Spotted Raphael Catfish Overview, Care & Talking Video

Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons

The spotted Raphael Catfish is a stunning addition to any aquarium owing to its charming pattern. It is perfect for beginners and is often known to be a long-term companion due to its longer lifespan.

Moreover, the fish can thrive alone, amidst a small group of its species, or with several other species. It has absolutely zero demands regarding company!

What is a Spotted Raphael Catfish?

A spotted raphael catfish is a fish that belongs to the Doradidae family has a wonderful pattern on its body and a long life span due to which it is preferred by aquarists all over the world.

OriginAmazon River basins, South America
Scientific NameAgamyxis pectinifrons
Common NamesSpotted raphael catfish, Whitebarred catfish, White-spotted catfish, Spotted talking catfish
IUCN Red List StatusNot Evaluated
AppearanceBrown or bluish-black body, yellow or white spots, hunched back with three pairs of barbels
SizeUp to 15.0 cm (5.9 in)
Lifespan10-17 years, depending on living conditions
TemperamentPeaceful towards own species and other similar-sized species, may eat smaller species
Tank LevelBottom dwellers
Water Temperature68-78.8 °F (20-26 °C)
pH Level6.0-7.5
Water HardnessUp to 20 dGH
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons for one with a base area: 120 cm by 30 cm
Tank EnvironmentSpacious, vegetated, and shaded tank with sandy gravel
DietOmnivorous with a taste for carnivorous meals, scavenging habits
Tank MatesIts own species, other catfish, similar-sized peaceful species

Where are Spotted Raphael Catfish found?

Naturally, the spotted raphaels are found in the benthic region of the vast freshwater basins of the Amazon River in South America. It is also spotted in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Pebas of Peru, and Ecuador.

Which family does Spotted Raphael Catfish belong?

The catfish belongs to the family Dorididae under the order Siluriformes. Its scientific name is Agamyxis pectinifrons. It is also known by the binomial name Doras pectinifrons.

Commonly it is called Spotted Raphael Catfish, Spotted Talking Catfish, White-spotted Catfish, and Whitebarred Catfish.

It also has different local names in Germany: Kammdornwels, and in Denmark: Plettet Tornmalle.

Fun Fact: The fish is perfect if you are troubled with snail infestations in your tank. It is known to be a hard worker for such cleaning.

How does Spotted Raphael Catfish look?

This fish has a unique body and stands out with its features. So, let’s know how to identify it here.

What is the size of Spotted Raphael Catfish?

This catfish is known to be as long as 15.0 cm (5.9 in), irrespective of gender.

What is the color of Spotted Raphael Catfish?

The body of the fish is colored dark chocolatey brown to a bluish-black color. It has light spots of white to yellow all over, varying from fish to fish. Its belly is light-colored and spotted.

What are the features of Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Spotted Raphaels have a hunched back, flattened stomach, and an arrow-shaped body.

It has a large head, two small bead-like eyes, and a large mouth. It has 3 pairs of sensitive barbels – one on the upper jaw and two on the lower one. These help it sense any food while it scavenges your tank bottom.

Its fins are dark-spotted and striped, which makes cross-wire bar patterns. It has thick skin and no scales, spines on pectoral fins, bony lump-like scutes on its lateral line, and an erect spiny dorsal fin.

The catfish also has a nuchal shield before its dorsal fin and also a strong first spine on its pectoral fin.

It is also known as the spotted talking catfish because it makes sounds while rubbing its pectoral fins on its shoulder, which gets amplified with its swim bladder. So, don’t be surprised if it starts making noise when you take it out of the water.

How are a male and a female Spotted Raphael Catfish different?

It is hard to sexually differentiate the species, but females are usually fuller-bodied with a rounder abdomen than males. This is especially true during the breeding season.

What is the behavior of Spotted Raphael Catfish in an aquarium?

The fish is peaceful towards similar-sized fish but may eat smaller species. It can live alone, with at most four of its own species (in an appropriately-sized tank), other similar-looking catfish, or even alone.

Since it is a nocturnal fish, it either rests during the day or feels too shy to come out.

What is the Lifespan of Spotted Raphael Catfish?

According to some reports, the spotted raphael catfish is said to live up to 17 years at most. But in my experience, aquariums can only sustain the fish for about 10 years or so.

Author’s Note: Never touch the fish with bare hands or put your bare hands in its tank. When stressed, it spreads its pectoral spines sideways, may lock your fingers and sting you.

How to take care of Spotted Raphael Catfish in a tank?

Before you get the spotted raphaels, learn whether it can adjust with your existing tank or if you need an upgrade to raise it.

What should be the Tank Size for Spotted Raphael Catfish?

If you wish to house only one spotted raphael catfish, a 30-gallon tank should be enough. But if you want to create a community tank and more of this species, a 75-gallon tank is a safe choice.

Which Water Chemistry does Spotted Raphael Catfish Prefer?

Water plays a significant role in this fin buddy’s health. So, make sure you follow every parameter accurately:

  • pH Levels: 6.0-7.5
  • Water Temperature: 68-78.8 °F (20-26 °C)
  • Water Hardness: Up to 20 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Below 20 ppm

What Tank Environment does Spotted Raphael Catfish like?

To ensure that the spotted raphael catfish feels happy and cozy in your aquarium, prepare the perfect environment with these tips:

What Substrate is needed for Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Since the white-barred catfish explores the bottom for food and likes to fit in tight burrows, use soft and fine sandy substrate. This will protect its barrels from getting hurt.

Which Plants are required for Spotted Raphael Catfish?

It also needs plenty of dark space, so use any robust vegetation in the aquarium. It doesn’t hurt plants, so you can get any type you want. But don’t use carpet plants, as it habitually plays with the substrate.

What type of Lighting does Spotted Raphael Catfish need?

Again, to make the shy fish comfortable and encourage it to swim around, use only dim and subdued lights of low wattage.

Which Décor does Spotted Raphael Catfish love?

To decorate the aquarium further, add driftwood, twisted roots, and artificial caves that can fit it.

What Filtration is required for Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Use a reliable oxygenating powerhead or under-gravel filtration system to keep your finned cat healthy. You must also perform regular partial water changes.

What should be the Water Flow Rate of the tank for Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Keep the water flow slow to medium like its natural habitat.

Fish Care Tip: Whenever you work with the fish, don’t use a net as it may get tangled. Instead, use a glass or plastic container.

What does Spotted Raphael Catfish Eat?

The fish can have almost all kinds of fish food. But it gets more excited when you offer meaty feed. It accepts flakes, live, frozen, and freeze-dried feeds. Some diet options are:

  • Sinking pellets
  • Tablets
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Earthworms
  • Tubifex
  • Bloodworms
  • Small fish
  • Shrimps
  • Mollusks
  • Crabs
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Spirulina pellets
  • Plant matter
  • Chopped vegetables

Since it is a nocturnal species, make sure you feed it right after the lights are out. The fish will more enthusiastically eat as it feels too shy to come out during the day.

What are the Tank Mates for Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Raphael spotted catfish in a tank
Image Credit: SharplyFrantic

The spotted raphael is amiable so you can keep 4 of them together. But it’s not a must-have; it can also be the only one of its species in the tank as well.

It is also great with other similar-sized and peaceful species. So, let’s check out some of the possible tank mates here:

  • Similar-sized tetras
  • Gouramis
  • Other similar-looking catfish
  • South American and Central cichlids
  • Platydoras
  • Amblydoras
  • Acanthodoras
  • Danios
  • Rainbowfish
  • Tiger barbs
  • Zebra plecos

Which Tank Mates to Avoid with Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Some species may get threatened in the presence of this catfish or vice versa. So, it would be best if you avoid the following species:

  • Mollusks
  • Shrimps
  • Smaller species
  • Aggressive species
  • Predatory species
  • Larger species

What are the Common Diseases in Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Spotted raphaels are known to be extremely hardy and disease resistant. But certain changes in its environment and carelessness may lead to some illnesses, like…

Disease NameCausesSymptomsTreatment
IchProtozoan parasitic infectionMultiple white spots, flashing, fatigue, appetite lossRaise the temperature, add medicine
ColumnarisBacterial infectionFaded (white/grey) patches, fin fraying, fatigue, appetite lossImprove water quality, reduce stress, medicine
Fin rotBacterial infectionDisintegrated and frayed fins, discolored or reddened fins, fatigue, appetite lossImprove water quality, remove physically injurious items, antibiotic medicines
AcidosisDrastic drop in pHFlashing, heavy breathing, fatigue, rapid swimming, jumping out of waterFix the pH of the water but remember not to change by more than 0.2 units an hour and 0.5 units in a day.

To avoid most diseases in your catfish, maintain the following:

  • Maintain nitrate levels strictly below 20 ppm
  • Don’t overfeed it
  • Be careful with its barbels while moving it
  • Quarantine new specimens for a minimum of 2 weeks
  • Wash all decor in a weak bleach solution and wash rigorously before putting in tank
  • Don’t let the water temperature stay as high as 84 °F (29°C).

Quick Tip: Since the fish doesn’t have scales, always check the medicine compositions. Avoid using copper or potassium permanganate medicines. Instead, use half or a quarter of the usual dose of medication with formalin and malachite green.

How to Spotted Raphael Catfish Breed?

No formal report of breeding spotted raphael catfish in captivity has been produced yet. There have been a few cases of commercial breeding which is induced by hormones.

Though there have been a few news of natural reproduction as well, those were sporadic and not under controlled situations. So, there was no solid information to urge the species to mate.

However, many have reported that this is a bubble nest-building species. In the wild, it creates a bubble on floating plants and lays its eggs there.

Some even reported it uses debris like wood scraps and leaf litter to make a nest in home aquariums. But showed no signs of reproduction and instead just hid beneath it.

How to Buy Spotted Raphael Catfish?

Often, some sellers confuse spotted raphael catfish with the “spotted catfish” (aka Pimelodus pictus), which looks completely different. It is a slender white catfish with black spots. So, be careful, especially, if you order this fish online.

Spotted raphaels are also confused with their cousin of the same genus – Spiny catfish (Agamyxis albomaculatus). Both look pretty similar and hardly have many differences.

So, the only way to find out is to investigate the fish’s natural habitat. Spiny catfish is spotted only in Venezuelan Orinoco drainage.

A word from FishInAquarium

Spotted raphael catfish is one of the best catfish for a medium-sized tank. It is fascinating to watch as it rummages through the substrate for food and modifies it for hiding spaces. You will never be bored with this fin buddy around.

So, now if you have answers to all your questions and have finally decided to make it a part of your aquatic family, share this within your hobbyist circle. And if there’s more to know, drop a mail, and we’ll reach out ASAP!

Minnie B Miller - Professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium

About Minnie B Miller

Minnie B. Miller, a professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium, has over 8 years of expertise in fish breeding and care, gained through her roles at AquaticTX and Sea Lion Landing. Having honed her skills with various aquatic species, she is dedicated to empowering fellow enthusiasts by sharing her knowledge and experience.