Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Bunocephalus coracoideus

Banjo catfish

Banjo catfish, Bunocephalus coracoideusBanjo catfish, Bunocephalus coracoideus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Bunocephalus: Greek, byneo = to fill up, to swell + Greek, kephale = head

General Notes:

Banjo catfish are nocturnal and largely inactive. Preferring to spend their time hidden away or partially buried in the substrate. When they need to move more quickly they gulp in water through their mouth and propel in out of their gills under pressure which in turn propels them forwards. Banjo catfish are generally peaceful and won't molest fish much smaller than themselves but they may be bullied by fish which become to inquisitive. Probably not the best fish for the average community but if you like 'odd balls' they don't come much odder than the banjo catfish.


Wild banjo catfish feed on a variety of thing including insects, insect larva, fish (probably scavenged), worms,  crustaceans and organic debris. In captivity they will accept live or frozen food such as blood worms and similar, sinking pellets and even flake food. Banjo catfish are not very competitive at feeding time so make sure that they get their share of food by placing some close to them.


Can't be reliably sexed, adult females are plumper looking. 


Breeding has occurred in the home aquaria but it isn't  an easy fish to breed on demand. The clutch may contain as many as 4,000 eggs which are laid in to the substrate. There is no parental care after spawning and the parents may even eat their own eggs. The safest option if you are lucky enough to have a pair spawn is to remove the eggs and place them in a separate aquarium which has the same water make up as in the original tank. Once the fry are free swimming they are big enough to accept micro worms and newly hatched brine shrimps and when large enough grindal worms and tubifex worms.

Wild status

Banjo catfish are common across much of their wide range and face no immediate threats. Most specimens offered for sale have been captive bred.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 5 - 19
Temperature: 25 - 28°C (77 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 11cm (4.5in)
Min tank size: 100 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Bottom

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Banjo catfish, Bunocephalus coracoideus

Origin: South America: Amazon River basin.

Habitat: Occurs in ponds and forest creeks rich in plant debris


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Aspredinidae
Genus: Bunocephalus
Species: B. coracoideus (Cope, 1874)

Common name:
Banjo catfish

Synonyms: Dysichthys coracoideus, Bunocephalus bicolor, Dysichthys bicolor, Bunocephalus haggini