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Platystacus cotylephorus  (Bloch, 1794)

his banjo catfish spends most of its time inhabiting the coastal waters of northern South America from Venezuela to northern Brazil. It is primarily a freshwater catfish but can be kept in a brackish water system due to its tolerance to salt.




Platystacus cotylephorus



This is a peaceful species that can grow quite large and as such could prey on small fry as food.


The common name of the "Mottled Eel-Tailed Banjo Catfish" says it all as the body, from the dorsal fin to the caudal peduncle, is very elongated with a mottled/spotted appearance. As a few members of this family can be termed as a bit on the ugly side, Platystacus cotylephorus is certainly not in this category as it has a very attractive appearance.




Platystacus cotylephorus - dorsal view of dark specimen




As this species occurs mainly in brackish water a little salt added to the aquarium would be beneficial. Does not like the water to be on the acid side of the p.H. scale for too long so would be better kept over a p.H. of 7, which would also be beneficial to livebearers being kept with this catfish.





Head broad and depressed, as is the body from the gill opening to the pelvic fin base. The remainder of the body being somewhat longer and whip like. Eyes small. Barbels: one pair of maxillary with two pair of mental barbels present along the ventral surface of the head. Dorsal fin: 4 rays with a soft spine. Pectoral fins are broad with 7 rays and a strong spine that has serrae on both anterior and posterior edges. Ventral fins are broad with 6 rays. Anal fin is long with 52-56 rays. Caudal fin with 8-10 rays. There are parallel rows of fine granulations running along the body.


Variable ranging from near completely black or brown to a mottled colouration of different hues of black, brown, tans and whites.

Will do well in a quite community tank where the tank mates are non-aggressive, livebearers wouls be a good addition. Spends most of the day buried in the sand substrate. The sand should be deep enough so that they can bury themselves completely covered, and also a planted dark area to make them feel more secure in their surroundings.

The eggs stick to the females abdomen after spawning. Short stalks appear with the eggs attached and only disappear when the eggs hatch.

Sexual Diferences

The males are more colourful and usually darker than the females and they also possess a longer dorsal and pectoral fins.



Live and frozen foods such as mosquito larvae, tubifex, earthworms, whiteworms and small crustacea. Tablet foods and sunken flake that lies on the bottom is also taken.


Platystacus= Platys = broad; acus = needle.
cotylephorus: meaning sites for the attachment of developing embryos, refering to the eggs hanging from the ventral area.


Baensch, H.A. and R. Riehl 1985 Aquarien atlas. Band 2. Mergus, Verlag für Natur- und Heimtierkunde GmbH, Melle, Germany. 1216 p.
Ferraris, C.J. Jr., 2007. Checklist of catfishes, recent and fossil (Osteichthyes: Siluriformes), and catalogue of siluriform primary types. Zootaxa 1418:1-628.
Catfish Study Group; Information Sheet no.97



Pectoral fin: The paired fins after head and before anal fin.

Ventral fin: The paired fins, between the pectorals and the anal fins.
Coracoid: Middle and lower section of the pectoral girdle.

Caudal peduncle: The area between the dorsal fin and the tail.
Adipose fin: Fleshy finlike projection without rays, behind the rayed dorsal fin.
Pelvic fins: The paired fins, between the pectorals and the anal fins. (also referred to as ventrals).
Anal fin: The fin forward from the anal cavity.
: Saw-like notches along an edge.
Maxillary barbels: Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels)
Mental barbels: Pertaining to the chin, on the lower jaw. (mental barbels)

Photo Credits

Top image: © Allan James @ ScotCat


Bottom image: © Johnny Jensen's Photographic Library




Factsheet 186


Aspredo cotylephorus, Silurus hexadactylus, Cotylephorus blochii, Aspredo sexcirrhis, Aspredo spectrum, Platystacus nematophorus
Common Name:
Mottled Eel-Tailed Banjo Catfish
South America: Coastal waters and lower portions of rivers of northern South America, from Venezuela to northern Brazil. 
30.0cm. (12inch)
22-25°c (71-77°f.)
6.5 - 8.0.
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                                                                                               Factsheet 186 = updated December 15, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top