Stone Catfish (Hara jerdoni): Ultimate Care Guide

Stone Catfish (Hara jerdoni) is a non-aggressive dwarf species of catfish originating in Asia. They are predominantly found in the slow-moving bodies of water in India and Bangladesh.

Some common names that Stone Catfish are known by include Asian Stone Catfish, Moth Catfish, and Anchor Catfish. Many of these names are derived from their appearance, which resembles a moth or ship’s anchor when viewed from above. They have multiple scientific names, which are Hara jerdoni and Erethistes jerdoni. Several names refer to the Stone Catfish, and this can make it difficult to identify them when purchasing the fish.

The Stone Catfish comes in various colors, including grey, tan, reddish-brown, and dark brown. All of them come with darker patches that dapple their entire body. This makes it perfect for camouflaging against sand and rock. It can further camouflage by shifting the shade of its body and eyes to resemble its surroundings more closely. The long pectoral spines that give the Stone Catfish its moth-like appearance serve the primary purpose of securing the catfish between rocks or vegetation when they are in faster-moving waters with strong currents.

Stone Catfish are popular among fishkeepers due to their placid behavior and miniature size. These characteristics make them great fish for smaller community aquariums.

Stone Catfish (Hara jerdoni)
Stone Catfish (Hara jerdoni). Ernst Mayr Library, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / Modified

Stone Catfish Care

Stone Catfish are easy to keep when kept in the correct conditions. While they can tolerate temperatures up to 78°F, Stone Catfish prefer cooler temperatures. The optimal temperature for Stone Catfish ranges from 64°F to 75°F. Successful breeding of the Stone Catfish was accomplished in a tank with a constant temperature of 72°F.

Water pH for Stone Catfish

The pH levels for Stone Catfish should be kept between 5.6 and 7.6. Their water should also be well-oxygenated with minimal current, and frequent water changes should be provided to maintain the best water conditions. Stone Catfish will shed their skin if water conditions are not ideal and do not tolerate fluctuations in dissolved oxygen and nitrate levels well.

Stone Catfish Size

The Stone Catfish is the smallest of its species and is frequently referred to as Dwarf Stone Catfish or Dwarf Anchor Catfish due to its diminutive size. On average, the Stone Catfish will grow 1 to 1.2 inches (2.5 to 3 cm) in size. Generally, males and females are the same size but can be distinguished when viewed dorsally. Females tend to be wider and have pectoral fins that are curved more posteriorly than males.

Stone Catfish Tank Size

With its small size, the Stone Catfish can be kept comfortably in a 5-gallon tank. It is quite often kept in nano-tanks of 3 and 4 gallons due to its size and relative inactivity. However, it is considered sociable with its own kind and should be kept in groups; because of this, a 10-gallon tank is recommended for groupings of more than 3 catfish. The smaller the tank size, the more closely the water quality should be monitored to ensure that the fish are being kept in ideal conditions.

Stone Catfish Food & Diet

Stone Catfish have been observed eating algae and plant overgrowth, but this is not their primary food source, and they will not be the algae cleaners of an aquarium. There has been mixed success in feeding them dry foods and flakes, with some keepers having luck feeding catfish pellets.

Generally, Stone Catfish should have a primary diet of live or frozen foods, such as blood worms, white worms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and cyclops. They are mainly nocturnal feeders and should be given food after the lights are off. This is also their most active time when they forage on the tank’s bottom.

Stone Catfish Lifespan

Most experts cite the lifespan of the Stone Catfish in captivity is up to 5 years when kept in optimal conditions. Alternatively, many keepers reported their catfish only living to between 2 and 3 years. Though, when not bought directly from a breeder or personally bred, it may be difficult to determine age at the time of purchase and provide an accurate lifespan.

Stone Catfish (Hara jerdoni). Ernst Mayr Library, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Stone Catfish Tank Setup

Tank setup is key to keeping the Stone Catfish happy and thriving. Soft or fine substrates, such as sand or leaves, should be used on the bottom of the tank to resemble its natural habitat and allow for burying. Gravel can also be used for the Stone Catfish, but because they will not be able to bury themselves adequately, alternative hiding and burrowing places should be supplied.

If using gravel, opt for smaller gravel that is easier for them to move or a combination of soft substrate and gravel. Providing lots of vegetation is a good source of security for the fish and should be provided regardless of the material used on the bottom of the tank. Many keepers report that their Stone Catfish gravitate to Vallisneria, Java grass, and Java moss and relatively ignore the logs and driftwood in their tanks. The tank should also have a good filtration system to keep the water clean and highly oxygenated at all times.

Stone Catfish Breeding

Stone Catfish breeding has been accomplished, but it is difficult to even for advanced aquarium keepers. On several occasions, UK-based catfish enthusiast Adrian Taylor has published multiple articles detailing his successes in breeding the Stone Catfish. On his initial breeding attempt, he utilized a 14 x 8 tank with sand substrate and a twin air-operated sponge filter for 6 fish. The temperature was kept at a constant 72°F, with a pH of 7, and he alternated feedings between live bloodworms and white worms while doing a 20% water change twice a week (Taylor, 2003).

These conditions resulted in eggs, which Taylor believes hatched into fry within 24 hours. He was again able to successfully breed the Stone Catfish, this time by placing two adult males and three adult females in a 7-gallon (UK) tank, feeding them three times a day with brine shrimp, micro worm, grindal worm, and small daphniids, and conducted frequent water change (Taylor, 2016).

Through this experimentation, he discovered that the Stone Catfish are not cave spawners, as previously thought. Taylor found the use of spawning mops and homemade egg traps to be beneficial. Others who have tried breeding Stone Catfish have found the process hit-or-miss, and the consensus is that experienced breeders best undertake this process. 

Stone Catfish Disease

Stone Catfish are susceptible to disease, particularly in poor water quality, so the water’s overall condition and cleanliness are vital to keeping them healthy. They are vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections like other catfish and bottom dwellers. Frequent water changes and substrate cleanings should be done to ensure the tank is disease-free.

Stone Catfish Tank Mates

The Stone Catfish is a very peaceful species and can be kept in a community tank but should be kept with other small and non-boisterous tank mates to keep it safe and happy. Community species, such as Dwarf Rasboras, Golden Dwarf Barb, Danio, and Cloud Minnows, will leave the catfish unbothered. Stone Catfish and Shrimp can be compatible tank mates and live harmoniously with each other.

While the Stone Catfish is small, it may see smaller shrimp as prey, so larger shrimp, such as Cherry Shrimp and Ghost Shrimp, are better suited as tank mates. Stone Catfish have been reported to eat shrimp fry. However, keeping your catfish well-fed should minimize this. 

All non-community, aggressive, and semi-aggressive fish are not compatible tank mates for the Stone Catfish. While the Stone Catfish is a very good hider, it will not fare well in a tank with fish that constantly pester or pick on it.

This includes any types of Cichlids, Tiger Barbs, Serpae Tetra, Angelfish, and Gouramis. While some of these are considered community fish, they will likely be too pushy for the Stone Catfish. Other bottom dwellers, such as Cory Catfish, should also be avoided because of the slow and shy nature of the Stone Catfish. They will be out-competed for food.

Stone Catfish and Betta are incompatible tank mates and should not be kept together because of the catfish’s sluggish nature. It will make an easy target for a territorial Betta. Several keepers of Stone Catfish have reported keeping their catfish and Betta in the same tank with no apparent issues.

However, all agreed that they were unsure what types of interactions went on between the Betta and Stone Catfish at night when the catfish was most active. Due to the small size of the Stone Catfish, it is best to keep them separated from Betta or monitor their interactions closely to ensure your catfish isn’t being bullied and nipped at.

Where can I find Stone Catfish for sale?

Stone Catfish can be found in live fish stores, although it may be more difficult to find in certain regions and is likely a fish that is not constantly stocked and will require a special order. The easiest way to purchase a Stone Catfish is generally through an online live fish retailer. Several online aquarium stores carry the Stone Catfish, and the pricing is around $9 apiece, but they are typically sold in groups due to their social- lifestyle in their natural habitat.

Here are some online retailers who currently list Stone Catfish:

Stone catfish | Hara jerdoni | Best dwarf catfish | Introduction and care guide

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