Firewood Catfish: A Comprehensive Care Guide

firewood catfish at the bottom of the substrate
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 20, 2024
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**Firewood catfish**, with their distinct looks, are truly amazing. Loved by **aquarium fans**, these fish show off **bright colors** and cool patterns on their scales. Their **slim bodies** and long whiskers make any tank look extra pretty. Plus, they’re super friendly, so they get along well with many other fish. Enjoy the magic of these captivating creatures that bring so much life to aquariums everywhere.

Article Summary

  • Firewood catfish are unique and popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to their vibrant colors and distinct physical characteristics.
  • They belong to the Pimelodidae family and are native to the Amazon River basin in South America.
  • The population of firewood catfish is vulnerable to extinction due to overfishing.

Species Overview

Firewood catfish, also known as “Sorubimichthys planiceps,” belong to the Pimelodidae family. They are native to South America, specifically the Amazon Oronico River basins. This species has a cylindrical body shape, flattened head, and a long caudal fin. Their coloration varies but often includes a broad cream stripe from the gill cover to the caudal peduncle.

Origin and Distribution

Firewood catfish are primarily found in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins of South America. However, their population is vulnerable to extinction due to overfishing. Commercial fisheries have observed a decline in the average size of firewood catfish captured.

Physical Characteristics

The firewood catfish has distinct physical characteristics that set it apart from other species. Its cylindrical body shape, flattened head, and long caudal fin contribute to its unique appearance. It exhibits variable coloration with a prominent cream stripe extending from the gill cover to the caudal peduncle.

Size, Growth Rate, and Lifespan

Firewood catfish can grow up to an impressive size of 1500mm or 59.1″ SL (standard length). The growth rate of these fish can vary depending on various factors such as food availability and environmental conditions. In terms of lifespan, specific data regarding the firewood catfish’s longevity is currently limited.

Amazon River
The Amazon River is home to the Firewood Catfish

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Firewood catfish, also known as the aquarium trade name “firewood,” have specific habitat and tank requirements to thrive in a captive environment.

Tank Size and Set Up

Providing them with a spacious tank is essential. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for a single firewood catfish. These fish prefer well-oxygenated water, similar to their natural habitat.

Water Parameters

Maintaining stable water parameters is crucial for the well-being of firewood catfish. The pH range should be maintained between 6.0 and 7.6, while the temperature range should be kept between 24.0-28.0°C or 75.2-82.4°F.

Firewood catfish are typically found in whitewaters high in suspended sediments, so replicating this environment can benefit their overall health.

Substrate and Decor

To ensure the comfort of your firewood catfish, it’s important to provide them with appropriate substrate and decor options within their tank setup. These fish require ample hiding spots like caves or driftwood where they can retreat when feeling stressed or threatened.

Adding live plants to the aquarium not only provides additional hiding places but also aids in maintaining water quality by absorbing excess nutrients.

75 Gallon Fish Tank in a Wooden Stand
Ensure you have a well planted aquarium with ample swimming space for your Firewood Catfish

Tankmates and Temperament

They can be quite territorial towards other bottom-dwelling fish. These voracious predators have a tendency to consume other fishes in the tank. However, they generally get along well with peaceful mid-water and surface-dwelling species.

Compatible Tank Mates

When considering compatible tank mates for the firewood catfish (Sorubimichthys planiceps), it is important to choose species that can coexist peacefully and have similar habitat and dietary requirements. Consider large catfishes from the families Pimelodidae or Doradidae. These species are known to coexist peacefully with firewood catfish.

The firewood catfish is a large, predatory species native to South America, so it is best to select tank mates that are of a similar size and temperament.

One suitable tank mate for the firewood catfish is the silver dollar fish (Metynnis species). Silver dollars are peaceful, schooling fish that can tolerate similar water conditions as the firewood catfish. They are also herbivorous, which means they won’t compete for the same food sources.

Another compatible tank mate option is the black ghost knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons). This nocturnal species is known for its unique appearance and peaceful nature. They are also bottom-dwellers like the firewood catfish, which means they are less likely to compete for space within the aquarium.

Additionally, the firewood catfish can be kept with other large, peaceful cichlids such as the Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) or the Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata). These cichlids are known for their vibrant colors and can tolerate the territorial nature of the firewood catfish.

It is important to note that while these species can be compatible tank mates, it is crucial to provide a spacious aquarium with plenty of hiding spots and territories to minimize aggression. Regular monitoring of water parameters and proper filtration is also necessary to ensure the well-being of all tank inhabitants.

Tank Mates to Avoid

On the other hand, it’s important to avoid keeping firewood catfish with aggressive or fin-nipping tank mates. Firewood catfish may become stressed or injured if housed with such companions.

Remember, creating a harmonious community in your aquarium requires careful consideration of the temperament and compatibility of different fish species. By selecting appropriate tank mates for your firewood catfish, you can ensure a peaceful and thriving aquatic environment.

Firewood Catfish Care

Firewood catfish require a balanced diet consisting of high-quality sinking pellets. These pellets should be the primary source of nutrition for the catfish. Occasional live or frozen foods like daphnia and protein-filled bloodworms can be provided as a treat or supplement to their diet.

Monitoring the health of firewood catfish closely is crucial in preventing common diseases such as ich or fungal infections. Look out for signs of illness, such as white spots on their bodies or fins, abnormal behavior, or any visible signs of distress.

If any signs of disease are observed, prompt action should be taken to address the issue and prevent further spread within the tank.

To ensure the well-being of firewood catfish, it is important to create an environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible. This includes providing appropriate hiding spots like caves or driftwood where they can seek shelter when needed.

Breeding the Firewood Catfish

Breeding firewood catfish in captivity can be quite challenging due to their specific requirements. To successfully breed these unique fish, it is crucial to set up a separate breeding tank with suitable spawning sites.

Recommended Tank Set Up

Creating the ideal environment for firewood catfish reproduction is essential. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Provide a spacious breeding tank that mimics their natural habitat, ensuring ample swimming space.
  • Maintain a temperature range of 75-82°F (24-28°C) and a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5.
  • Install hiding spots like caves or PVC pipes where the catfish can lay their eggs.
  • Use soft substrate like sand or fine gravel, as it resembles their native riverbeds.
White Sand
Make use of fine sand to simulate their natural riverbeds

Breeding Process

Once you have set up the breeding tank, it’s time for the catfish to do their thing! The male will guard the eggs until they hatch, which usually takes around 3-4 days. During this time, it is crucial not to disturb the eggs or stress out the parents.

After hatching, it’s best to separate the fry from the adult fish to ensure their safety and proper growth. Transfer them into a separate rearing tank equipped with appropriate filtration and regular water changes.

Fry Care

Caring for firewood catfish fry requires attention and diligence. Here are some tips:

  • Feed them small live or frozen foods such as baby brine shrimp or finely crushed flakes.
  • Maintain good water quality with regular testing and frequent partial water changes.
  • Keep an eye on any signs of disease or stress and take prompt action if needed.

By following these guidelines for tank setup, breeding process, and fry care, you’ll increase your chances of successfully breeding firewood catfish in captivity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size tank is suitable for firewood catfish?

Firewood catfish require at least a 20-gallon tank due to their active nature. However, providing them with more space in a larger tank is always beneficial.

Can firewood catfish be kept with aggressive fish?

It is not recommended to keep firewood catfish with aggressive species as they are peaceful by nature. They may become stressed or injured in such environments.

How often should I feed my firewood catfish?

Feed your firewood catfish small portions of high-quality food twice a day. Ensure they consume all the food within a few minutes to avoid overfeeding.

Do firewood catfish require special lighting?

Firewood catfish do not have any specific lighting requirements but prefer dimly lit tanks with plenty of hiding spots.

Can I breed firewood catfish in home aquariums?

Breeding firewood catfish can be challenging due to their specific breeding requirements. It is recommended to set up a separate breeding tank with suitable conditions for successful breeding.

How big do firewood (Sorubimichthys planiceps) catfish get?

Firewood catfish, scientifically known as Sorubimichthys planiceps, are known for their substantial size. These catfish can grow quite large, with adults reaching lengths of up to 3 feet or more (approximately 90 centimeters to over 1 meter).

Their impressive size makes them a popular choice among aquarists who have spacious aquariums or outdoor ponds. Providing ample space and suitable conditions is essential to accommodate the growth of these magnificent catfish in captivity.

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