Twig Catfish Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

The Twig Catfish is prized for its peaceful nature, unique appearance, and algae-eating abilities. These unique and fascinating fish make an excellent addition to a community aquarium. Read on to learn about their specific needs, habitat setup, and proper care to ensure their long and happy life in your tank.

twig catfish farlowella acus

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Twig Catfish Species Profile and Identification

The Twig Catfish (Farlowella acus) is a fascinating freshwater fish native to the rivers of South America, known for its unusual, twig-like appearance. With a slender, elongated body and a pointed snout, these catfish are masters of camouflage, often hiding among plants and driftwood in their natural habitat.

  • Size: Adult Twig Catfish typically grow to about 6 inches (15 cm) in length.
  • Lifespan: With proper care, these fish can live for up to 8 years.
  • Coloration: Their color varies from light brown to dark green, with subtle patterns and markings that help them blend in with their surroundings.

To identify a Twig Catfish, keep an eye out for these distinctive features:

  • Slender, elongated body resembling a twig or stick
  • Long, pointed snout or “nose”
  • Whisker-like barbels around the mouth
  • Dorsal fin set far back on the body
  • Sucker-like mouth, adapted for grazing on algae

When it comes to telling males and females apart, there is an easy trick. Males tend to have a broader head and dorsal fin, while females have a more rounded head and smaller dorsal fin. Additionally, males may display small hair-like growths called odontodes on their snout during breeding season.

Twig Catfish Supplies

When it comes to Twig Catfish supplies, there are certain essentials you’ll need to create a comfortable environment for them to thrive. Let’s review some of the vital supplies you’ll need to get started.

  • Tank: Twig Catfish need a minimum tank size of 20 gallons to provide them with enough space to swim and explore. A long, horizontal tank is preferred as it helps promote healthy behaviors and gives them easy access to the surface for breathing.
  • Filter: A high-quality, efficient filter is crucial for maintaining a clean, healthy aquatic environment. Twig Catfish like calm, slow-moving water, so you should opt for a filter that won’t create strong currents.
  • Heater: As tropical fish, Twig Catfish need a consistent water temperature between 72-79°F (22-26°C), so a reliable heater is a must-have to maintain this temperature range.
  • Substrate and decorations: In order to mimic their natural habitat, provide Twig Catfish with a fine, sandy substrate and plenty of driftwood, plants, and hiding spots.

In addition to these basic supplies, you should also invest in:

  1. Water conditioner: Necessary for removing any harmful chemicals from tap water before adding it to your tank.
  2. Water test kit: Helps monitor water parameters and ensures the quality of the water is suitable for your Twig Catfish.
  3. Fish net: Useful for safely moving your fish when needed.
  4. Algae wafers and vegetable foods: The primary diet of Twig Catfish consists of algae wafers and vegetable foods, so you’ll need a supply of these.

By acquiring all these essential supplies, you’ll be setting up an ideal environment for your Twig Catfish to thrive and live a healthy life. With the right habitat, your fish will freely exhibit its unique behaviors and provide an added charm to your aquatic setup.

Twig Catfish Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for your Twig Catfish, the first thing to consider is the tank size. A minimum of 20 gallons (75 liters) is recommended to give this species enough room to move and grow. However, if you plan on keeping multiple Twig Catfish, you should opt for a larger 55-gallon (210 liters) tank with at least 10 additional gallons per extra fish.

Here are the key elements for an ideal Twig Catfish tank setup:


A combination of sand and smooth gravel provides a soft and natural substrate for your Twig Catfish, as they have delicate whiskers that can be easily damaged.

Plants and Decorations

  • Tall aquatic plants, such as Vallisneria and Amazon Swords, are essential to mimic their natural habitat and provide some hiding spots.
  • To replicate their natural environment, include driftwood with algae growth, as Twig Catfish love to graze on it.
  • Add some rocks and caves for added shelter and security.


Twig Catfish do best in a well-oxygenated tank with a moderate flow. A canister filter or a hang-on-back (HOB) filter with adjustable flow options will work well. Ensure your filter provides efficient mechanical and biological filtration.


A heater is necessary to maintain a stable water temperature between 72°F to 79°F (22°C to 26°C) for your Twig Catfish. Opt for an adjustable, submersible aquarium heater for better control over the temperature.


Moderate lighting is recommended; it should provide sufficient illumination for the plants and give the tank a natural look. LED lights with a timer can be an excellent choice.

Remember to cycle your tank before adding the Twig Catfish to ensure the water parameters are stable, which will prevent any unnecessary stress on your fish.

Twig Catfish Water Requirements

One of the essential aspects of keeping twig catfish healthy is maintaining proper water conditions. The water requirements for twig catfish are stable, well-oxygenated water and a slightly acidic to neutral pH.

  • pH: Aim for a pH range of 6.0 to 7.2 for your twig catfish tank. Maintaining a stable pH within this range is crucial.
  • Temperature: Keep the water temperature between 72°F and 79°F (22°C to 26°C).
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Twig catfish are sensitive to changes in the water’s chemical properties. Ensure ammonia and nitrite levels remain at 0 ppm, while nitrates stay below 20 ppm.
  • Hardness: Twig catfish prefer soft to moderately hard water. Keep the general hardness (GH) between 4 and 12 and the carbonate hardness (KH) between 3 and 8.
  • Oxygenation: Create a well-oxygenated environment by using air stones or sponge filters.

To maintain stable water conditions, invest in a reliable aquarium heater and thermometer to monitor and regulate the temperature. Additionally, use a quality test kit to check the water parameters regularly and take the necessary actions to correct any imbalances.

Water changes are essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your twig catfish. Perform 25%-30% water changes every two weeks to keep the water chemistry stable and the tank clean.

Twig catfish need stable water conditions with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Properly oxygenate the water and maintain appropriate temperature, hardness, and toxin levels for a healthy twig catfish environment.

Twig Catfish Diet and Feeding

Twig Catfish, also known as Farlowella acus, are primarily herbivores and feed on algae and biofilm in the wild. Therefore, it is essential to provide them with a diet that closely resembles their natural habitat.

Feeding guidelines for your Twig Catfish:

  • Fresh vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, and lettuce are great options. Blanch the veggies by boiling them briefly to soften their texture before adding them to your tank.
  • Algae wafers can be a staple food source for your Twig Catfish. These sinking wafers provide the necessary nutrients and mimic the algae found in their natural habitat.
  • Supplement their diet with additional food such as spirulina flakes or tablets, occasionally offering them live or frozen foods like daphnia and mosquito larvae.

When feeding your Twig Catfish, aim to feed them once or twice a day, adjusting the portion sizes according to the amount they can consume within a couple of hours to avoid leftover food from polluting the tank. A varied diet is essential to maintain their health and keep them happy.

It’s also crucial to monitor the overall algae growth in the tank. A low amount of algae can be beneficial for Twig Catfish, but excessive algae growth can quickly get out of control and lead to issues such as poor water quality. To maintain healthy algae levels, you can:

  • Implement regular water changes – around 25% of the tank water should be changed every week.
  • Limit the amount of light your aquarium receives – 8-10 hours per day is sufficient for most tanks.
  • Avoid overfeeding – excess waste from uneaten food can cause an algae bloom.

By providing Twig Catfish with a balanced and nutritious diet, you will ensure they thrive in their aquatic environment.

Twig Catfish Care Schedule

A consistent and well-maintained care schedule will ensure your twig catfish thrives in its new environment. Here’s a breakdown of essential tasks to keep your twig catfish healthy and happy.

Daily Tasks:

  • Feeding: Feed your twig catfish once or twice a day with a mix of high-quality algae wafers, spirulina pellets, and occasional blanched vegetables to provide essential nutrients.
  • Observation: Observe your twig catfish for any signs of illness, stress, or injury, and ensure that the tank mates are co-existing peacefully.

Weekly Tasks:

  • Water Tests: Regularly test water parameters, including pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and water hardness, maintaining optimal levels for your twig catfish’s health.
  • Partial Water Changes: Change 25-35% of the water, using a gravel vacuum to remove debris and replenish the tank with treated, dechlorinated water.

Monthly Tasks:

  • Tank Maintenance: Inspect and clean aquarium equipment, such as filters, heaters, and decorations, carefully removing algae and debris without using harsh chemicals.
  • Glass Cleaning: Use a safe, algae scraper or magnetic cleaner to remove algae buildup from the tank glass.

Periodic Tasks:

  • Filter Replacement: Replace filter media as needed, depending on the type of filter used and the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid replacing all media at once, as this can disturb the beneficial bacteria.

By adhering to this care schedule, you will establish a comfortable and healthy environment for your twig catfish, ensuring that they live a long and happy life. Remember to always monitor the overall health of the fish, making necessary adjustments to the care schedule as they grow and their needs change.

Twig Catfish Health Problems

Twig catfish are generally healthy and hardy, but like all fish, they can be susceptible to certain health issues. By maintaining proper tank conditions, a well-balanced diet, and monitoring for signs of illness, you can help keep your twig catfish healthy and happy.

Common health problems in twig catfish

  • Parasites: These can be internal or external, and may cause various symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, or discomfort. To treat parasites, use fish-safe medication that is specifically designed for the type of parasite affecting your catfish.
  • Fungal infections: These often appear as white, fuzzy patches on the skin. Maintain good water quality, avoid overfeeding, and use antifungal medications as needed to treat fungal infections.
  • Bacterial infections: Poor water quality is often the main cause of bacterial infections, which can result in fin rot, cloudy eyes, or ulcers. Improve water conditions and use antibiotic medications as needed.

Avoid health problems in twig catfish

  1. Maintain high water quality by regularly cleaning the tank, replacing a portion of the water, and using a good-quality aquarium filter.
  2. Test the water parameters regularly to ensure they are within the recommended range.
  3. Provide a balanced diet with high-quality foods and occasional treats.
  4. Keep a close eye on your twig catfish for any signs of illness or unusual behavior.
  5. Quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank, as they may introduce diseases to your existing fish population.

By closely monitoring your twig catfish for health problems and maintaining proper care, you can help ensure a long, healthy life for your aquatic pet.

Twig Catfish Tank Mates

Finding the perfect tank mates for your Twig Catfish is crucial in ensuring a peaceful and thriving aquarium environment. So, let’s dive into the best tank mates for your Twig Catfish; these companions should have a peaceful temperament and not feel the need to compete for food or space.

  • Corydoras Catfish: These bottom-dwellers can co-exist with Twig Catfish without any issues. Corydoras are not aggressive and share similar water parameter requirements, making them ideal tank mates.
  • Small Tetras: Species like the Neon Tetra and Cardinal Tetra make excellent tank mates. They are peaceful, stay small, and require similar water conditions.
  • Livebearers: Guppies, Mollies, and Platies are compatible tank mates as they have a gentle nature and don’t pose a threat to your Twig Catfish.
  • Dwarf Gouramis: These beautiful fish add color and a serene presence to your tank. Dwarf Gouramis are easygoing and are not likely to bother your Twig Catfish.
  • Freshwater Shrimp: Different species of freshwater shrimp, such as Cherry Shrimp and Ghost Shrimp, are small and peaceful invertebrates that can coexist nicely with Twig Catfish.

It is essential to avoid tank mates that may see the Twig Catfish as food or competition. Large, aggressive fish such as Oscars, Cichlids, or Arowanas are not suitable companions. Additionally, keeping multiple Twig Catfish in a tank can lead to territorial disputes, so it is best to have only one per tank unless you are experienced in keeping multiple together.

By selecting compatible tank mates for your Twig Catfish, you create a harmonious environment that allows your fish to flourish. Remember to keep a close eye on the interactions between your fish to ensure compatibility and to avoid any potential issues.

Twig Catfish Breeding

Breeding Twig Catfish can be a rewarding experience if you’re willing to put in some effort. First, it’s essential to set up a separate breeding tank that replicates their natural environment to encourage breeding behavior.

The breeding tank should be at least 20 gallons, have a gentle water flow, and contain ample hiding spots such as rocks, driftwood, and live plants.

To get your Twig Catfish ready for breeding, follow these steps:

  1. Feed a high-quality diet to the tank’s occupants: Offer a mix of live and frozen foods, like brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms, to encourage the fish to spawn. With an abundant food source and proper nutrients, the fish will be more likely to reproduce.
  2. Ensure a stable pH and water temperature: Maintain a pH of 6.0-7.0 and a temperature between 75-79°F (24-26°C) to create an ideal breeding environment.
  3. Introduce a pair of healthy Twig Catfish: Add one male and one female to the breeding tank, ensuring they are of breeding age (1-2 years old) and healthy, as these factors can impact spawning success.

Within a few weeks, the female Twig Catfish will lay eggs on a flat surface near the water surface. The male will then fertilize the eggs. It’s important to keep an eye on the eggs to ensure their safety and health. 

Twig Catfish Fry Care

Once the eggs hatch, you will have tiny fry that will require special care:

  • Feed the fry with infusoria or liquid fry food initially, gradually transitioning to baby brine shrimp and crushed flake food as they grow.
  • Perform regular, small water changes to maintain pristine water conditions, ensuring the fry’s survival and proper development.

By following these steps, Twig Catfish breeders can watch their efforts pay off as their fish successfully spawn and grow. Remember, a proper environment and attentive care are key to successful Twig Catfish breeding.


Providing proper care to your Twig Catfish is essential for their well-being and longevity. With the appropriate tank setup, diet, and attention to their needs, you’ll be able to enjoy watching these fascinating creatures thrive in your aquarium. If you’ve had any experiences with Twig Catfish or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

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