Common Names: Striped Raphael Catfish
Scientific Name: Platyodras armatulus
Minimum Tank Size: 55 Gallons
Care Level: Easy
Max Size: 6 Inches
Temperature: 74-80 F
Tank Level: Bottom
Colors: Brown, Tan
Striped Raphael Catfish Species Overview
Striped Raphael catfish are an excellent option for adding liveliness and color to the bottom of a tank. These fish are popular because of their playful nature, making them entertaining to watch as they flash their stripped bodies in search of food.
The striped Raphael catfish is a low-maintenance fish. Therefore, they’re ideal for beginner fish keepers.
Of course, striped Raphael catfish have limits on the types of water conditions they can tolerate. So, it’s vital to maintain the tank parameters that we’ll be discussing here.
Striped Raphael catfish have a flashier look than many other catfish. They have bold white stripes that run along their bodies’ length, from their heads to their tails.
The white stripes alternate with dark brown or black stripes.
All striped Raphael catfish have white bellies, which appear as an additional stripe and allow for a unique appearance when these fish are upside down eating algae.
These fish also have three sets of barbels. Their longest pair emerges from their upper jaw, with two smaller pairs jutting out from their lower jaw.
The striped Raphael catfish has a torpedo-shaped body with larger heads and a narrowing body towards the backside before the tail flairs larger.
Fish keepers must handle striped Raphael catfish with care, given that they have sharp pectoral fins that can cut your hands. They also have spines on their body.
For this reason, it’s best to use a glass or plastic container when you need to transfer your striped Raphael catfish to and from their tank. Otherwise, their fins and spines could catch on the net and injure them.
There’s little variation in colors and patterns within the striped Raphael fish species.
That said, young striped Raphael fish have brighter colors. As they age, their color becomes duller.
Some scientists believe young fish have bright colors to alert other fish that they’re peaceful. That’s because baby striped Raphael catfish often clean larger fish’s scales, offering a mutual relationship.
Striped Raphael catfish are native to the Amazon in South America. These freshwater fish are particularly abundant in Paraguay, Suriname, Tocantins, and the lower Orinoco basins.
Due to human intervention, it’s also possible to encounter striped Raphael catfish in warm freshwater areas in the United States.
These fish live at the bottom of rivers and tributaries in the wild, which has a substrate of sand and mud. Since they’re nocturnal, striped Raphael catfish gravitate to areas with thick plants, hollow logs, and rocks where they can sleep in safety during the day.
At night, they come out in full force, searching for particles of plant matter and protein.
Striped Raphael catfish gravitate towards the roots of several common aquatic plants in the Amazon, such as giant water lilies and river grasses.
They have an excellent tolerance for cloudy water, given that heavy rains in the Amazon frequently make their habitat murky.
You should never let your striped Raphael catfish’s tank water get cloudy. Since the tanks have a forced closed ecosystem, cloudy tank water shows unhealthy toxin buildup.
The average striped Raphael catfish typically grows seven to nine inches long in captivity.
Some people claim these fish can grow up to 17 inches in their natural habitat. But there’s little evidence proving this.
Male and female striped Raphael catfish often grow to the same size, so it isn’t possible to use size to determine their gender.
You can expect your striped Raphael catfish to outlive many of the other tropical fish in your aquarium, given that they can live for 10 to 15 years.
Part of the reason striped Raphael catfish can live so long is that they’re an exceptionally hardy species.
But ensuring you give your fish the proper tank conditions right from the start will increase their chances of living the longest and healthiest life possible.
It’s practically impossible to tell striped Raphael catfish apart.
Some fish keepers believe that female striped Raphael catfish have a girthier, heavier appearance than males. That’s undoubtedly the case when a female grows eggs, but we’re hesitant to say she remains this way even when she’s not preparing to spawn.
Others claim that male striped Raphael catfish have brighter colors, even when they’re older.
But given that this color characteristic is common among males in other tropical fish species, it’s biased at best. The reality is that, at this time, there’s no scientific evidence pointing towards being able to distinguish male from female striped Raphael catfish.
Striped Raphael catfish are a docile species. They cohabitate well with nearly all other tropical fish and are social with each other.
The main caveat to a striped Raphael catfish’s normally peaceful demeanor is that they sometimes view small fish and shrimp as food.
So, ensuring you place these catfish in a tank with fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans as large or bigger as them is vital to prevent the possibility of them making your other pets their dinner.
Striped Raphael catfish are social by nature and enjoy schooling. Therefore, you should place a minimum of two fish in a tank to optimize their mental health.
Since it’s impossible to tell males and females apart by appearance alone, there appear to be no temperamental differences between males and females.
Having striped Raphael catfish in a tropical fish tank is a rewarding experience. Although these fish are easy to care for and have a high tolerance for various conditions, giving them their ideal tank parameters is essential to ensure they live long and healthy lives.
Minimum Tank Size
You should purchase a tank that can accommodate a minimum of 30 gallons of water per striped Raphael catfish. However, 50 gallons of water per fish is ideal.
Although many new fish keepers only consider a tank’s water capacity when making their purchase, the tank’s dimensions are also important. Since striped Raphael catfish are bottom dwellers, choosing a tank that’s longer than it is tall is vital.
Therefore, you should aim for a minimum tank size of 48” x 12” x 12” for one striped Raphael catfish.
Remember, striped Raphael catfish love to be on the go. So, the more space you can give them, the happier they’ll be and the lower the chance they’ll develop a stressed-induced disease.
Now that you’re the proud owner of a new tropical fish aquarium let’s explore the water parameters you’ll need to arrange for your striped Raphael catfish.
The ideal water temperature for striped Raphael catfish is 75°F to 80°F.
Since these fish hail from the warm waters of the Amazon River, it’s vital to ensure their tank’s water remains at a consistently comfortable temperature for them. The best way to do so is by purchasing a tank heater.
Striped Raphael catfish can handle a pH between 6.0 to 8.0. However, their preferred pH is between 6.5 to 7.5.
The bottom line is that these catfish have a high tolerance for both slightly acidic and slightly basic water. But to reduce the chance of stressors, it’s always best to stick in the middle of this pH range.
You should never place striped Raphael catfish in a saltwater tank. These are freshwater fish, so they’ll die in the presence of too much salt.
Scientists define freshwater as typically having less than a 1% salt concentration.
So, small amounts of salt won’t hurt your striped Raphael catfish. In fact, specially made aquarium salt can boost their immune system and effectively eliminate certain parasites and diseases.
So, if you’re interested in incorporating small amounts of salt in your catfish’s tank, you can purchase freshwater aquarium salt and follow the instructions on the package.
Now that you know how to get your striped Raphael catfish’s water in tip-top shape, let’s move on to setting up their tank.
Your striped Raphael catfish will spend most of their time at the bottom of their tank. That, coupled with the fact that these fish burrow when they’re scared, means it’s vital to choose a soft substrate.
Fine sand is the best substrate for striped Raphael catfish. However, if you do not choose sand, another option is fine, smooth gravel.
In either case, putting a generous layer of a soft substrate at the bottom of your fish’s tank is vital for their wellbeing.
It’s time to pull out the artist within you, for decorations are a must when adding striped Raphael catfish to your aquarium.
These fish love decorations that mimic their natural habitat, such as:
- Sunken driftwood with holes
- Piles of small, smooth rocks
- Caves of any kind
Although your striped Raphael catfish will likely spend most of the day hiding behind and inside these decorations, many fish keepers notice that they tend to develop more diurnal tendencies in captivity.
As a final note on decorations, while they’re important, it’s equally essential not to overwhelm your tank with them.
Striped Raphael catfish require plenty of open space to scrounge for food and swim.
Your striped Raphael catfish will appreciate you including live plants in their tank. They enjoy hiding around the plants’ roots and eating fallen plant debris.
Floating plants are also an excellent choice for these catfish if you have other tropical fish in the aquarium that requires a tank light. That way, the floating plants will help block a portion of the light, making it easier for your striped Raphael catfish to get some sleep during the day.
Some excellent live plants to add to your tank include:
- Java fern
- Red root floater
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to include live plants in your tank, no worries. Using artificial plants is an acceptable alternative.
Striped Raphael catfish are a nocturnal species by nature, although, as we already mentioned, they might become more lively during the day in captivity.
In either case, there’s nothing wrong with adding a lamp to your aquarium, especially if you have other fish species in the tank.
However, using floating plants and giving them dark hiding places is vital so that they have a place to rest.
That said, ensuring you place your striped Raphael catfish’s tank in a place in your home that’s completely dark at night is even more important than adding an aquarium light to their tank.
Purchasing one or more high-quality filters for your striped Raphael catfish tank is vital. Without a filter, toxins will build up, and they’ll die.
There are three types of filters you can purchase:
Mechanical and biological filters are essential, but adding a chemical filter helps take some workloads off them.
Adding a heater to your striped Raphael catfish tank is essential to ensure the water stays within their preferred 75°F to 80°F range.
We also encourage you to buy an aquarium thermometer and keep it attached to the side of the aquarium. That way, you can easily check the water temperature daily to have peace of mind that your heater is functioning correctly.
Striped Raphael catfish aren’t picky about their food. These omnivores will gladly munch on whatever they find at the bottom of their tank, including dead plant matter and small crustaceans.
Some examples of the food you can give your catfish include:
- Algae wafers
- Sinking fish pellets
- Brine shrimp
Knowing the amount of food to give your striped Raphael catfish can be challenging. That’s because these fish will often munch on leftovers from other fish that fall to the bottom of the tank.
For this reason, it’s vital to scoop up leftover food at the top of the tank before it reaches the bottom.
As a general rule, the ideal way to feed tropical fish of most kinds is to let them eat for two to three minutes twice per day and then remove any remaining food.
That said, if you notice your striped Raphael catfish putting on too much weight, it’s best to cut back on how much you give them, for they’re likely finding more sources of food than you suspected.
Sadly for fish keepers interested in breeding, this isn’t easy to do with the striped Raphael catfish in captivity.
Many tropical fish breeding farms can’t even figure out how to breed these fish, even when using hormone injections.
Scientists suspect that in the wild, striped Raphael catfish might lay and fertilize their eggs in fast-moving water. If this is the case, it makes sense why breeders have such a challenging time getting these catfish to reproduce.
Since captive breeding is so rare with striped Raphael catfish, you can be practically sure that the fish you bring home originated directly from the wild.
No matter how carefully you set up your tank and water parameters, illness can still strike a striped Raphael catfish. Below are some of the most common diseases they can develop.
Ich is a protozoan parasite that makes it difficult for striped Raphael catfish to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen, leading to death if you don’t treat it.
It’s easy to tell if your catfish has ich because they develop small white spots across their bodies and itch themselves on hard surfaces. You can treat ich by quarantining the infected fish and applying anti-itch treatment.
Fin rot can be the result of a bacterial or fungal infection, usually from poor quality water.
In some cases, the bacteria and fungus penetrate a striped Raphael catfish’s fins on its own. In other cases, it enters from a tear or abrasion.
Performing frequent water changes and treating the water with an antibacterial or antifungal medicine is vital for reversing this issue.
Lymphocystis is an iridovirus that causes your striped Raphael catfish to develop lumps on their body. These bumps might be white or pink in color.
There isn’t a treatment for this virus. But the good news is that it doesn’t reduce the lifespan of catfish, and they can typically live completely normal lives.
Velvet disease is yet another parasitic infection that can impact striped Raphael catfish. It most commonly occurs from introducing an infected fish into the tank.
One of the most notorious signs that your catfish has velvet disease is if their bodies develop a dusty gold color. You can treat these Oodinium parasites by turning off the aquarium lamp and increasing the water’s temperature.
Potential Tank Mates
Striped Raphael catfish make excellent tank mates for nearly any tropical fish species as long as the fish is as big or bigger as them.
A unique feature of these fish is that you can keep them with notoriously aggressive fish species. Since striped Raphael catfish have sharp fins, most aggressive fish will leave them alone.
Below are some of the many fish that your striped Raphael catfish will get along with:
Remember that the more fish you add to your tank, the larger the tank size you’ll need to ensure there’s sufficient space and oxygen in the water.