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Banjo Catfish

By | Last Updated: 29th October 2020

Banjo catfish, or the guitarrito of the Aspredinidae family, is indigenous to the Amazon basin region. The name “banjo catfish” is even used to identify all the family’s 43 species and not just this one individually. Described in 1874 by Cope, the first part of its scientific name, “Bunocephalus” means bumpy head in English, absolutely justifying its appearance. They also appear long and slender, just like a guitar, no wonder their name banjo.

Banjo Catfish

Quick Information

Scientific NameBunocephalus coracoideus
Other NamesGuitarrito, two-colored banjo catfish, bicolor banjo catfish
OriginIn the creeks and ponds of Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (by the IUCN)
Behavioral CharacteristicsPeaceful, adaptable, but a little inactive
School Size5 – 6
Physical Traits (What do they look like)Wide head; a long, slender body that remains compressed laterally covered with projections resembling warts, arranged horizontally; small eyes; prominent pectoral fins; long tail
ScalesThey lack scales
ColorsLight tan  base, brown splotches on its tail; light-colored dots covering its entire body
Size (How big do they get)Small; 15.01 cm (5.9 inches)
Lifespan8 – 12 years
Sexual DimorphismPresent; though males and females are closely similar, the latter have a rounder and fuller belly
Probable DiseasesSkin problems since they lack scales
Approximate Price (How much are they for)$ 7 – 10

Tank Setup & Care Sheet Details

Care LevelBeginner
Tank Size18 gallons (68 liters)

Water Parameters

pH Level6.0 – 8.0
Temperature75° – 82° F (24° – 28° C)
Hardness5 – 9 dGH
Aquarium Water FlowSlow

Tank Ambience

LightingDim and subdued
Substrate TypeFine sand and gravel
Tank MatesCompatible with: Tetras, dwarf cichlids, other peaceful catfish species

Incompatible with: Big and aggressive species like those belonging to the cichlid and tang family They also do not do well when kept with invertebrates like shrimps, snails, and crabs
Suitable Position in the TankBottom


Diet  (What do they eat)Frozen or live meaty food like daphnia, tubifex, and bloodworms; flakes, and pellets  
Frequency2- 3 times a day
Banjo Catfish Size
Banjo Catfish Picture

Important Things To Know For Fish Keepers

  • Keep a watch on what the banjo catfish eat as they have an affinity towards stuffing themselves with a lot of food, being bloated. The abdomen looks big and swollen in such cases.


Q. Does the banjo catfish play dead?

Yes, the banjo catfish does play dead, lying still at the bottom of the aquarium, not moving at all. These fish adopt this technique as a part of their defense mechanism to save themselves from predators.

Q. Can banjo catfish live in brackish water?

Though a freshwater fish, most of the banjo catfish species can thrive in brackish water too. When keeping them in salt water, ensure that the water’s specific gravity level is adjusted well.

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