Twig Catfish (Farlowella vittata)

Twig catfish is an armored catfish species belonging to the Loricariidae family. It is native to the Orinoco river basin in Columbia and Venezuela, where it lives in bogs, flood plains, and slow-flowing streams.



Twig Catfish, as the name implies has a twig-like appearance. It can be identified by its long rostrum (snout) and the distinctive ventral plates. It can grow up to 24 cm and has two rows of plates on its ventral area (belly). Although this species has a maximum lifespan of 15 years, it rarely lives so long in the aquarium due to its extreme sensitivity to poor water quality.
The male specimens have broader snouts than the females. They also develop tiny bristles along with their snouts when they are mature.

Behavior and Compatibility

Twig catfish is a peaceful species that is inactive most of the daytime. It lays still on bogwood, branches or smooth surfaces of rocks. It is not very gregarious and can be kept either alone or in groups. The male specimens can be territorial, but their disputes never result in any injuries.

Farlowella vittata can do well in community aquariums with peaceful and non-aggressive tank mates. Since it feeds slowly, it can get outcompeted by more boisterous fish like Danios for food. Good tankmates are including species of Corydoras, Otocats, Rasbora, Tetra and Farlowella genera.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: 23-28°C
pH: 6,0 – 7,5
Hardness: 0 – 10 dGH

Due to its large size, Twig catfish needs an aquarium that is a minimum of 120 cm in length. The water must be soft and slightly acidic with high oxygen content and the use of air stones does well. Since this species hails from waters with submerged vegetation and roots, the aquarium must have a sandy substrate with plenty of rounded rocks, bogwood, and driftwood. Large plants like members of Vallisneria or Echinodorus genera are also good additions to the aquarium. The lighting should not be too bright, and the water should have a decent flow.

  • This fish is very sensitive to degradation of water quality. If it settles on a structure and has its snout out of the water, it is an indication of poor water condition. In that kind of case, it requires immediate actions such as water changes, improving filtering, adding nitrifying bacteria, etc. to improve water quality.


Twig Catfish is an omnivore but feeds mainly plant-based foods. Its diet should have both fresh foods (cucumber, kale, spinach, zucchini, etc.) and dried foods (algae wafers, spirulina tablets, etc.). The diet should also contain occasional live/frozen foods like Daphnia, Brine shrimp, tubifex worms or blood worms.

While it grazes on softer algae (diatoms and green algae) growing on driftwood, rocks, leaves, substrate or glass surfaces, it doesn’t eat brown or beard algae. This fish should be never introduced to a fresh aquarium without existing biological activity. The cycling period must be completed before adding this fish into the tank.



Twig catfish spawn readily if the diet and water parameters are ideal. To get into breeding conditions, the water must be very clean and it needs to eat nutrient-rich foods.

The female fish lays 30-60 eggs on a vertical smooth surface under low lighting (mostly at night). The male fertilizes the eggs and protects them during the incubation period. The eggs hatch in 6-9 days. The fry hatching from the eggs is very small and needs good water quality. Also, they need access to large quantities of vegetable diet. The main challenge in raising the fry is feeding them.

The fry starves easily if not feed with sufficient food, but excess food may also decay and deteriorate the water quality. The balance in feeding should be well justified. Good filtration and regular water changes will also increase the survival rate of the fry.

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