Striped Raphael Catfish are great freshwater species that often overlooked by many aquarists. But trust us, there’s a lot to like about this species.
These fish have a really neat look and are super easy to care for.
They’re also a ton of fun to watch too! Unlike some other catfish species who just hunker down 24/7, these guys love to put on a show.
Since this species is one of our favorites we wanted to put together a helpful guide for you. It will teach you everything you need to know about Striped Raphael Catfish care plus other useful facts that will make you a better owner!
Table of Contents
While there are several species of catfish that you can add to your freshwater aquarium, none are quite as interesting as the Striped Raphael Catfish (Platydoras armatulus). Also known as Chocolate Doradid, Thorny Catfish, and even Talking Catfish, these creatures have some very distinct characteristics.
They are native to waters in South America. The reach of the Striped Raphael Catfish is quite wide. They have been observed around the Amazon River Basin, throughout Colombia, in Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and more!
It’s a good thing that these fish are prevalent in the wild. Unlike other freshwater catfish, these critters usually don’t breed in captivity. Thus, most of the specimens that you see in fish stores are wild-caught.
Luckily, caring for the Striped Raphael Catfish is pretty easy. They’re well-armored fish that can adapt to a wide range of settings. Once they get settled in, they will undoubtedly be an interesting addition to your tank.
In captivity, the typical lifespan of Striped Raphael Catfish is known to be roughly 10 years.
However, there’s a lot of variables involved. Fish kept in pristine environments have been known to live to be 15 or more years!
While they might be tough, these catfish are still sensitive to water conditions and the quality of their habitat. Poor living arrangements could shorten their lifespan quite a bit. So if you want your fish to live as long as possible, you’ll need to stay vigilant about their care for years to come.
These bottom-dwelling fish have a very unique look. They have a torpedo-like shape. Their heads are large and wide, but their profile tapers off towards the tail.
As their name would suggest, these fish have stripes that run along the length of their body. Usually, these stripes are white, which stands out nicely against their dark-brown or black bodies. However, some fish may have stripes that are more on the yellow side.
The stripes run laterally. There’s one on the top of their head and a thicker stripe on each side of their body. The wider body stripes meet at the head. The belly of the fish is also white, creating the appearance of a third stripe that connects with the pectoral fins.
Like many other freshwater catfish species, the Striped Raphael is heavily protected. They have curved spines that run along the entire body. That’s not all!
These fish have sharp and rigid ray fins. Whenever the fish is feeling threatened, they will pop their fins up for protection. You have to exercise caution when moving the fish! The rays are quite sharp and can do a considerable amount of damage.
This is especially true with the pectoral fins. The front ray of the pectoral fin is serrated and has a sharp hook on the end. These fish have been known to get entangled with nets. As a result, it’s important to use a glass or plastic container when moving them.
Another identifying feature of the Striped Raphael Catfish is their barbels. In total, there are three pairs of barbels. The longest pair is on the upper jaw. The other two pairs are a bit shorter and are located on the lower mandible.
Distinguishing between male and female Striped Raphael Catfish is very difficult. Some say that males are slimmer and take on more vivid coloration, but there are no defined rules regarding sexing just yet.
There is, however, some distinctions between age. Younger juvenile fish have much brighter coloration. These fish tend to dull out as they get older.
It’s believed that the brighter coloration on juveniles is to let other fish know that they are peaceful feeders. Juveniles can clean the skin of larger fish. Though, they tend to grow out of this as they get a bit bigger.
Striped Raphael Catfish Size
When fully grown, the average Striped Raphael Catfish size is around 6 inches in length. However, they’re fully capable of getting much bigger than that when kept in a large tank.
Many aquarists have reported their fish getting to be anywhere between 7.9 and 9.4 inches long in good environments.
Author Note: In the wild, they can allegedly get up to 17 inches long! However, those reports have yet to be verified so take them with a grain of salt.
Thanks to their tough build and hardy nature, Striped Raphael Catfish care is not very challenging. These fish adapt well and aren’t particularly fussy with specific water requirements.
Even still, keeping these fish in a heavily monitored environment is paramount. Like any other freshwater fish, these catfish can get sick and respond negatively when kept in poor conditions.
To ensure that your fish live long and happy lives, you’ll need to stick to the established care guidelines below. As long as you stick to our recommendations you’ll be all set!
We recommend going with a tank size of at least 50 gallons when keeping Striped Raphael Catfish. While not massive, these fish are reasonably-sized which means they’ll need a bit of space.
While a lot of aquarists claim that a 30-gallon tank is plenty for these fish, we disagree. This species is actually rather active for a catfish and will spend a decent amount of time exploring the aquarium.
A smaller tank will make that difficult and will also stunt their potential growth. Considering their large rayed fins, you have to be generous with about how much room these fish have to swim.
Author Note: It’s also worth pointing out that going with a tank that’s too small will likely raise their stress levels, which ultimately leads to disease. As a result, it’s always good to go with a larger tank. This is especially true if you plan on keeping this species with other fish.
Striped Raphael Catfish aren’t too demanding when it comes to exact water parameters. They can actually tolerate a lot.
However, you still need to stay with acceptable ranges to avoid stress and disease.
These fish are tropical bottom dwellers. They are usually found hanging around the sandy bottom of rivers and streams. Most often, their environments are teeming with plants and vegetation. They’ve been known to frequent waters around tree roots as well.
To replicate that environment, you’ll need to ensure that the water in your tank is warm, slightly hard, and relatively neutral in terms of pH. Here are some parameter ranges to follow:
- Water temperature: 75°F to 80°F
- pH levels: 6.0 to 8.0 (6.5 to 7.5 is preferred)
- Water hardness: 4 to 20 dKH
Early on in your ownership, it’s a good idea to perform water tests every day or two until you’re sure these fish are used to their tank. This is a habit you’ll want to maintain going forward (you can be a little less frequent with the tests though).
What To Put In Their Tank
The two most important things you’ll need to provide your catfish with is a nice sandy bottom and plenty of places to hide.
In the wild, Striped Raphael Catfish can be found searching for food at the bottom of whatever body of water they occupy. But don’t let them fool you, they’re fully capable of swimming near the top too!
If you spend enough time observing them (especially in the evening) you’ll witness this pretty frequently. However, they will always return to the bottom where they’ll resume scavenging.
Whenever they feel threatened, scared, or just want to feel safe, these fish will actually bury themselves in the sand for protection. This is behavior they’ll exhibit in the tank as well.
When you combine this with the fact that they’ll spend a lot of time at the bottom of your aquarium, a soft and sandy substrate is the obvious choice.
As for shelter, you’ll need things like caves, pipes, and driftwood. These fish are largely nocturnal, so they’ll hide out and rest during the day. Hiding places will help them feel protected while also sheltering them from the light.
Author Note: Live plans are preferred, but they’re not an absolute necessity since these fish can manage with or without them. That said, we like to include some floating aquarium plants to help keep the lighting dim for them during the day.
Common Possible Diseases
Striped Raphael Catfish are susceptible to the same kinds of diseases as other tropical fish. This includes fungal infections, parasitic infestations, and Ich.
Some say that catfish like the Striped Raphael are more susceptible to Ich than other fish species, so exercise caution.
The best way to avoid these common diseases is to simply keep the water conditions and quality in tip-top shape.
When conditions fall below an acceptable level, the chance of these fish becoming ill will skyrocket.
The best way to approach this is by sticking to a strict care routine. This means continually monitoring quality, making adjustments as needed, performing weekly water changes, and giving them the right food.
Striped Raphael Catfish Food & Diet
These catfish are omnivores that will eat whatever they can find. In the wild they’ll eat pretty much any mussels or crustaceans they encounter in the substrate, and will also snack on dead plant matter.
In captivity, Striped Raphael Catfish will consume leftover fish food, detritus, and more.
You must supplement their scavenging with sinking pellets, algae wafers, and other commercial pet foods. It’s also a good idea to provide some protein-rich snacks every once in a while, too. Foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and feeder shrimp are all good options.
However, be very careful not to overfeed these fish! Because of their massive appetite they can be prone to weight gain, which can dramatically shorten their lifespan.
Behavior & Temperament
As we mentioned earlier, Striped Raphael Catfish are usually nocturnal. They’ll spend much of the day hiding in the darkness.
However, once the lights go down, they’ll begin actively exploring the tank in search of food.
Many owners actually report that nocturnal behavior goes away after a while. Some fish will come out of hiding and start spending more and more time exploring during the day. You can also find them playing with other fish!
Overall Striped Raphael Catfish are quite peaceful. They haven’t been known to show aggression to other fish.
They may eat smaller fish or shrimp (because they mistake them for food), but they won’t harm other creatures that are of similar size.
Because they’re so large and sturdy, Striped Raphael Catfish can be kept with a wide range of tank mates. They do best with large peaceful fish though, because smaller critters will quickly become future snacks.
You can also keep them with aggressive species in many cases. Thanks to their large size and sharp fin rays, most aggressive fish won’t even bother attacking them.
Here are some good tank mates you can keep with a Striped Raphael Catfish:
- Black Skirt Tetra
- Bristlenose Pleco
- Jaguar Cichlid (you need some room for this pairing)
- Pictus Catfish
- African Butterfly Fish
- Oscar Fish (if there’s enough tank space)
- Bichir (best with large tanks)
- Congo Tetra
Author Note: Any of the popular freshwater aquarium snails should not be considered when planning tank mates. Your Raphael Catfish will almost certainly eat them.
Breeding Striped Raphael Catfish is nearly impossible in captivity. Most of the fish being sold are wild-caught. Those that aren’t might have been bred through hormonal injection.
There are currently no established methods for captive breeding. It’s thought that these fish release eggs into fast-moving rivers for fertilization, which may explain why breeding doesn’t occur in confined tanks.
If things change we’ll come back and update this portion of the guide to include updated information and breeding advice.
Give Them A Shot!
Since Striped Raphael Catfish care is something that anyone can handle, we strongly encourage you to give this species a chance.
We love them and know other aquarists who feel the same way. There’s something about watching them swim around that never gets old!
If you have any questions or suggestions on how we can improve this guide for future readers, reach out to us on social media or through our website. We’re committed to providing the most helpful care guides online, and need your help!