Banjo Catfish

Banjo catfishes (Bunocephalus coracoideus) are among the most distinctive species found in aquarium hobby. With wide flat heads and slim bodies that resemble banjo guitars, banjo catfishes (Bunocephalus coracoideus) are among the most eye-catching specimens in their category.

They inhabit flooded forest streams in Bolivia, Peru and Brazil and their vibrant coloring helps them blend in among decaying leaf litter.

These fish thrive in warm stretches of slow-moving water with plenty of leaf litter and sand for them to hide in, along with bloodworms, earthworms and sinking dried or pellet foods for them to feed on.


The banjo catfish (Bunocephalus verrucosus) is an uncommon-looking fish with an unusual body shape, earning it the moniker “banjo catfish”. One of the smallest varieties of catfish, it features rough skin with heavily keratinized cells making its surface rough to touch and is amongst one of the more cryptic varieties, preferring to hide in leaf litter during daylight hours rather than move freely around its environment.

This fish hails from the Amazon River basin and can be found in creeks, lakes, ponds and rainforest streams. In nature it stays motionless on river bottoms where it blends in perfectly with its environment; when kept as captive it should be kept in an aquarium with soft sand substrate for camouflaging purposes as well as hiding places among driftwood or caves for shade. They generally thrive under stable temperature conditions with regular (10% weekly) water changes to ensure optimal conditions.

These fish tend to be shy and tend to stay hidden most of the time, emerging only at dusk to feed. Being excellent scavengers, these creatures will eat just about anything that comes their way! It may be hard to differentiate male and female fish as their appearance can often be similar; however females typically have slightly fuller bellies and darker coloration than their counterparts.

Banjo catfish do not require an extremely deep tank; however, its substrate should be soft rather than coarse. Ideal water temperatures range between 7-10 gallons of water for every banjo catfish; 10 gallons should suffice as an estimated minimum requirement to give your banjo enough room to swim around and explore.

As they are relatively nonaggressive fish, they can coexist peacefully in a community aquarium alongside many species of other fish species; however, small, fast-moving ones like cichlids should be kept out as these could become prey for these predatory predators. They can also be easily bred in captivity, quickly becoming staples of home aquariums quickly; popular enough to be found at most pet stores both national chains and independent fish shops alike.


Banjo catfish are scavengers that feed on dead or decaying organic material in rivers and streams. Usually active at night, these nocturnal fish camouflage themselves by burrowing under sandy substrate.[1] Banjos make an ideal addition to tanks with lots of plants and driftwood while their diet consists primarily of invertebrates like snails; to prevent any potential issues in aquariums with these fish species together[2], avoid housing banjo catfish together with snails or crayfish[3].[2] To prevent any unpleasant experiences between banjo catfish and these other invertebrates[3].[2] To prevent issues between banjo catfish species species or housing banjo catfish to other fish such as snails or crayfish[3].

Banjo catfish need an environment that mirrors its natural habitat, with fine sand or gravel being ideal substrates to offer comfortable hiding spaces, facilitate natural behaviors, and facilitate burrowing. Furthermore, adding some leaf litter as part of the substrate is highly recommended to create an appealing natural atmosphere while providing additional hiding places.

Banjo catfishes can be found throughout creeks, lakes, ponds and rainforest streams in North America. These secretive catfish remain motionless on (or buried within) silty substrate and hide beneath dense layers of leaf litter or fallen branches to remain hidden from predators. Their name comes from their body shape which resembles that of a banjo.

Tankmates for banjo catfish include other peaceful community fish such as tetras (neon and ember tetras) and rasboras, along with small livebearers like guppies and endlers. It is very easy to tame this species; it will not attack or claim territory aggressively and it tolerates other catfish species well; mature females tend to have fuller bodies than males.

Spawning of banjo catfishes can be initiated with fresh water, intensive water flow and a minor hormone injection. Spawning usually takes place at night in the wild; male and female banjo catfish swim intensively towards each other before hugging one another while hovering in the water before fertilization takes place by male fishes.


Banjo catfish make a fantastic addition to any aquarium and provide an exciting opportunity to observe their fascinating morphology. As benthic fish species, these aquatic beauties often remain hidden under substrate surfaces until it comes time for feeding or exploring, coming out at night only during feeding times or to explore. It is recommended to house these bottom dwellers in an environment similar to their natural habitat – one with lots of hiding spaces and sandy substrate. They don’t exhibit aggression toward other fish species either.

This catfish has heavily keratinized skin with an earth-toned hue and rough texture, featuring prominent eyes atop its head with short dorsal fins and six barbels in its mouth. Male and female banjo catfish differ significantly in terms of coloration; males typically having fuller bodies and darker coloring.

These fish tend to be very nocturnal and will spend most of their time hiding under the sand substrate, only emerging occasionally to feed or explore their tank. When they emerge for food or exploration, their movements are limited making it hard for us to spot them. When feeding time arrives they should be offered small meaty frozen foods like bloodworms, white mosquito larvae, black mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp and daphnia etc. Additionally sinking catfish pellets/granules should supplement natural diet; we should give these foods daily in the evening after lights out – or simply daily!

Banjo catfish are simple fish to care for when kept as captive pets, requiring only a well-draining sandy substrate and conditions ranging from pH 6.0 to 8.0 in their water environment and temperatures from 20degC to 28degC (68degF to 82degF) along with hardness ratings from 5deg dGH up.

These fish tend to be relatively shy, yet with regular interaction between humans and them they can become more socialized. Banjo catfish do well when kept together as small groups; other peaceful fish species should also co-exist without aggression being an issue.


Banjo catfishes are one of the more unique aquarium fish available, and one can witness their breathtaking presence first-hand at any aquarium hobbyist show. Boasting an extraordinary appearance that stands them out from other freshwater fish species and an incredible camouflage pattern designed to blend in seamlessly with leaf litter, driftwood debris and other surfaces present in their natural environments.

These fish tend to be nocturnal and spend most of their days hiding among substrate and tank decorations before emerging at night to hunt for food. Since these fish can sometimes be difficult to spot, providing plenty of hiding places is key. Also consider adding plants that mimic tree bark for shaded areas for these elusive fish to retreat into.

Wild species of these fish breed irregularly, producing from 200 to over 4,000 eggs at any given time. Fertilization occurs by directly ejaculating into the water where fertilized eggs will sink to the bottom and develop into tiny larvae which feed off detritus and organic matter until eventually transitioning to juvenile status where they feed off of smaller invertebrates like worms and tubifex.

Banjo catfish are omnivorous fish, meaning they consume virtually anything they come into contact with, including leftover food from other tank dwellers and any leftover foods left by other tank inhabitants. When kept captive, however, a varied diet should include foods like flakes and tablet food products; bloodworms and earthworms will provide ample protein sources.

Wild redtail fishes have an estimated lifespan of 12 years; in a captive environment, they’re no different; provided you follow basic care requirements for this species, they thrive well enough and make an attractive addition to any freshwater setup.