Chameleon Whiptail (Pseudohemiodon apithanos)



Chameleon Whiptail Catfish is a striking and unmistakable fish. Its common name is Chameleon Whiptail and belongs to the family of Loricariidae. It has become famous for this name because of its ability to change colors when it feels any danger around or something disturbs it. It becomes fully black in such situations. The normal coloration of the fish is either light brown or grey. A dark brown or fully black stripe extends from the snout starting between the eyes to the mid-body and forms a dark band around the flank of the fish. There are two more dark black bands at the back.

The head of the fish is triangular and two small eyes exist prominently on the forehead. In natural environments, it is lives among leaf litter spread over the sandy substrate. This environment may cause this fish to gain the chameleon-like attribute. During the day, the fish remains buried under the sand but comes out during the nighttime in search of food.

The specimens of this kind caught from Venezuela look different from the fish caught from Peru.

Chameleon Whiptail can grow up to 180 mm and lives from 5 to 8 years.


Typically, this Pseudohemiodon apithanos is exported from Iquitos. It is found in Rio Itaya, Peru streams. Some of these fish are found in the San Miquel River basin, Upper Amazon, and western Amazon River drainage.

Behavior and Compatibility

Chameleon Whiptail is a peaceful fish and can happily live with other peaceful tank mates. It likes some water movement at moderate current because its natural habitat is rivers where water is always moving.

The fish acts calmly and is not aggressive even the males are not aggressive towards other males. It does not have territorial behavior.


It is possible to keep more than one fish in a sufficiently big aquarium. Keeping with a couple of other peaceful fish with Chameleon Whiptail after making a good estimation of how many to keep according to the size of the aquarium will not create any problem. The important point is to keep a proper number fitting the aquarium size.

Keep your overall care of the fish good like changing the water regularly and feeding the fish with vegetable and protein blended foods. Another point to keep in mind is that this fish loves stability in conditions. So, do not increase their number in one aquarium more than a few that can find peace and comfort in the tank while living together.

Tank Conditions

pH : 6,4 – 7,6
Temeperature : 25 – 28 °C

Pseudohemiodon apithanos aquarium water should be fairly soft. This fish can survive in both acidic and alkaline water but its best suitable environment is a blackwater aquarium with soft and slightly acidic water but the most important is to use lots of soft sand as a substrate. A few driftwood tangles and other botanical objects are good for creating a spectacular environment that is used according to the natural habitat of the fish at the same time.

To prepare the aquarium for keeping Pseudohemiodon apithanos, you need fine sand in a large amount because the fish loves to stay at the bottom and its main habit is to bury itself in the sand. You can add floating plants to help the fish settle but they are not essential. A light leaf litter over the sand as in its natural habitat is good for this fish because it has chameleon-like habits like changing color according to the environment.

The specific body type of Chameleon Whiptail is all about pelvic fins and a compressed body enables the fish to move smoothly on the sand. Keeping the width of the aquarium large is significant so that there is ample open space for the fish to move around and bury itself in the substrate. A wide bottom space will keep this fish happy.


Pseudohemiodon apithanos is an omnivore fish. It completely uses most of its active time grazing on the biofilm that accumulates on the leaves and nibbling at leaf litter. In the aquarium, you can feed it a blend of meat and vegetable-based foods. It feeds also live or frozen food like Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, Blood Worms, etc.

As vegetable food, Pseudohemiodon apithanos can eat potato, zucchini, spinach, and other boiled or fresh vegetables and fruits. Since it is a long-living fish by taking good care of its feeding, you can keep and enjoy this exciting fish in the aquarium.

Other preferred foods for Pseudohemiodon apithanos are sinking tablets, algae wafers, and flakes which are commercially available in the aquarium hobby market.



The interesting thing about this fish is that the male and female do not have a detailed mating or spawning style. It is a lip brooder fish. The mature males develop whiskers on their lower lips which help them keep the egg clutches throughout the incubation period.

When the spawning season starts, the couple cleans a small area in the substrate and the female lays her eggs there. The male fertilizes them and then he collects the big size eggs and protects them under his lips. Or to be more precise, he keeps them right underneath his head and torso until they hatch.

The incubation period extends to two weeks. After two weeks the eggs hatch and fry of size 1 – 1,3 cm long comes out which are completely black. The growth of fry is very fast in the first month. In the second month, their growth slows down. After three months, the fry becomes pretty young adults and around 5 cm long. They start burying themselves in the sand like their parents. The pattern on their skin becomes more prominent and chameleon-like.

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