a farlowella

a farlowella

Q. I have recently purchased a Farlowella acus and have only been able to find basic information on its care. I know that it’s primarily nocturnal and eats algae. It is currently living in a 10-gallon South American biotope tank (plants, drift-wood, rocks and plenty of algae, pH 6.8, hardness 5 dH, and temperature 78 degrees Fahrenheit). There is an undergravel filter as well as an outside power filter. Twenty-percent water changes are done biweekly. Tankmates include: two angelfish, two Corydoras, three silver hatchets and some tetras. I feed the fish Tetra Staple flakes, Tabimin, frozen glasstvorms, Daphnia and brine shrimp. Will these foods appeal to my new catfish or should I seek other supplements? I don’t want anything to happen to my Farlowella I searched a long time to find it (I live in a small town and don’t often see such exotic specimens). How about devoting a column to the more unusual cats? Rob Darren CA
Q. Like so many of your readers, I too am trying to find a way to identify several species of Farlowella I keep. I have a tank full of tiny “half-breed” fry and I’d really like to figure out names of their parents ! It looks as though another spawning is imminent and it would be yet another species cross ! Sands mentions “almost 60 species of Farlowella known”. Do you suppose a number of these are “crosses” like those I now have ? I’ve found most books of little value in helping me solve my problem, and shops in my area are of no help. I do appreciate any help you can give me. Lucy Sweet, DA

A. Some things you should know about these interesting catfish. Let’s see if we can help. First, I’d like to clarify a common problem that comes up in many letters concerning the name Farlowella. It is the name of a genus. Briefly, in science, following Linnaeus’s work Systema Naturae (1758), a genus is a category of classification of fish. “Binary nomenclature” gives each fish two names, a genus name and a species (specific) name.

You may be asking yourself right now, why should this be confusing to aquarists keeping Farlowella? Well, systematics isn’t really the problem perhaps. The problem really stems from a “trade” name, royal farlowella. This catfish is not a Farlowella ! It belongs to the genus Sturisoma. I hope you’re not more confused than before. Anyway, to the problems at hand…Rob, I want you to think about what you wrote, “…eats algae”. I’m sure your community tank residents are thriving on the variety of foods you are currently feeding them and your Farlowella will probably adjust to some modifications in its diet. However, you did ask me for a suggestion, so…Hikari Algae Wafers are a wonderful food.

In addition, I’ve recently discovered Wardley’s “Spirulina Plus” flake food. Quite frankly, I consider it to be a miracle flake (no, I don’t work for Wardley). If I was being totally honest, this is the first Wardley food I’ve used in 10 years. They’ve certainly made some great changes. I only mention products that I really use myself (I’m pleased that so many readers have written in to tell me how much their catfish love Hikari Algae Wafers). It sounds to me like you’re doing everything else right as far as care of your Farlowella is concerned. I understand your apprehension/worry concerning your new “wish” fish. There’s nothing more frustrating than finally finding something you’ve always wanted and then having it die…you’ll do fine. Lucy, your inquiry about your Farlowella had my head spinning.

First I had to find your Sands reference concerning “almost 60 species”.  He does write that on page 90 in A Fishkeeper’s Guide to South American Catfishes. The same author also wrote regarding Farlowella, “…has an amazing 37 species ascribed to it…” in Catfishes of the World, volume 4, page 122. I guess the point is, it doesn’t really matter how many species there are, specific identification is always a problem. I suspect that we don’t even see six species imported for the aquarium trade, and country of origin (locale) is an important consideration for species identification. What really piqued my curiosity was your reference to “half-breed” fry. What makes you think that two different species of Farlowella are the parents? I really wish that you had provided more information about this I’m dying to know. I can’t find any references as to cross-spawning, and I don’t know of anyone else who has heard of it either.

Let’s assume for a moment that your Farlowella spawning is not a hybridization. These fish are sexually dimorphic the males and females look different. Males have small spine-like whiskers around their noses and sometimes on their noses and sometimes on their pectoral fins. They are generally smaller and slimmer than females I certainly don’t want to offend you because I want to hear an update from you but, could you have mistaken these sexual differences for a species change ? it sounds like an interesting idea to me but not for the reason you stated. observations or comments are never a “bother” they’re why we’re here. Speaking for myself, I feel like I’m making new friends who share the same interest. Recently, I was in Louisville, Kentucky, giving a talk on catfish (what a surprise) to their aquarium society.

And, Speaking Of Hybrids …

I feel I must comment on a new South American catfish I recently saw. The trade name of this fish, to the best of my knowledge, is “hybrid” catfish. Not one to mince words, let me say that I’m appalled. Why? Well, this is obviously another man-made fish a cross between a South American redtail cat and a tiger shovelnose. It’s extremely attractive at a juvenile size, about 4 to 5 inches, with the body shape of the redtail and the distinctive markings of the tiger shovelnose. Why would the genetic engineers want to create this fish for the aquarium trade? There are so many delightful real catfish available. My only hope is that it’s exorbitant price tag will stifle sales…then again, there is another solution. If you don’t buy this catfish, perhaps we car discourage the powers that be from doing things like this.