Spotted raphael catfish makes an unorthodox addition to your collection. This spotted beauty has captivated the hearts of many fish lovers with its quirky looks. Do not be surprised if you catch yourself glued to the aquarium, eagerly awaiting a glimpse of this fish in the night.

Due to its undemanding ways, it is apt for beginners who never had a catfish or a medium to large fish. It is peaceful and gels well with other fishes, making it desirable for your community tank.

The advantage of adding this fish is that it will assist you in keeping your aquarium clean.

Interesting. Isn’t it? By the end of this article, you will know everything about spotted raphael catfish care and decide if you are ready to have one.

Species Profile

Generic facts
Scientific Name Agamyxis* Pectinifrons
Other popular names Spotted Raphael Catfish, Spotted Talking Catfish, Whitebarred Catfish
Family Doradidae
Origin South America
Life Span 15 to 20 years
Adult Size 4.7 to 5.9 inches
Type Freshwater
*Agamyxis is derived from the greek words agamai (to admire/astonish) and myxo (mucus)

Natural Habitat and Origin

They hail from Brazil, Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru in South America.

These spotted catfish thrive in the slow-moving tropical freshwaters and flooded forests with thick plantations, driftwood, etc. They prefer to live in their own groups.

Lifespan and Size

A full-grown spotted raphael catfish measures anywhere from 4.7 to 5.9 inches long. Most of them attain a size of 5.0 inches. Their growth rate is slow. Be patient.

Their average lifespan in the wild is ten years due to natural perils. In captivity, they live 15-20 years due to better care in safety. However, many hobbyists have reported their pets alive for 25+ years and going strong. Unfortunately, there is no official confirmation about their longest lifespan/largest size.

Physical Appearance

Spotted raphael catfish are round/fat in the center. One end of their bodies flattens towards their mouths. They have two black eyes on their head. Flat, broad mouths and eyes lend them a fierce and uncanny look.

The other end of the body narrows down towards the tail. Barbels/whiskers on their mouths categorize them as catfish. A pair of it on the upper and two pairs on the lower jaw, complete their catfish look.

Bodies of spotted raphael catfish are brown, black, or dark bluish-black. White or yellowish spot-like, random markings cover their entire bodies, including their barbels and fins. This contrasting spotted pattern lends them an undeniably striking, attractive look, setting them apart from other fishes in the same family.

Their dorsal fin (1st fin on the upper body) stands erect. Before the start of their tail fin, there is a small adipose fin on the upper body.

They have a pair of pectoral fins (one on each side, near their gills).

Lower bodies have a pair of pelvic fins (the first ones) and anal fins (the second one) on each side, followed by a tail (caudal) fin.

They are scale-less. Their skin is thick and heavily plated. Small conical or thorn-like lumps form a line, running through their central body line in contrast/the same color. It explains their family name – doradidae (meaning thorny catfish).

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The slightly forked tail fin has a fanlike pattern. Their underbellies are lighter in color.

Their body colors become darker with age.

Did you know? No two spotted raphael catfish have the same markings. Each pattern is unique.

General Anatomy and Defense Mechanism

Add an Image of the general anatomy of catfish showing spines and other parts.

The above diagram depicts the various body parts explained in section 1.3, in general, for all catfish. The number of barbels, markings, colors and shapes/sizes of fins may vary slightly from species to species.

They have hidden spines at the start of the dorsal fin and pectoral fins. These are sharp, bony structures in the sockets inside the fins. These spines automatically come out in self-defense (when in danger), post which they retract in their sockets.

Hence, it is advisable to wear gloves while handling them. Never hold them from the front side of their dorsal or pectoral fins to avoid getting hurt by their spines.

Their dark colors and spotted bodies help them camouflage into their surroundings to avoid predators.

Spotted raphael catfish can make audible sounds by moving spines inside the sockets in pectoral fins. The sounds get amplified through the swim bladders into a croaking noise, explaining their name – spotted talking catfish.

Hobbyists always get amused by these sounds whenever they are handling them. Watch a talk!

Typical Behavior Patterns

  • Spotted raphael catfish are nocturnal. During the day, they love to remain hidden in the aquarium decor.
  • Although they are shy, they enjoy the same-species company. Maybe it provides them with added security. Their gregarious behavior is visible within their group.
  • Watching them swim upside down, sideways, and through the tank decor playfully is a sight to behold!
  • Some specimens may not swim a lot, which is their personality and not a concern.
  • They are bottom dwellers but swim up to mid-level tank waters.
  • They scavenge and consume leftover food from the tank bottom, making an apt clean-up crew.
  • They snack on snails, helping you curb unwanted snail growth in the aquarium.
  • Although they are not active predators, they may feast on smaller fishes. Hence, do not house smaller fishes with them.
  • Most fish owners claim there is not much to do after adding spotted raphael catfish. They manage themselves.

Author’s note: Some spotted talking catfish do not come out of their hideouts for long and keep eating whatever they can from their surroundings. As a result, they might get stuck inside as they grow. Hence, keep an eye on them.

Spotted Raphael Catfish – Male or Female

It is tricky to differentiate them sexually.

As depicted in the image below, a female spotted raphael catfish (on the top) is larger and plumper than her male counterpart. Unless you compare a few of them by viewing them from above, it will be challenging to tell them apart. The specimens you compare should be of the same age to reach a correct inference.

Spotted Raphael Catfish - Male or Female
Image source-

Once they mature, their genital papillae (underneath their bodies) assume different shapes, setting them sexually apart. However, it takes an expert to reach there. The image below shows their genitals.

Refer to section 2.2 for your options.

Spotted Raphael Catfish - Male Vs. Female

Availability and Price

Agamyxis Albomaculatus (a species of catfish) resembles the spotted raphael catfish. It originates from Venezuela, unlike our Agamyxis Pectinifrons.

Do not use the names like spotted catfish, thorny catfish, raphael catfish, or talking catfish while purchasing. Vendors sell different species of catfish under these generic names.

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To buy the correct species, use the complete popular name/scientific name, demand a photo/check their physical appearance, and ask for their place of origin while buying.

Their price starts from $7 onwards, depending on their size, availability, quality, and offers.

Spotted Raphael Catfish Care

Care Overview
Care Level Easy
Diet Omnivorous. Opportunistic predator
Temperament Shy, nocturnal, peaceful
Breeding Difficult in captivity. Egg laying
Social Outgoing with the same species. Gels well with other similar-sized fishes
Tank Level Bottom-dwellers
Spotted Raphael Catfish Care


In the wild, they eat anything that fits their mouth.

How and What to Feed

Spotted raphael catfish are not fussy about diet. They accept all types of fish foods.

They might not eat food for the first 2-3 days. It is normal. They need time to get used to the new house and tankmates. Leave some food in the tank bottom near their hiding spaces after dusk. They will scavenge for food at night while checking out the new place.

Since they are nocturnal, feed them once after dusk. Feed them separately as they will not compete for food with other tankmates. Use sinking foods that can reach the bottom of the tank. If the food is dry, make it slightly wet. Defrost frozen foods before feeding.

Feed only for 2-3 minutes. Avoid overfeeding. Use good quality food to avoid parasitic/bacterial infections. Keep their diet varied for complete nutrition. Include some spirulina-rich dry food.

Spotted raphael catfish will eat-

  • Fish pellets.
  • Fish flakes.
  • Live/frozen bloodworms, tubifex worms, earthworms, snails (that befit their mouth sizes), etc.
  • Veggies (zucchini, peas, boiled potatoes, etc.). Observe what they accept and feed accordingly.


Spotted raphael catfish lay eggs. Most suggest that they build bubble nests. The female spotted raphael catfish releases eggs in thick plantations while the male catfish fertilize the eggs by simultaneously releasing semen.

The exact details of their natural reproduction in the wild (like the breeding season, the gestation period of pregnancy, the time between fertilizing and hatching, etc.) are still a mystery.

They have not bred naturally in aquariums to date. Isolated instances of accidental breeding in captivity have no official confirmation.

In one such instance, a fish owner suspected that one of the spotted raphael catfish probably laid eggs in their hideout cave. Her swollen belly (not due to overfeeding) was suddenly normal after a few hours.

The pet owner also observed other tank mates trying to get closer to the catfish hideout, which was unusual. Maybe, they wanted to snack on the eggs inside the cave. However, there are no further updates.

If you do not plan to breed your spotted raphael catfish, sexing them while purchasing might not be necessary (refer to section 1.6). Adding a group of them increases the possibility of having at least one female.

If you notice an unusually swollen belly of the female catfish, try moving her with a male catfish in a separate breeding tank with lots of hiding spaces. You may get lucky! Do share your grandparenting experience of raising fish fry(s) here.

Spotted raphael catfish are bred in captivity by breeders and aquaculturists using induced spawning. It involves using hormonal injections. Post-injecting the female fish:

  • They are spawned naturally in large breeding ponds/tanks, where female fish release eggs and male fish fertilize them.

The eggs are moved to a separate tank/pond to hatch and grow.

  • Alternatively, they strip the eggs from the female catfish and extract semen (milt) from the male catfish manually.
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The eggs are then fertilized in trays and left to hatch.

Freshly hatched fry(s) are grown in separate tanks/ponds till they are large enough to join adult fishes or be sold.

The exact details of induced spawning are still a well-kept secret.


Spotted raphael catfish are sturdy and not prone to any particular diseases. Good aquarium maintenance is vital to keep them healthy.

However, being scaleless, they are toxic to copper and potassium permanganate. Avoid using any fertilizers/chemicals containing these in the aquarium.

Their barbells are the most delicate part of their body. Take special care while handling them. Avoid using a net as their thorny body may get entangled, complicating things. Use gloves and handle them correctly (refer to section 1.4).


Most of the spotted raphael catfish are likely to be wild-caught and sold. Quarantine and acclimate your prized new addition before adding it to the main aquarium.

Quarantine ensures they are free of unknown parasites/infections. Acclimating helps your spotted raphael catfish adjust to the main aquarium water without added stress/complications.

Spotted Raphael Catfish Tank Size and Water Parameters

Tank Requirements Overview
Minimum Tank Size 35 gallons
Water Temperature 68 – 79 degrees F/20 – 26 degrees C
PH Level 5.8 – 7.5
Water Hardness 2 to 20 dGH
Spotted Raphael Catfish Tank Size and Water Parameters

Tank Size

As discussed earlier, preferably add a group of three or more spotted raphael catfish to bring out their true gregarious nature. You can also add a single catfish with other tankmates.

A 35-gallon aquarium is suitable to house one. Increase the size by 10 gallons/per additional fish. Do consider other tank dwellers and their space requirements.

Tank Setup

A tank setup replicating their natural environment is the key to keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. Sterilize everything that enters the tank. Everything should have smooth edges/surfaces. Any open holes in the tank should be wide enough for the fish to swim through them without getting stuck/hurt.


A thickly planted aquarium is best for spotted raphael catfish. Add live, artificial, floating, or all types of plants. Avoid carpeting plants. Live plants increase the oxygen level and reduce nitrate levels in the aquarium.

Consider adding Java Fern, Java Moss, Anubias Nana, Duckweed, Moneywort, Water Lettuce, etc.


A soft sand and gravel substrate will ensure the safety of the delicate barbels of your spotted raphael catfish while scavenging or when they bury themselves inside the substrate to hide.

Decorations and Lighting

Consider adding rocks, caves, bridges, driftwood, bogwood, hanging roots, etc.

Use colorful decors to beautify your aquarium. DIY decorations using different materials are a great way to express your creativity.

Spotted raphael catfish prefer subdued lighting to move freely. Use dim, blue moonlight in the night to enjoy their activities. Use floating plants to dim the light further.

Oxygen and Filtration

Spotted raphael catfish need well-oxygenated water with a slow current. The filtration system should be apt for the aquarium size. Use an air pump and stone. Clean and maintain the filtration system periodically to ensure efficient functioning.

Spotted Raphael Catfish Tankmates

Ideal tank mates should be similar-sized with peaceful temperaments. Do not add fish that might fall prey/prey on your catfish. All should have similar water requirements to live together.

Since spotted raphael catfish are bottom-dwellers and active after dusk, add tankmates that occupy other tank levels during the day. It will keep the whole aquarium alive 24 by 7.

Central and South American Cichlids (like Bolivian Ram, Fir mouth, Tiger Oscar, Jack Dempsey, etc.), Gouramis, or other catfish (like Pictus Cat, etc.), Tetras (like Congo, Black Skirt, etc.) make good tankmates.

Is it the Best Choice

We have covered everything you need to know about this exquisite aquatic beauty. Spotted raphael catfish will surely make your aquarium stand out with its looks, talking sounds, and playfulness within its group.

They have a slow growth rate. So you can add more than one (small-sized) in a smaller tank till you arrange for a larger one for them to grow to their full potential.

They are available at a very affordable rate. For a few dollars, they assure you a long bond with the least effort to care for them while silently keeping your aquarium clean, unlike other fishes. That is a high return on investment.

No wonder they are a beginner’s delight! When are you getting your spotted raphael catfish? We wish you a happy fish parenting time!

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About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists. Career Highlights: Has worked with several…

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