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Tetranematichthys wallacei  Vari & Ferraris, 2006

s we head to the end of 2015 our December factsheet concentrates on a member of the Driftwood or Wood Cats, Tetranematichthys wallacei. The Auchenipteridae family get their common name due to their habit of hiding in hollow logs during the day.


Tetranematichthys wallacei



There are three species in this genera T. barthemi Peixoto & Wosiacki, 2010, T. quadrifilis (Kner, 1858) and our factsheet of the month T. wallacei Vari & Ferraris, 2006. Tetranematichthys wallacei is the largest species out of the three listed and although still relatively rare in imports, due to their crepsular habit in their habitats, it is the one mostly seen in the hobby.



Tetranematichthys wallacei = Showing the males extended dorsal fin.


Showing the males extended dorsal fin.


There is always a sense of anticipation when this rare catfish comes on the market as catfish enthusiasts make a bee line for the known source of the import which usually in the U. K. is Pier Aquatics of Wigan, England, where most catfish aficionados gather to see the latest additions to our wonderful hobby.


Distinguished from T. quadrifilis in the alignment of the lateral margins of the head in the region from the anterior margin of the orbit to the posterior limit of the opercle (running approximately in parallel from ventral view vs. diverging laterally, respectively); in the body width at the pectoral-fin insertion as a proportion of the head width at the posterior margin of the orbit (0.99-1.10 vs. 1.17-1.25, respectively); in the distance from the tip of the snout to the anal fin origin (0.29-0.32 of SL vs. 0.33-0.36 of SL, respectively); and in the position of the anterior termination of the gill opening (one orbital diameter posterior of the transverse plane running through the posterior margin of the orbit vs. positioned in the transverse plane running through the center of the orbit, respectively).

Basic shades of brown to body. Black speckles to body. Thin black stripe along lateral line.

Aquarium Care

A tank for Tetranematichthys should contain fine sand on the bottom, should be softly lit and should be equipped with a great number of driftwood. During daytime the fish often sleep lying on the side. This behaviour is absolutely normal and no reason for the aquarist to become anxious.


It is carnivorous and prefers to feed on small fish. Against conspecifics Tetranematichthys are peaceful.

The fertalisation is internal and managed by a penis-like organ that is formed by modified rays of the anal fin. It is said that after the breeding season the dorsal fin in males reduces the size to that of the female.

Sexual differences
The males develop an extended dorsal fin and is thorny.

Prefers live foods given at lights out. Try different choices of frozen foods to see what they prefer as they can be picky in their dietary requirements.

Glossary of Terms

Dorsal fin: The primary rayed fin(s) on top of the body.

Maxillary barbels: Pertaining to the upper jaw. (maxillary barbels).

Opercle: The bony covering of the gills of fishes.
Pectoral fins: The paired fins just behind the head.
Anal fin: The median, unpaired, ventrally located fin that lies behind the anus, usually on the posterior half of the fish.


Tetranematichthys: Greek meaning "fish with four threats"; this refers to the barbels.With a carved breast-plate.

wallacei: Named after Alfred Russel Wallace when, starting in 1848, made large collections of plants and animals in the Amazon basin.


Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2008. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, version (10/2008). 
Vari, R.P. and C. Ferraris Jr., 2006. The catfish genus Tetranematichthys (Aucheniptridae). Copeia 2006(2):168-180.
Schäfer, Frank : Aquarium Glaser. gmbh. http://www.aquariumglaser.de/en/tetranematichthys-wallacei_de_1504.html

Photo Credits
© Allan James @ ScotCat
Factsheet 234

Common Name:
Wallace's Driftwood Dolphin Catfish
South America : Amazon basin: upper Negro River system in Brazil and Venezuela and upper Orinoco River basin in southern Venezuela.
20.5cm. (8ins)
22-26°c (71-79°f.)
6.0 - 7.0.
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                                                                                                                                        Factsheet no 234 = updated December 16, 2018 , © ScotCat 1997-2018 Go to Top