus is described as being depressed
or flattened and elongated. The body is naked and
is best described as being without scales. The body
has a lateral row of bony plates which bear backwardly
projecting spines referred to as “scutes”.
There are a number of small spiny projections above
and below the lateral line situated behind the dorsal
fin and extending towards the caudal fin. The head
of Acanthodoras cataphractus is large and
flattened and is described as being granular with
solidly united bones. The mouth is described as being
terminal, with three pairs of barbels one pair of
maxillary and two pairs of mandibular. The eyes are
small or “piggy”. The dorsal fin has 1
spine and 5 soft rays and the anal fin has 10-11 soft
base colour of the body and head is chocolate brown
(hence the common name of Chocolate Talking Catfish)
overlaid with some almost creamy orange markings
almost forming a stripe which leads from the head
into the lateral line and body scutes; whilst giving
some blotchy markings over the rest of the body
which are mainly on the ventrolateral region of
the body. The fin spines are coloured as are the
Care & Compatibility
Wherever possible I would
recommend that the aquarist keep these catfish in
small groups of four to six specimens, assuming that
they are available in these numbers; failing this
Acanthodoras cataphractus are quite happy
to shoal with other members of the family Doradidae.
In their natural habitat they would be found in very
large shoals. These catfish are ideally suited to
being kept in a community aquarium environment with
other medium to large species of fish such as Bleeding
Heart Tetras, Emperor Tetras and other catfish. The
main thing to remember is that these catfish have
quite a large mouth and are capable of eating any
fish small enough to fit inside.
documented as having been spawned in aquaria. Both
parents were observed digging a depression in the
substrate into which the eggs were deposited. The
eggs were guarded by both fish. The eggs hatched after
4-5 days although unfortunately the young did not
survive beyond the fry stage of development.
As with all the other doradids
that I have had the pleasure to keep over the years,
Acanthodoras cataphractus is omnivorous and
readily accepts a mixed and varied diet which they
search through the substrate for. I personally feed
all of my doradids on sinking catfish pellets, good
quality flake foods, granular foods, cultured whiteworm,
earthworms, aquatic snails which they relish and frozen
foods such as bloodworm to name but a few.
is defined as extending from below and to the side. Scute
is defined as a bony plate. Dorsal
is defined as top or above. Maxillary
is defined as being in relation to the maxilla, the
bone of the upper jaw. Mandibular
is defined as being in relation to the mandible or
lower jaw. Depressed
is defined as flattened from top to bottom. Lateral
is defined as side. Terminal is
defined as being the end point.
from the Greek acantha = thorns, and doras, meaning
skin; in reference to the spines on the bony scutes
along the lateral line.
cataphracta/us = armoured or mail-clad.
images by Author
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