Twig Catfish: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding, & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

There are countless species of fish, but Twig Catfish is one fish that stands out from the rest, particularly due to its unique and beautiful appearance. They add an aesthetic appeal to any tank they are a part of.

These species of fish are generally laid back and timid, which means that you won’t see them swim around too much. Basically, you will see them swimming frantically if they are intimidated.

However, if you are looking to raise Twig Catfish in your aquarium, you will have to maintain very strict and particular conditions. Otherwise, they will be exposed to several health issues.

We aren’t telling you this to scare you off or discourage you. Our guide is specially designed for aquatic enthusiasts like yourself so that you can keep and raise Twig Catfish properly.

You will also get to learn more about their habitat, water requirements, diet, tank mates, breeding, and much more.

Species Summary

Twig Catfish are part of a group of fish, which are known as Farlowella. They belong to the Loricariidae family and are available in 37 different species. The most common species that are popular in aquariums include the Farlowella acusand the Farlowella vittata. Among them, the former is endangered and rare to find.

These fish are native to the rivers of South America, especially in Columbia and Venezuela. They are particularly found in the Amazon, Orinoco, and Parana rivers, as well as Lake Valencia. They are used to living in areas that have a lot of water and a significant amount of vegetation and branches.

Life Span5 to 15 years
Color FormBrown with dark stripes
Care levelIntermediate
CompatibilitySimilar species or peaceful community
SizeUp to 9 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with plants and flat surfaces
Minimum Tank Size20 Gallons

Twig catfish are given their name because they look similar to a thin stick or twig. They also like to live in a natural habitat with lots of plants. Vegetation allows them to hide, and also attach themselves to, with the help of their suckermouths. The plants are also rich in algae and nutrients.

These fish also like to latch on to pieces of wood, which are readily available in the wild. While they stay still all day, they continue to munch on wood and biofilm to sustain themselves.


Twig Catfish are known to have the longest lifespan among several species, and they live out to an average of 10 to 15 years. If they are subjected to poor water conditions, they might not be able to live any longer than 5 years.

Thanks to their carefree and relaxed temperament, these fish can easily live for quite a long time. Their lifespan depends on the quality of care that they receive, and you have to maintain proper tank conditions in order to keep them healthy and happy.

If you want to keep Twig Catfish for a longer period of time, you should replicate their natural habitat in the tank.


As mentioned above, Twig Catfish have a twig or stick-like figure, and they have a long and thin body. Often, you may mistake them for a long stick in your aquarium. Interestingly, their stick-like appearance serves as a defense mechanism for them, as they lay still in the wild and prevent being spotted by predators and larger fish.

These fish also have long and pointy noses, as well as a wider head that narrows down around their eyes. They also have thin and clear pectoral and anal fins that protrude from the sides of their body when they are lying on flat surfaces. You will find them lying on flat surfaces quite often.

Aquatic experts often compare the fins of Twig Catfish to the wings of a dragonfly, and this adds to their unique appearance. They have light brown bodies, as well as a darker-colored line that runs along their sides.

If you look from their head towards their bodies, the line starts getting thinner and lighter in color.

These Farlowella fish have a textured and traditional appearance, and they look like ancient twigs all-around your aquarium.


On average, Twig Catfish measure a maximum of 6 inches. Their size is influenced by their genes, as well as how well they are taken care of.

Usually, when you buy them for your aquarium, they would measure between 3 and 5 inches. You should also know that they will grow without any regard for the tank size, but we will get to this later.

Twig Catfish Care

Caring for your Twig Catfish can be quite interesting and fun. Some of the components of their care regimen can be complex, while others are a piece of cake.

Let’s dive deeper into the various components of Twig Catfish care so that you can provide them with the best care possible and keep them healthy. Not only will it prolong their lifespan, but they will also be more comfortable in captivity.

Tank Size

Ideally, you should have a minimum tank size of 20 gallons if you are looking to raise Twig Catfish, but if you want to place them in groups, we suggest you keep a tank with a capacity of 35-40 gallons.

While some aquatic experts have raised these fish in smaller tanks, they have encountered problems when they started to grow. Even if you get a tank larger than 40 gallons, it won’t be a waste. Farowella fish require ample space to stay and grow comfortably.

If you are looking to keep a larger number of Twig Catfish, you will have to increase the tank size by 5-10 gallons for each fish that you add to your aquarium.

Water Parameters

As we mentioned above, some components of Twig Catfish care can be quite tricky, and water parameters are one of them.

These fish are quite sensitive and respond instantly to changes in the water conditions. If you don’t maintain proper and quality water conditions, you won’t be able to raise them properly.

Thanks to this ultimate care guide for Twig Catfish, you can always reference the water parameters when you need to, so that the water conditions remain constant.

For starters, the water temperature is something you need to take care of consistently. You can keep the water in the tank between a range of 73°F to 79°F. Moreover, these fish are used to neutral waters, so you should keep the pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5.

Thankfully, they aren’t particular about water hardness, so it doesn’t matter if the water is soft or hard.

Monitoring and maintaining the water conditions can be quite difficult from time to time, which is why you should buy an accurate water testing kit for convenience and accuracy. Through the kit, you will be able to receive detailed temperature and pH readings in the tank.

What to Put in Their Tank?

While the water conditions can be quite difficult to maintain, it is easier to determine what you need to put inside their tank. For this purpose, you need to be familiar with their natural habitat and the kind of environment they are used to.

First off, you need to place a dark and soft substrate in the aquarium for your Twig Catfish. Since they are used to laying on flat surfaces and exploring the bottom, the soft layer will prevent them from getting injured.

Since they are used to munch on wood and also lay still on them, you should add pieces of wood to the aquarium as well. This is a must-have because, without them, these fish won’t be familiar with the environment and might start feeling stressed.

Twig Catfish are also used to hiding along with the wood pieces when they are stressed, or simply when they need to relax. For this purpose, you can get pieces of driftwood and bogwood for the tank.

You should place them in abundance, at least enough that each of the fish in your tank gets a few pieces to lay upon.

Apart from wood, plantation is also a must for the tank. Some of the ideal plants that you can place include water wisteria, hornwort, and other types of floating plants.

Twig Catfish swim and hide around these plants, and also like to munch on the algae and other edibles on their tips.

Common Diseases

Thankfully, Twig Catfish don’t have any kind of diseases that are specific to their species, and their health is largely dependent on the type and quality of care you provide them with.

Although this isn’t a proven or researched fact, these fish are prone to two common types of diseases: Ich and fin rot. Ich is short for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which is a ciliated protozoan that causes white spots to appear all over their body. This is why Ich is also called white spot disease.

Ich can be easily spread to other fish in the aquarium, and you should administer over-the-counter medication to them on time. Although Ich isn’t a severe disease, not treating it in time can prove to be lethal for their health.

The second condition, fin rot, is common among several freshwater fish, and it causes their fins to become discolored and feeble. It is caused due to a fungal or bacterial infection, and it can cause the fin to chip off slowly.

Although these fish don’t swim around a lot, fin rot will render them unable to swim properly. Luckily, you can also find over-the-counter medication to treat this condition, and it will result in their fins growing back after some time.

Even though Twig Catfish don’t have any species-specific diseases, they aren’t particularly hardy. This means that you should maintain the water conditions consistently so that you can keep their health at optimal levels.

What Do Twig Catfish Eat?

The diet of Twig Catfish is a cause of confusion and misinformation, even among experts. In their natural habitat, these fish feast on algae and biofilm that is found in plants and on the surface of the wood. Since these are readily available, Farlowella fish like to scavenge for food.

In the aquarium, you can provide them with sinking plant-based pellets and vegetables. These fish aren’t fussy eaters, so they will eat a variety of foods. Just like you should keep the water conditions consistent, you should also maintain consistency in their diet.

Behavior & Temperament

Twig Catfish are quite peaceful and friendly fish, and they like to chill out in the aquarium while scavenging for food. If you aren’t used to such species of fish, you would be surprised to see how rarely they move around.

Their laidback temperament and stick-like appearance help them hide from predators in the wild. Since they like to lay on flat surfaces, they are usually found in the lower levels of the aquarium.

However, they may also be found in the middle layers if they find a flat surface.

Since they don’t move or swim around much, these fish can be easily frightened and get stressed, which is why you should try to keep their stress levels down as much as possible.

Twig Catfish Tank Mates

Due to their behavior, Twig Catfish are quite selective about tank mates. If you pair them with the wrong type of species, they will become very stressed and it would add to their health problems.

Generally, you need to pair them with species that have the same temperament, particularly fish that aren’t too large. Experts have also noticed that smaller but active fish are known to spook Farlowella due to their exciting nature.

Some of the suitable tank mates for the Twig Catfish include:

These are the most popular options for tank mates, but they aren’t the only ones that you can pair your Twig Catfish with. Ideally, you can place them in a tank with the same species, as they will get along quite well. Remember to increase the tank size as you add more fish.


The breeding process for Twig Catfish is quite easy, and you can get them to mate if you maintain proper water conditions. Additionally, you should also have a balanced ratio of female to male species, so that they get along well and this increases the chances of breeding.

If you are looking to observe the mating process, you won’t be able to do so, because these fish do it at night. In the aquarium, the females will lay their eggs and place them on the glass. The male will guard the eggs and keep them clean for a week, after which the eggs will hatch.

Following this, the fry will start swimming around in the aquarium. You should provide them with sufficient food for their growth. They typically thrive on algae and vegetables, and you should also maintain the water conditions.

Final Thoughts

By now, you have a good idea of how Twig Catfish are, and how easy or difficult it can be to take care of them. To take care of them, you have to be committed to their care, and also make their care regimen a daily part of your routine.

These are some of the unique fish species that you may find for your aquarium, and it is fun to see them lying around your aquarium. If you want to keep them in your aquarium, make sure to have this guide handy so that you can take care of them properly.