Twig Catfish (Farlowella vittata): Ultimate Care Guide


The Twig Catfish, known by its scientific name Farlowella vittata, is a freshwater catfish species most commonly found in South America. The Twig Catfish is most dense in Colombia and Venezuela, and lives in large numbers in Lake Valencia, the Amazon River, and the Orinoco River.

The Twig Catfish gets its name from its very close resemblance to a twig or stick. They are long and thin and use this twig-like disguise to protect them from predators. They have a long and skinny nose, with a thick head that thins out as it expands into their body. The Twig Catfish has thin and clear pectoral fins that lay to their side as they rest on flat surfaces. This species is brown in color, with darker brown lines that stretch the length of their bodies. The Twig Catfish is admired by aquarists for their unique features and have 35 plus species in their genus.

Are Twig Catfish Rare?

The Twig Catfish is not considered especially rare as they are broadly distributed, even though they exist only in specific regions of South America.

Are there any natural predators of Twig Catfish in the wild?

With a natural ability to camouflage and stay very still in the wild, the Twig Catfish is able to hide from and avoid many natural predators. Predators of the Twig Catfish can include other fish, snakes, and large lizards that exist in the same South American waters.

Twig Catfish
Twig Catfish (Farlowella vittata). Carnat Joel. CC BY 2.0.

Twig Catfish Care

The Twig Catfish has a few straightforward requirements for care, but they also have some specific requirements related to water quality and habitat that should be closely monitored and maintained. The tank environment will be very important to ensuring that the Twig Catfish lives a full and happy life.

Are Twig Catfish Hardy?

As long as the water quality meets the standards of the Twig Catfish, they are a relatively hardy species. They are not susceptible to many species-specific diseases and their armored body allows them to resist fin rot.

Twig Catfish Temperature

The water in a Twig Catfish tank should fall in the range of 73 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the Twig Catfish is very particular about the water in their habitat, the temperature should be measured regularly and remain consistent for the species to thrive.

Twig Catfish Water pH

The Twig Catfish prefers a water pH in their tank that falls between 6 and 7, with slight alkalinity. The water in the Twig Catfish tank should be tested regularly to identify any changes or inconsistencies as they occur.

Twig Catfish Size

The Twig Catfish grows to an average size of six to nine inches and will exceed the size of their tank if it is not large enough to hold them. The size of this fish species is determined mostly by genetics and the quality of care they receive when they are young.

Twig Catfish Tank Size

A Twig Catfish tank of at least 35 to 40 gallons is recommended to ensure enough room for this species to adapt and roam.

Twig Catfish Food & Diet

A wild Twig Catfish will eat the algae and biofilm that is found on the surface of various plants and pieces of driftwood. They are also known to consume small pieces of wood as they nibble and float. In an aquarium, the Twig Catfish will eat sinking plant-based pellets and vegetables. Although this fish species is not picky, they should be fed with consistency in mind to ensure quality water conditions and routine.

Do Twig Catfish eat algae?

The Twig Catfish eats algae from plants, wood, and rocks in their natural habitat and are sustained on this plant-based diet.

Twig Catfish Lifespan

The Twig Catfish will live for around 10 to 12 years if cared for properly. Because the Twig Catfish has very specific care requirements, it is important that their habitat meets all of their needs to see this species live a full life in captivity.

Twig Catfish Tank Setup

The Twig Catfish tank should be set up to closely match their natural habitat, with a soft and dark substrate, plants, and wood. The Twig Catfish spends most of its time resting and snacking on driftwood, so it is important to include some in their habitat. This species also uses wood as shelter in new environments, but there should not be so much that they are limited in their space to swim and explore.

Twig Catfish Breeding

The Twig Catfish is easily bred in captivity if provided with high quality water in their habitat, because this species will not attempt to breed if they think the environment is unsuitable. As long as there is an equal ratio of male and female Twig Catfish, they will likely breed on their own at night. The female fish often lays her eggs on the glass of the aquarium and the male will keep watch over them. The Twig Catfish fry will hatch after seven or eight days, and they will need plenty of food afterwards for growth and survival.

Twig Catfish Male or Female: How to Tell the Difference?

The male Twig Catfish have a larger and boarder snout than their female counterpart, which is the main way to tell the two apart.

Twig Catfish Disease

If their tank water is of high quality, the Twig Catfish is not likely to catch many diseases that are species-specific. The Twig Catfish is susceptible to illness because of their sensitivity to water conditions and they need attentive care to maintain their health.

Twig Catfish Tank Mates

The Twig Catfish is very shy and peaceful in its demeanor, and tankmates for this species should be carefully selected to avoid anxiety and stress. The wrong tankmates can lead to trouble for the Twig Catfish, as well as health complications caused by frustration.

Are Twig Catfish Aggressive?

The Twig Catfish is very peaceful and calm in their demeanor, spending most of their time searching for food and resting on wood. This species does not move a lot because of their temperament and for camouflage purposes.

Compatible Tank Mates for Twig Catfish

As a calm species, the Twig Catfish needs tankmates that share their peaceful demeanor such as the Cory Catfish, Celestial Pearl Danios, Rummy Nose Tetras, and Green Neon Tetras. The Twig Catfish can also exist happily in a same-species tank, as long as there is enough room for both fish to cohabitate.  

Twig Catfish and Angelfish

The Twig Catfish and Angelfish make compatible tankmates because of their shared docile nature and habitat needs. These two species will live peacefully together in a shared tank, as long as the water quality remains consistent.

Twig Catfish and Discus

The Twig Catfish and Discus make compatible tankmates because they will not get in each other’s way as the Twig Catfish spends most of its time attached to driftwood surface. If these two are in the same tank together, the natural habitat and preferences of both species can be maintained.

Incompatible Tank Mates for Twig Catfish

The Twig Catfish would not live happily with other fish that are large, aggressive, or even just overly curious such as the Red Tale Shark, Flowerhorn Cichlid, and Bucktooth Tetras. The Twig Catfish is easily spooked and becomes very stressed in intense social situations.

Twig Catfish and Betta

The Twig Catfish and Bettas do not make compatible tankmates because they have different demeanors and preferences of socialization. Bettas are typically territorial and aggressive in nature, making the Twig Catfish vulnerable to this attacking fish and the stress that is sure to accompany any adverse interactions.

Where can I find Twig Catfish for sale?

The Twig Catfish is not always widely stocked in aquarium stores as they are not commonly kept by aquarists, but they can be found online and in large brick and mortar aquarium stores.

Twig Catfish Price

The Twig Catfish is relatively inexpensive in price, costing between five to nine dollars for one fish.

Farlowella vittata vs Farlowella acus

There are only two types of Twig Catfish that are sold for aquariums, the Farlowella vittata and Farlowella acus. The Farlowella vittata is much more common because the Farlowella acus has become endangered. The Farlowella acus males develop odontodes, or external teeth, on their snout when they are ready to mate whereas the Farlowella vittata males do not.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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