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Spotted Raphael Catfish Care Guide & Hear It Talking

Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons

Spotted Raphael Catfish are among the most interesting catfish species that are pretty different in look and have a charming temperament. They are too easy to care for in captivity and make a great tank mate for other fish in the tank.

These fish are usually found in the Amazon river basin, across Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, and Brazil. They come with a prominent spotted look and are best kept in a group. These fish are too easy to take care of in a 35-gallon tank. They live for at least 15-20 years with proper care.

Species Overview

Level of CareVery easy
AppearanceDark brown, or bluish-black colored body, along with a very irregular pattern of smaller spots
Life Expectancy15-20 years
Tank Size35-45 gallon
Tank EnvironmentNeutral water with low hardness and dense vegetation
Tank MatesVery peaceful

Spotted catfish or Raphael Catfish, also known as talking catfish, is one of the most exquisite buddies for your tank.

These Agamyxis Pectinifrons are pretty impressive in appearance with white spots on their black body. This Doradid fish species is usually found in the Amazon river basin, across Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, and Brazil of South America.

They come with a cylindrical body that resembles an arrow’s shape, along with a flattened belly. The females come with a full-bodied structure than the males. Their large heads with small eyes look quite funny.

Also, they usually possess a large mouth and have three pairs of barbels. Unlike others, these fish species are tough-skinned and come with a nicely developed nuchal shield right in the front of their dorsal fins.

There are a few bony lumps present that form thorny scutes throughout the lateral line of the catfish. And this is the very reason why their name is also known as the Thorny Catfish.

Their dorsal fin stands still, and the very first strong spine is located near their pectoral fins. Their pectoral spines are unique as they can be extended outwards in sideways in a much rigid way, which these fish primarily use as their defensive weapon.



These fish have a dark brown or bluish-black-colored body, along with a very irregular pattern of smaller spots. The patches can either be white or pale yellow.

Besides, their fins are darker with spots and stripes. However, these fish have a much lighter belly with some speckles. As these fish tend to grow, their color gets more intense.

Fun Fact

A unique trait of spotted raphael catfish is that they come with the ability to produce sounds while rubbing their pectoral fins near the grooves in their shoulder.

This sound is usually generated from their swim bladder, along with amplification. And this is why they are also called talking raphael catfish.

So, if you are thinking of keeping this fish at your home, then be ready to hear the sounds of croaks or clicks often.


Well, they are smaller than other catfish.

These fish usually grow up to 5.9-inches. Hence, they will be an easy fit for any moderate or medium-size community aquarium.

Behavior & Temperament

These have much gregarious nature, and they can easily thrive with their own kind of specimens. Also, they are very peaceful by nature.

Besides, talking catfish are very good in behavior with their other fish relatives. Thus, they serve to be excellent community fish.


These are pretty hardy by nature. This fish species easily lives for 10 years in the wild.

However, in captivity, subject to proper care, they can live up to 15-20 years, which makes it worth spending your money on buying one.

Tank Requirements

These are usually moderate in size. Thus, picking the right aquarium size for them will not at all be an arduous task. A medium-size home aquarium will be the right one for them. A minimum tank size of 35-45 gallons will be pretty suitable for them.

Also, it is better to ensure that the aquarium has a proper amount of lighting as they prefer a brighter ambiance. Besides, this fish is a little bit shy. So, it is vital to ensure that you are adding a proper hiding place for them.

Also, the tank requires a rich oxygen supply in the water to maintain a healthy balance for their living. They usually like to dwell in a slightly acidic water condition with a low hardness level.

Moreover, live plants, twisted roots, and driftwood serve to be suitable tank décors for your agamyxis pectinifrons.

Also, the gravel used as the substrate needs to be fine enough and soft so that they don’t get hurt in their barbels. Slow water movement will be outstanding for them.

These fish also prefers some floating covers; so, you can add some floating plants to the tank.

Tank Setup

Caring for spotted Raphael catfish is not at all difficult if you provide them with the proper tank setup.

A good tank setup will help them grow properly and get adequate nutrition. So, here is how you can ensure a proper aquarium setup.

Tank Size

A minimum tank size of 35-gallon will be best for them. If you are thinking of petting a larger group, you can keep the fish species in a 45-gallon freshwater aquarium.

Water Parameters

Keep the pH range between 5.8-7.5.

These fish do not prefer much water hardness. So, maintain the hardness range within 2-20 dGH.


The temperature of the tank water should not be too high or too low. Instead, the temperature must lie between 68-79 ℉.


Pick a substrate of sand or fine gravel to give your it a proper place to burrow.


Ensure the lighting is low or subdued, as it will be great for them to feel safer in the tank.


Add dense vegetation in aquariums to offer them proper places to hide. You can add various aquatic plants, driftwood, or twisted roots for décorating the aquarium. It is not at all fond of eating away plants.


To ensure a proper level of oxygen and adequate water flow, you can equip an under gravel filter or power-head in the tank of your spotted raphael catfish.

Tank Mates

They are peaceful bottom scavengers. Hence, you can easily house them in a good community fish tank. Also, agamyxis pectinifrons will quickly befriend other lovely tank mates.

Though you can keep it singly, it is better to keep them in a group to retain their mental peace. Keeping them in a group of 4 specimens will let them show better colors.

You can easily house them with other similar-looking catfish; they won’t show any aggressive tendencies. Besides, keeping them with other aggressive tank mates will not be risky, as they have their own thorny protection.

These fish are not venomous, but have sharp spines that might hurt others.

However, if you are housing them with semi-aggressive, aggressive, or large-aggressive fish, you need to monitor them consistently.

Here is a list of tank mates that you can add to the community tank of spotted talking catfish.

  • South and central American cichlid
  • Pimelodus
  • Trichogaster
  • Larger characins
  • Spiny catfish acanthodoras
  • Platydoras hancockii

Food & Diet

Spotted Raphael catfish have an elementary diet requirement. These are usually omnivores. Also, they are not at all fussy when it comes to feeding.

Feeding them is much easier as they will quickly have their meal if it includes fish foods like worms, insects, plant matters, crustaceans, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, etc. As already said, this fish species is typically bottom feeders. Thus, you need to ensure that the foods are properly reaching them.

Nevertheless, it is essential to keep a healthy balance of food in their diet. So, you can offer them other foods like freeze-dried bloodworms or other tubifexes. They also prefer sinking catfish pellets.

For adding more variety to the food, you can add live, frozen, and properly prepared foods like flakes.

Well, these fish need to acquire better growth. So, incorporate a proper amount of protein foods in the diet of spotted Raphael catfish. Occasionally, providing whole or chopped earthworms will be a palatable food for them.

Also, they love to have snails in their food platter. Thus, you can add some snails in aquariums so that they can easily hunt down their treats.

Spotted Raphael Catfish Care

When it comes to caring for talking catfish, it is simply very easy. They are quite hardy fish and will not at all come up with unwanted challenging situations for aquarists.

However, one thing you need to keep in mind is that spotted catfish have sharp spines. So, make sure you are not risking your fingers while replacing them with another freshwater aquarium during water changes. Also, while cleaning the aquarium, your fish can get injured due to fishnet and transportation.

Thus, you need to be very cautious and careful while capturing them. To offer your Raphael catfish a proper level of care, it is crucial to change 30% of the water once a month.

In the wild habitat site, these catfish usually reside in shallow floodwaters, where the temperature lowers down drastically at night hours. Thus, these fish can easily tolerate as low a temperature as 15 °C for a short time. However, it’s better not to provide them with extreme water conditions while petting them in your aquarium.

Though diseases are not usually noticed in spotted Raphael catfish, make sure the tank water is kept clean. Higher nitrate levels in the water can cause infection to their barbels. And that is why it is essential to maintain the nitrate level below 20 ppm for their aquarium with a regular water change.

Also, remember to vacuum driftwood, plants, and other décors to keep the tank clean and facilitate the best care for your freshwater fish.

These are scaleless fish. So, it is better not to treat these fish with potassium permanganate or copper medications. Instead, you can use Malachite green or formalin to treat them.

Breeding & Reproduction

When it comes to breeding spotted Raphael catfish in captivity, it is a quite rare incident, seldom noticed. They are mainly bred using artificial means or hormone injection methods.

Sometimes success in spawning these freshwater fish species at home can be achieved, but there is no surety.

These fish are anticipated to be bubble nest builders with eggs lying above floating plants. It is assumed so because all small Doradid species are bubble nest builders.

In an aquarium, these fish probably collect debris or discover an area with leaf litter and woods and try to hide underneath them. Then, the other fish of the same species swim around this nest. But whether catfish agamyxis pectinifrons have a successful spawn this way or not is still unknown.

Interesting Facts

So, are you now excited to learn a few fun facts about spotted catfish? Well, then here you go!

  • These are nocturnal by nature, which means they need to have enough dimmed lighting at night to maintain their nighttime activities.
  • These fish usually prefer to eat food either before or after lights are turned off in the aquarium.
  • These grow very slow, which can take them 2 years to turn into adult size.
  • The mature females are much plumper than the males.

Where to Buy?

These are usually very easy to find at any pet or animal supplies stores and in the aquarium trade market. In the aquarist shops, spotted catfish are popularly known as Spotted Raphael Catfish or Spotted Talking Catfish.

You can also find them in any hobbyist store. Also, there is a myriad of an online store for pet fish that successfully supplies this spotted fish at an affordable price.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are spotted raphael catfish aggressive?

No, this fish is not at all aggressive. Instead, this species is very peaceful by nature and maintains a very healthy relationship with other tank mates.

Do they eat other fish?

No, when kept in a community aquarium, these don’t eat other fish. They are not at all predatory. But they do eat snails.

Wrapping Up

Spotted catfish are undoubtedly very suitable for a community aquarium at home. They are relatively sturdy by nature, making them an excellent choice for any fish keeper.

Also, they are very friendly and do not cause any unnecessary trouble for other fish. Additionally, there is no need for frequent water changes compared to other aquarium fish.

However, be careful of their sharp spines while handling them.

Thus, particularly for a beginner aquarist having minimal experience in fishkeeping, buying this fish with its unique behavior and a lower level of care required will be a win-win deal.