catfish commonly known as 'African Whiptails' tends
to ratify the theory that the two great continents
of the America's and Africa where at one time, one
great mass of land as they look on first glance to
be superficially like South American Whiptails, such
as from the Rineloricaria/Hemiloricaria
female dorsal view
Of course a look
at the long barbels (3 pairs) and the long nose gives
the game away (plus no sucker mouth) but for unsuspecting
aquarists coming into the catfish side of the hobby
for the first time, it is easy to see why there would
The one strange
thing that captivated me was the role reversal of
the sexes as the female is actually the most striking
of the pair (see picture above) even though they are
not the most colourful of fish. The bars or bands
on her body get a quite dark brown texture when in
good condition. The males have no bars at all (picture
below) and are quite a pale looking fish even when
its water conditions are met. Its when they get into
their breeding attire that the males come into their
own as they take on a reddish colour to the whole
of their body.
They swim in a
most curious manner just like a sidewinder snake that
you see on one of these T.V. wildlife documentories,
moving across the sand, and they find their food this
Phractura ansorgei, Phractura
Lower Niger River. Type locality:
of dorsal fin in front of base of ventral fins; no
spine preceeding pectoral or adipose fins. Slender
elongate body. Barbels, short, thick and papillose
not reaching the pectoral fin origin.
Females with dark brown bars
and males without this feature taking on a red lustre
to their body when in breeding condition.
Care & Compatibility
These catfish inhabit fast
flowing waters and spend a lot of their time clinging
to aquatic leaves and if you provide long stemmed
plants, such as Vallisneria for instance, you will
see this habit. To keep this species and other members
of this African hillstream family you will have to
provide a well oxygenated planted aquarium and keep
up your water changes as they are not as hardy as
the South American equivalents. What I found to my
disappointment is they do not like a low p.H. as I
had let a tank, which I had placed 2 pairs of this
species, drop below 6 and I lost one pair before I
realised my predicament, and over the next 48 hrs
gradually raised the p.H.to a more respectable 7 which
suited them just fine.
A report on the
breeding of this species is documented in the Baench
Aquarium Atlas 3 and was carried out by Dr. Walter
Foersch as far back as the late 50's. Chirping noises
could be heard in the aquarium. The male curved his
body like a U over the female and this position was
maintained for several seconds. The female produced
100 eggs that had a thick gelatinous cuticle and were
similar in appearance to amphibian eggs. The fry hatched
after 2-3 days and accepted food after an additional
5-6 days. He lost many of the young as he couldn't
determine what the fry were eating but managed to
raise the rest which resembled newt larvae when they
were 12 mm in length.
Females with dark
brown bars and males without this feature taking on
a red lustre to their body when in breeding condition.
It has been documented that
they will eat algae but I found that they were not
interested in it and preferred frozen bloodworm which
they eat as if it was going out of style. They will
also take tablet food and other worm foods such as
grindle and white worm. You can try vegetable foods
such as corgette (zucchini) and also lettuce and monitor
to see if they do eat them.
Protected tail. ansorgii:In honour of Dr.
W.J. Ansorge, the English collector.
H.A. and R. Riehl 1991 Aquarien atlas. Bd.
3. Melle: Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde,
Germany. 1104 p. 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.