Spotted Raphael Catfish Species Profile: Size, Care, Tank Mates & Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

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Have you ever considered owning a Spotted Raphael catfish?

These exotic freshwater creatures, also known as the “talking catfish,” offer a unique and fascinating addition to any aquarium. With their striking appearance, behavior, and care requirements, Spotted Raphael catfish are popular among fish enthusiasts.

Did you also know they can live for over a decade with proper care?

In this species profile, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about caring for and owning a Spotted Raphael catfish, including their tank size, diet, behavior, and tank mates.

Spotted Raphael Catfish Species Overview

Spotted Raphael Catfish

The Spotted Raphael Catfish, also known as Agamyxis Pectinifrons, is a popular freshwater catfish native to South America.

They belong to the Doradidae family and are usually found in slow-moving streams and flooded forest areas in northern Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia. They can often be found hiding within dark waters enriched with tannins and white water, camouflaging themselves near roots, driftwood, and dry leaves.

These catfish are easy to care for and known to be peaceful. They prefer soft, slightly acidic water and are omnivores, feeding on a variety of live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, pellets, and vegetables.

Fun fact, the Spotted Raphael Catfish is one of the few “talking” catfish species that can communicate with each other through sounds made by stridulating their pectoral spines in their sockets. They can also amplify the sounds through their swim bladder.


Provided with stable water conditions and a well-balanced diet, the Spotted Raphael Catfish can thrive and live as long as 15 – 20 years in captivity.

In contrast, in their native environment, their lifespan is shorter than their aquarium-dwelling counterparts, with an average lifespan of only 10 years. The reason is that they are more prone to environmental conditions, disease, and predation in the wild.

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

Spotted Raphael Catfish have a typical catfish body shape, with a slightly flattened profile, rounded backs, and flat bellies.

Their appearance is marked by a pair of spike lines and eyes positioned on their heads, giving them a primitive and somewhat menacing look. However, peaceful and mild-mannered, these catfish make an excellent addition to the community tank. Their outward look is typically deceiving since they pose little to no threat to other fish species.

These catfish have broad mouths enveloped by three pairs of delicate barbels. Their skin is thick and tough and is entirely devoid of scales. Additionally, they boast an erect spiny dorsal fin, bony scutes aligned on their lateral line, and spines on their pectoral fins.

The coloration of the Spotted Raphael Catfish can range from a dark brown or black hue to nearly blue. Typically, the color of these catfish is observed to get darker as they age.

These captivating catfish have an understated pale-colored abdomen that prominently contrasts with their quirky, diverse body and fin patterns. They also flaunt irregular patterns of spots visible on their bodies and fins, varying from a bright white color to a pale yellow tone, adding to their already unique appearance.

Note: When handling the Spotted Raphael Catfish, it’s essential to be cautious as their bony scutes, pectoral fins, and dorsal fins can easily get tangled in fishnets and even puncture the skin. Hence, it’s best to avoid direct handling and instead opt for using either a glass or plastic container while transferring them.

Spotted Raphael Catfish Size

The spotted talking catfish can reach a length of 5.9 inches if adequately taken care of and fed, though they typically grow up to an average size of 5 inches. Providing ample space and a nutritious diet is essential to ensure optimal growth and good health.

Habitat & Care

Spotted Raphael Catfish

The Spotted Raphael Catfish can thrive well in a wide range of water parameters and are relatively easy to maintain and care for. Their hardy and adaptable nature makes them an ideal and suitable choice for beginner aquarists.

Here are a few tips to ensure they lead healthy lives:

1. Recommended Tank Size

The Spotted Raphael Catfish may not be a large fish, but they still require a considerable amount of space for swimming, exercising, scavenging food, and hiding. Therefore, it’s not advisable to keep them in Nano tanks.

If you plan to keep a single catfish, a 35-gallon tank would be the minimum requirement. On the other hand, if you plan to keep a small group of 3 to 5 catfish, you’ll need a more spacious tank that can hold around 55 to 75 gallons of water. Adequately spacing ensures these active swimmers thrive in a healthy and happy environment.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

The desired temperature for a tank hosting Spotted Raphael Catfish should be between 68°F and 79°F or 20°C and 26.1°C, which may require additional heating in the tank, depending on the weather conditions in your area.

As with most catfish, they prefer their water to be slightly acidic, with a pH range between 5.8 to 7.5. And though they prefer low water hardness, they are quite tolerant and can adjust to a range between 2 to 20 dGH.

3. What To Put In Their Tank

The Spotted Raphael catfish thrives in well-oxygenated water with a minimal flow rate. Maintaining high oxygen levels in your aquarium can be achieved by using an air stone and pump. And to avoid strong currents in the lower parts of your tank, you may need to baffle your filter. Also, again, you may need to invest in a heating system to regulate the water temperature in your aquarium, depending on the climatic conditions.

Of course, you’ll need to install a filter as well to help keep the water clean. The filtration system in your aquarium should be sized appropriately to the tank’s capacity and create a gentle flow of water. This ensures the water is circulating efficiently, allowing the filter to function optimally while also preventing strong currents that may stress your fish.

Since these catfish prefer dimly lit environments, it’s best to shade the tank with decorations or floating plants. Also, make sure to add rocks, driftwood, and branches and provide them with plenty of hiding spots. Doing so mimics their natural habitat, ensuring a comfortable and stress-free environment.

When it comes to selecting a substrate for your aquarium, you’ll want to use soft aquatic sand, soil, or fine gravel. The reason is that the Spotted Raphael catfish spend a considerable amount of time foraging at the bottom of the tank, making them susceptible to abrasions and injuries from rough substrates.

4. Common Spotted Raphael Catfish Diseases: What To Look Out For

Although the spotted talking catfish is a hardy species and very resilient, they are still susceptible to the same diseases that afflict other tropical fish, like White Spot disease, especially if the aquarium is not maintained properly.

And because they are scaleless fish, choosing the right medication when treating diseases is essential. Avoid using potassium permanganate or copper-based medications, as they could harm this species. Instead, suitable treatments include using Pimafix or Melafix at the recommended dosage.

The best way to prevent disease in your Spotted Raphael Catfish? Feed them a well-balanced diet and provide an environment closely mimicking their native habitat. The closer you can replicate their natural habitat, the less likely they are to develop illnesses.

Another proactive measure is to quarantine new fish, plants, substrate, or decorations in a separate tank before introducing them into your main aquarium. This will help to prevent the spread of any potential diseases that the new fish or decor may carry.

Diet of the Spotted Raphael Catfish

The Spotted Raphael catfish are omnivores. In the wild, they feed on various food sources, including small invertebrates, crustaceans, algae, fruits, biofilm, small fish, and other small prey items. So in captivity, they should also be fed a varied diet to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

The diet of your Spotted Raphael catfish should include a mix of frozen, live, and prepared foods such as high-quality sinking pellets, freeze-dried bloodworms and tubifex, brine shrimp, daphnia, whole or chopped earthworm, and flakes.

When feeding your Spotted Raphael catfish, give them small meals multiple times throughout the day rather than one large meal. This method ensures that your fish are receiving adequate nutrition without the risk of being overfed.

Additionally, it’s crucial to promptly remove any uneaten food from the aquarium to avoid any accumulation of debris in the tank that could cause water quality issues.

Temperament & Behavior

The Spotted Raphael catfish is a peaceful and somewhat shy fish. And since they are nocturnal, they tend to avoid bright lights and prefer hiding in the substrate or crevices among the rocks and driftwood during the daylight hours. They can be housed individually, though they prefer socializing in groups of four or more.

Compatible Tank Mates

Pearl Gouramis

Talking spotted catfish are known for their non-territorial behavior and peaceful nature, making them an ideal tankmate for a wide range of fish species. These friendly fish generally get along well with other fish and are unlikely to cause conflicts or aggression in an aquarium setup.

The only thing to keep in mind, though, is that they are opportunistic feeders and might try to consume smaller fish. So it’s best to only house them with fish species of a similar size or larger to prevent predation.

Some of the best tank mates for the Spotted Raphael Catfish include:

  • Acanthodoras
  • Amblydoras
  • Bunocephalus sp.
  • Carnegiella strigata
  • Central and South American cichlids
  • Gouramis
  • Otocinclus sp.
  • Platydoras
  • Rainbowfish
  • Tetras and Danio species
  • Tiger Barb
  • Zebra Pleco

Breeding the Spotted Raphael Catfish

Spotted Raphael catfish are believed to be bubble-nest builders, with the females laying their eggs among floating plants. However, little is known about their reproductive behavior, and much about their breeding habits remains a mystery.

Rare in the aquarium trade, captive-raised specimens have only been reported through successful spawning induced by artificial hormones.

Final Thoughts

The Spotted Raphael Catfish is ideal for people looking for a peaceful and unassuming addition to their tank.

Its unique pattern adds beauty and interest to the aquarium, while its hardy and easy-to-care-for nature makes it perfect for both beginner and experienced aquarists alike.

Just remember to provide them with a varied diet and plenty of hiding places so that they feel safe in their new home.

With the right combination of tank mates, proper nutrition, and regular maintenance, you can look forward to enjoying the beautiful Spotted Raphael Catfish for years to come. 

Happy Fishkeeping!