Black Lancer Catfish: The Elusive Bagrichthys macracanthus

elusive jet black Bagrichthys macracanthus black lancer catfish
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 20, 2024
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The black lancer catfish, famous for its jet-black shade and intriguing antics, is a spellbinding freshwater fish. Growing up to several inches long, these fish make any aquarium stand out. Their cool dorsal fin isn’t just for looks—it’s a part of their magic. Keeping them happy means getting the water just right, with perfect temperature and pH levels. If you love aquariums or are just starting, the black lancer catfish offers a thrilling dive into the wonders of underwater life. **Don’t miss out on this enchanting experience!**

Article Summary

  • Black lancer catfish are captivating freshwater fish known for their sleek black coloration and intriguing behavior, making them ideal additions to aquariums.
  • These fish belong to the species Bagrichthys macracanthus and are native to Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
  • Black lancer catfish have unique physical features, including jet black coloration, an elongate and laterally compressed caudal peduncle, and a distinctive dorsal fin spine.

Species Overview

The black lancer catfish, also known as Bagrichthys macracanthus, belongs to the Order Siluriformes and the Family Bagridae. This species is native to Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

Bagrichthys macracanthus has distinct physical features that make it visually striking. Its jet black coloration is distinct among other catfishes. It has an elongate and laterally compressed caudal peduncle (the narrow part of the fish’s body just before the tail). The dorsal-fin spine has dorsally-directed serrations. These fish have united gill membranes and a long adipose fin without a free posterior margin.

When fully grown, black lancer catfish can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. They have a lifespan of approximately 6 to 10 years.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

To ensure the well-being of your black lancer catfish, it’s crucial to create the right habitat and tank conditions. Here are some key factors to consider:

Tank Size and Set Up

Black lancer catfish prefer spacious tanks with plenty of room for swimming. Providing a large aquarium will give them the freedom to move around comfortably.

Water Parameters

Maintaining appropriate water parameters is essential for the health of your black lancer catfish. They thrive in well-oxygenated water with a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5.

Temperature: Keep the water temperature within the range of 24 – 28 °C.

pH: Aim for a pH level between 5.5 and 7.0.

Hardness: The recommended hardness level ranges from 18 to 268 ppm.

Substrate and Decor

Creating a suitable environment in terms of substrate and decor is vital for your black lancer catfish’s well-being. Use fine gravel or sand as the substrate, mimicking their natural habitat. Provide hiding spots such as caves or driftwood to reduce stress levels for your fish.

By incorporating these elements into your aquarium setup, you can replicate the natural habitat of black lancer catfish, promoting their overall comfort and reducing any potential stressors they may encounter.

Remember, maintaining optimal tank conditions ensures that your black lancer catfish thrives in its environment, leading to healthier and happier fish!

Aquarium Gravel
Aquarium Gravel

Tankmates and Temperament

The Black Lancer Catfish is known for its peaceful behavior. Despite having a small mouth that can only handle prey a few millimeters in size, this catfish generally gets along well with other fish in the tank. However, it’s important to note that there may be some aggression towards other bottom-dwelling catfish.


The Black Lancer Catfish is initially shy but tends to be peaceful once it becomes comfortable in its environment. It is not an aggressive species and poses no threat to larger fish due to its limited ability to consume larger prey. This means you don’t have to worry about your other fish becoming dinner for the Black Lancer Catfish.

Compatible Tank Mates

If you want to see your Black Lancer Catfish more often, consider keeping it with “dither” fishes like rasboras or barbs. These active swimmers will encourage the catfish to come out of hiding and explore the tank more frequently.

These catfish are generally compatible with other peaceful, non-aggressive fish that prefer similar water conditions. Here are some suitable tank mates for the black lancer catfish:

Tetras: Small fish species like neon tetras, cardinal tetras, and glowlight tetras are great choices. They are small, peaceful, and prefer similar water conditions as the black lancer catfish.

Corydoras Catfish: Corydoras catfish, also known as “cories,” make excellent tank mates for the black lancer catfish. They are bottom-dwelling fish that are peaceful and enjoy similar water conditions.

Gouramis: Dwarf gouramis or honey gouramis can be good companions for the black lancer catfish. They are peaceful and can add some color and variety to the aquarium.

Rasboras: Harlequin rasboras or lambchop rasboras are suitable tank mates. These small, peaceful fish thrive in similar water conditions and can create a visually appealing display in the aquarium.

Livebearers: Species like platies, mollies, and guppies can be compatible tank mates. They are peaceful and can add some lively activity to the aquarium.

Loaches: Certain loach species, such as the kuhli loach or the yoyo loach, can be suitable companions for the black lancer catfish. These bottom-dwelling fish are peaceful and enjoy similar water conditions.

Tank Mates to Avoid

While the Black Lancer Catfish is generally peaceful, it can become territorial towards other benthic species, especially conspecifics (other members of the same species). To prevent any conflicts or stress in the tank, it’s best to avoid keeping multiple Black Lancer Catfish together or introducing other similar bottom-dwelling species.

Remember, maintaining a harmonious community tank requires careful consideration of each fish’s temperament and compatibility. By choosing compatible tank mates and avoiding potential conflicts, you can create a peaceful and thriving aquatic environment for your Black Lancer Catfish and its companions.

Black Lancer Catfish Care

The care of black lancer catfish is essential to ensure their well-being in an aquarium. Here are some recommendations for providing optimal care for these fascinating creatures.

Care Recommendations

Monitoring ammonia levels is crucial as black lancer catfish are sensitive to poor water conditions. Regular water changes help maintain the best possible water quality for these fish.

Food and Diet

In their natural habitat, black lancer catfish feed on small benthic animals and organic detritus. In an aquarium setting, they readily accept a variety of foods, including small live and frozen fare such as Artemia, Tubifex, and bloodworms.

Bloodworms in White Background

Common Diseases and Prevention

Although generally hardy, black lancer catfish can be susceptible to parasitic and bacterial infections. Appropriate medication can effectively treat these diseases. When introducing them to an aquarium, it is important to acclimate them slowly to minimize stress.

Taking proper care of your black lancer catfish will contribute to their overall health and longevity. By monitoring water parameters, providing a varied diet, and taking preventive measures against diseases, you can create a suitable environment for these captivating fish.

Breeding the Black Lancer Catfish

The black lancer catfish is a fascinating species, but its breeding habits remain largely unrecorded in captivity. In the wild, these catfish exhibit unique reproductive behaviors. During the wet season, adults migrate to temporarily-flooded areas to spawn.

Males are usually larger and possess longer pectoral fins compared to females. During the breeding period, males develop a larger and more muscular head as well.

Breeding black lancer catfish in captivity can be quite challenging due to their secretive nature. However, if you’re up for the task, here’s what you need to know:

Reproduction Habits

  • In their natural habitat, black lancer catfish lay eggs on flat surfaces such as slate or ceramic tiles.
  • The eggs typically hatch within a few days after being laid.
  • Providing suitable spawning sites that mimic their natural environment is crucial for successful breeding attempts.

Tips for Breeding Success

  • Create an environment with hiding spots like caves or PVC pipes where the fish can feel secure during breeding.
  • Maintain optimal water conditions with appropriate temperature and pH levels.
  • Offer a varied diet consisting of live or frozen foods to ensure proper nutrition for both male and female fish.

Although there may not be extensive documentation on breeding black lancer catfish in captivity, dedicated hobbyists have successfully bred them by closely observing their natural behaviors and providing suitable conditions.

Remember that patience is key when attempting to breed these elusive creatures. With time, experience, and careful attention to their needs, you may find yourself successfully raising a new generation of black lancer catfish in your own aquarium!

Frequently Asked Questions

What size tank do I need for a black lancer catfish?

A black lancer catfish requires at least a 30-gallon tank due to its active nature and potential growth size of up to 6 inches.

Do black lancer catfish require special water conditions?

While they are adaptable to various water parameters, maintaining stable temperatures between 72-78°F (22-25°C), pH levels around 6.5-7.5, and moderate water flow is ideal for their well-being.

Can I keep multiple black lancer catfish together?

Yes, you can keep multiple black lancer catfish together as they are social creatures; however, ensure there is enough space in the tank to prevent territorial conflicts.

What should I feed my black lancer catfish?

Black lancers are omnivorous and will accept a variety of foods such as sinking pellets or tablets specifically designed for bottom-dwelling fish. Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small crustaceans.

How can I encourage breeding in black lancer catfish?

To encourage breeding, provide a separate breeding tank with soft, acidic water conditions and ample hiding spots. Increase the temperature slightly to simulate the onset of the rainy season. Conditioning the fish with high-quality live or frozen foods can also help stimulate spawning behavior.

Image Reference

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