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Bunocephalus spp. (Dystichthys spp.)
Banjo Catfishes

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Banjo Catfishes - Bunocephalus spp.

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Bunocephalus_coracoideus_1.jpg (19kb)
Photo Credit: Zeco Carvalho

Name: Bunocephalus spp.**
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: South America
30 cm 250 L 6.8 25C


**Note: There are several different species of Banjo Catfishes whose adult sizes range from 8 to 30 cm, and minimum recommendable tank size varies accordingly from 100 to 250 L. For now we'll keep comments for all species on this page since the general fishkeeping conditions are very similar, but if you know exactly which species you own, please refer to it in your comment!

Contributed by Marcos Avila

Banjo Cats may appear sluggish and dead, but their uses are priceless. These catfish are prone to burrow in the aquarium - not so much as to disturb planted tanks, but just enough to release any harmful trapped gases beneath the substrate. I have had one of them in my 280 L planted tank, for about three years now. He might look like a rock just laying on the bottom, but when you drop a shrimp pellet in the tank, he sure does become alive!

Contributed by Adam Martin

I have 6 banjo cats; I believe them all to be B. coracoideus. Mine are currently all around the 8 cm mark, and should grow at least another 8 cm. I have no clue as to sexing them, though I have read accounts that they have been bred in captivity without the use of hormones. I rarely see these fish; don't buy them if you're the kind of catfish nut used to seeing your pim pictus dashing around the glass, and hope for similar behavior! Sand substrate is truly best for them, since they do tend to burrow down. Largely nocturnal creatures, but I have seen mine dart out of the sand when I feed New Life Spectrum pellets. Overall, I'd say these fish are darn near perfect citizens. They are not predatory in the ways of the pictus or other larger cats; they will feast on dead fish, but won't actively chase them down. One of my tanks with a banjo has bronze cory fry, and not a single one has vanished. Basic info reinstated: nocturnal catfish. Feed mostly at night to ensure they do in fact get fed! Chances are that you won't see them for days sometimes, even weeks. Very reclusive; they don't seem to need to be in groups, as far as my experience goes. Sand substrate a must. Very slow and poor swimmers compared to most cats, poor eyesight. I'd recommend them to anyone who likes having a good sand sifting fish, but one that does his job sight unseen!

Contributed by Taratron

There are over 500 different species of banjo catfish. I have had a smaller species for 6 years. It is peaceful and very lazy. When I have to take him out for some reason I just go in and slowly pick him up. They're excellent cleaners and can be housed with a large variety of tankmates. They're great for sensitive fish like discus, because of their peaceful nature and no quick movements. They are also nocturnal, so you never do see them move. For all the 6 years I have had mine I have never seen it swim, and the only way I know he's not dead is when I see his tail sticking out of the substrate. It's always in a different spot in the tank. The only tankmate I really don't recommend is the crawdad.

Contributed by a visitor

I have had a Buncephalus coracoideus for almost a year. I'm very interested in oddballs and thought he fell in this category. The guy at the pet shop said I would never see him in my tank, but I bought him anyway. He likes to hide in the gravel behind the plants. He usually only comes out at night, but somtimes (rarely) he will come out during the day. You would think he doesn't move at all, but every once and a while when I'm bored late at night I will trick him: I turn the lights off and wait for about five minutes, then turn the lights on real quick and I will find him vigorously burrowing into my gravel looking for food. But I can only wintness a few seconds of this because he almost instantly freezes when I turn the lights back on. I have also witnessed him dart quite quickly across the tank. So these fish don't do just nothing, they just come out at night. If only I had some night vision glasses I could see just how interesting they are. I do know that they are carnivorous and prefer live bloodworms, they will also nibble on shrimp pellets but I'm not sure what else he eats. I do know that when I first purchased him some of my baby neons disappeared for the first two weeks only at night and I would have to replace them. But this hasn't happened for a long time and I could never prove that it was him, since I never witnessed it. I love him and hope to get another tank with sand instead of gravel to put him in with other fish I have yet to purchase. He keeps the gravel clean and is worth having, even if you never see him.

Contributed by Terra Moore

I am not sure what species my banjo cat is, but found one of the previous comments interesting. The only way that I also can tell if it is still alive, is that it appears in a different area of the tank (225 L). I think I have only seen it swim a few times. Gets along very well (from what I can tell) with the other tank mates, about as good as all of the other non-moving objects. They are an interesting looking cat.

Contributed by Jeff Whitcomb

I have one of these, got it almost two years ago. It is small and I almost never see it move, but I love it. It is beautiful, it's behaviour is elegant and full of mystery. I recommend it strongly to anyone interested in rare fishes and catfishes, which are my favorite. It is easy to keep, mine lives with my medium size guppy fry in peace.

Contributed by Kurazaybo Martinez

I have found that banjo catfish are definitely not social during the day, and don't seem to like any form of light. I'm not quite sure what exact species of banjo catfish I have. He hasn't burrowed at all in the fine gravel, but I expect that he will when he gets bigger. They are definitely an odd fish, and at least mine is not aggressive. My Cuvier's bichir likes to poke him while he's snoozing. All in all a great addition to any community tank that can house them.

Contributed by Travis Douglas

I purchased my Banjo Catfish aproximately one year ago, he is small at less than 4 cm. My son and I referred to him as "The Waste of Money" for most of that time, because he was never anywhere to be seen, however, as of a month ago he has become quite active, coming out to eat most every time I put food in the tank. He is great looking and fun to watch.

Contributed by John Bird

I bought two banjos because I needed someone to clean the bottom from the leftovers from tetras and guppies. I got two of them (a male and female I suppose), but they do not eat leftovers, so I have to feed them exclusively - results in overfeeding and often gravel cleaning. I haven't got a clue what species are mine, but if they grow much more than now I will have to make a gift to someone.

Contributed by Savelii

I have noticed that banjo catfish may sometimes elect to propel themselves by gulping and squirting water from their gills instead of swimming normally. They usually do this when moving about in the daytime to avoid tipping off larger tankmates.

Contributed by Brendan

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