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    Choosing the right catfish for your planted tank

    Overview of suitable catfish species

    Catfish are very popular ornamental fish for fresh water aquariums. Since many species of catfish are herbivores, not all of them are recommendable for planted tanks.In the following we compiled a small list of species that can be well integrated into a planted tank. We placed emphasis on plant compatibility, as well as on a certain congruence in water parameters. Like most usual aquatic plants the following catfish prefer soft, acidic water.


    a cory

    The genus corydoras is comprised of around 150 types of cories, which are predominantly native to South America. These popular aquarium fish are very peaceful and sociable animals that should be kept in a group. Cories, or armored catfish are ground dwellers. Since they like to dabble, the aquarium should have fine-grained, round-particled substrate in at least a few places. Stones, driftwood and big-leaved aquatic plants serve as hiding- and resting spots. A socialization with South American tetras and cichlids is especially conceivable. Cories can be easily fed with sinking food, such as most common flake foods and food pills. Frozen- and live food are a welcome variety in their diet. It should be noted, that cories aren’t herbivores and therefore not suitable as algae killers.

    dwarf corydoras

    Dwarf cororydas such as Corydoras pygmaeus or hastatus are very popular for aquascaping or for smaller aquariums. Unlike others these small-scale catfish are free-swimmers and can therefore be used as schooling fish in an aquascape pretty well.


    Octoninclus are often considered part of the “cleaning team”. They graze biofilm and algae growths off decoration, leaves as well as the aquarium’s panes. In this respect they can help keeping the aquarium free of spot algae or other algae films. In trade they are usually sold under the name Otocinclus affinis, but most of the time those are either Otocinclus macrospilus, hoppei or vittatus. The "real" affinis almost never gets imported.


    These peaceful animals feel most comfortable in a group and also show a slight swarming behavior - enough swimming space provided. In this respect, the aquarium should have a volume of at least 54 liters for a small group. The presence of plants and decoration such as driftwood offers enough grazing grounds. Nevertheless, additional food such as chips are very popular as well. The diet should be balanced and can be supplemented with vegetarian food e.G. blanched leaves or peeled, organic vegetables (cucumbers, peppers, carrots).


    The bushymouth catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus) is colloquially referred to as the “window cleaner”. This catfish with the L-number L-183 can get pretty big with a length of around 15cm. Typical features are the fleshy outgrowths on the forehead, which are particularly pronounced in the males.


    This pleco, with his, downwards-oriented scraping mouth is a typical algivore. It rasps off biofilm from smooth surfaces such as stones, driftwood, leaves, but also the aquarium’s panes. This may cause predation in Echinodorus genera. For that reason, pimelodidae are recommended for a planted aquarium only to a limited extend. In order for their digestion to work properly, pimelodidae urgently need wood: cellulose is required for their intestinal functions. The cellulose is taken directly from any wood in the aquarium tank. A supplemental feeding with blanched vegetables or food tabs with a high amount of plant-based igredients can be a great addition to the pimelodidae’s diet.

    Pimelodidae are notorious for their strong reproduction. If you don’t have room for its young, you’ll want to think about keeping a singular fish.

    Otocinclus negros “Paraguay”

    Otocinclus negros

    The LG2, also known as Otocinclus negros sp. "Paraguay" unfortunately isn’t that widely available in trade. Unlike the widely available Otocinclus affinis it is possible to breed the LG2 at home. These small-size Otocinclus with about 4cm length enjoys living in groups. The aquarium should have at least a size of 54liters and a moderate temperature not below 24 degrees is recommended. These catfishes typically feed on grazing biofilms, but dead plant parts and animal foods such as live food are’t spurned either. Otocinclus negros sp. "Paraguay" are nocturnals that need a place to rest during the day between driftwood or big leaves.

    Whiptail catfish

    whiptail catfish

    In trade, “whiptail catfish” is usually the collective term for fish of the genus Rineloricaria. Their colour varies from red to brown to grey. Various types are available in trade, such as Rineloricaria lanceolata or R. fallax. Whiptail catfish get a little bigger (up to 15cm), therefore they require an aquarium with a higher volume of at least 200liters. Equipping the aquarium with sand is perfect, because the fish chew it in search of food. They are mostly bottom-dwellers and need many hiding places e.G. oblong decoration (like tubes), aquatic plants and driftwood. In most species, the sexes can be pretty easily distinguished from each other, as the male catfish have "whiskers". Keeping them in couples is recommended. In a group, violent fighting can occur among males. A socialization with other ornamental fish, which shouldn’t be bottom-dwellers, is possible and unproblematic.

    Like many catfish species, whiptail catfish mainly feed on biofilms on surfaces of plants, stones and wood. Additional herbal food in the form of blanched organic vegetables is often accepted, but they also like to eat live and frozen food and food tablets.