Information, Freshwater fish, Species

Raphael Catfish: Complete Species & Care Overview

Raphael catfish is a popular freshwater fish variety among hobby aquarists. They are super easy to care for, making them ideal for both beginner and seasoned aquarists. Thanks to their appearance, Raphael catfish are fun to watch; therefore, they are a perfect addition to your community tank.

So, what are the care needs for this fish species? This guide will examine the tank size and conditions, dietary needs, breeding habits, appearance, and other valuable facts about the Raphael catfish.


Scientific Name: Platydoras armatulus
Common Names: Raphael catfish, chocolate doradid, thorny catfish, talking catfish, Southern striped catfish
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years
Adult Size: 6 inches


TemperamentMostly peaceful
Primary DietOmnivores
Beginner FriendlyYes
Tank PreferenceBottom dweller
Water Temperature75-80F
Tank SizeAt least 50 gallons
Water ParametersA pH of 6-8, water hardness 4 to 20 dGH
BreedingEgg layers

Fun Fact Corner

Raphael catfish are also known as talking catfish because of their ability to make sounds that make it appear like they are “talking” to each other. These sounds are usually produced when the spines on the pectoral fins grind against their sockets.


This fish species is native to South America. They can be found in the Amazon River Basin, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and other countries in the region.

Raphael catfish are prevalent in the wild; therefore, it’s easy to find them. However, unlike other catfish breeds, they don’t breed in captivity.

In the wild, they live in the river’s soft, sandy bottom parts. Like other catfish species, they are nocturnal; therefore, they come out at night to feed and explore their habitat. Raphael catfish quickly adapt to different habitats because they are hardy.


Overall, the Raphael catfish looks like a torpedo. They have large and wide heads, but their bodies lean towards the tail.

This fish species is also known as the striped Raphael catfish because they have stripes running along the length of the body. The lateral white stripes can appear yellowish.

Each side of the body has a thicker stripe and a thinner one on the head. The stripes stand out against their dark-brown bodies. The belly of the Raphael catfish is white, creating an illusion that a third stripe connects with the pectoral fins.

Additionally, the Raphael fish are also protected like other catfish species. They have a curve spine along the entire body.

You’ll notice that they have rigid and sharp fins; therefore, they pop the fins for protection whenever they feel threatened. Because of the sharp fins, the fish gets entangled with nets, so you should use plastic or glass containers when moving them.


It can be challenging to distinguish between male and female Raphael catfish. Most aquarists and experts say that males have a more vivid coloration, but there are no distinct ways to differentiate the sexes. However, you can distinguish them based on age. Younger Raphael catfish tend to be brighter and become duller as they grow older.

Average Size

The average Raphael catfish grows to about 6 inches in length as an adult. However, they tend to become much bigger when stocked in larger aquariums.

Some aquarists report that these fish varieties can grow up to 7.9 to 9 inches if kept in a good environment. You can achieve this by sourcing your Raphael catfish from a reputable aquatic pet store.


Overall, Raphael catfish are peaceful species. Although they don’t show any aggression toward other fish species, they may eat smaller fish, snails, or shrimp in your tank. One of the key behaviors you need to know about this breed is that they are nocturnal; therefore, they’ll spend most of their time hiding during the day.

At night, they become active and start exploring the tank for food. In some cases, the nocturnal behavior might go away, so you should observe the aquarium for any changes.


Because they are peaceful, Raphael catfish can co-exist peacefully with a wide range of fish species. However, they perform better with other large species compared to smaller fish varieties. They can also be stocked with some aggressive species because they are rarely attacked due to their size and big fins.

Some ideal tankmates include Jaguar cichlid, black skirt tetra, bristlenose pleco, pictus catfish, Oscar fish, bichir, congo tetra, and African butterfly fish.

Tank Size and Conditions

It’s advisable to keep Raphael catfish in a big tank, about 50 gallons, to accommodate their size. A smaller tank will affect their growth and keep them stressed. In terms of water parameters, this fish species is quite hardy; however, you still need to stick to acceptable parameters.

Raphael catfish are tropical bottom dwellers; therefore, you’ll find them at the bottom of the tank. To replicate their natural habitat, keep the water temperature at 75-80F, pH levels at 6-8, and water hardness between 4 to 20 dGH.

Ensure that you add plenty of hiding spots because these fish species are nocturnal. Because they spend most of their time at the bottom, you should add a soft, sandy substrate, plants, and decorations.


Raphael catfish are omnivores; therefore, they are not too demanding regarding food. In captivity, you can feed them sinking pellets, commercial fish pet foods, algae wafers, and protein-rich snacks like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and feeder shrimp. Ensure that you feed them sparingly; they are prone to weight gain due to their massive appetite.


It’s almost impossible to breed the Raphael catfish in the wild. Most of the Raphael catfish available in the market are wild-caught. There are ways to breed these fish species in captivity because, in the wild, they tend to release eggs in fast-moving waters for fertilization.


You can handle the Raphael catfish as a beginner or a seasoned hobbyist. They have basic needs and are easy to care for and maintain. You can keep them healthy by maintaining the proper water parameters in the tank and providing the right diet.


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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