The Giraffe Catfish is a large species that requires a very spacious aquarium accompanied by powerful filtration. In the wild, these hefty bottom-dwellers are known from a plethora of shallow lakes and rivers with muddy substrates; indeed, this species has a huge distribution area, which encompasses much of West Africa, Lake Chad, the entire Congo River system, the Nile, East African lakes, and the rivers Omo and Giuba. Giraffe Catfish can be very characterful and are famed for developing into real “˜pet fish”™ that recognize and interact with their owners. Young specimens grow very quickly, so it is vital that they are provided with vast quarters from the outset, in order to prevent stunting and associated health problems. The footprint of the tank (length and width) is much more important than the height, so always aim for a tank as long and wide as possible.
These fish are voracious eaters and therefore produce a lot of nitrogenous waste, so it is essential to run powerful filtration on the aquarium – ideally with 2 or more filters, so that if one should fail or requires maintenance, there is backup. There should be areas of brisk water movement, coupled with calmer areas, and a balance of shady caves and ample swimming space along the front of the aquarium. Provide a soft sandy substrate in order to protect the long sensory barbels, which the catfish uses to grub about for food items.
Robust plants should not be eaten, but they will be quickly and vigorously uprooted as the catfish noses about in the substrate, so most aquarists opt to omit them from the aquascape. Lighting should not be too bright, and a blue moonlight turned on just before the main lights switch off will allow you to observe the antics of these fascinating fish for a time during the late evening. Tankmates must be chosen carefully: although Giraffe Catfish are “˜gentle giants”™ and very sociable, they will eat any fish small enough to fit in their mouths. Good tankmates could include several of the larger African characins (Distichodus spp., large tetras, etc.) or medium-large sized barbs. Many aquarists have had success in keeping them alongside their large rift lake cichlids, but long-term, the extremely hard, alkaline water is not ideal for the Giraffe Catfish. Frequent, large, and partial water changes are an absolute must. Juvenile fish (as pictured here) show a mottled giraffe-like pattern, which becomes uniformly grey-brown as they grow. Can be kept in groups, but this will require an extraordinarily large aquarium and associated oversized equipment. Under appropriate conditions, this is a fish that not only becomes tame but can live for well over 20 years. May also be seen on sale as the Giraffe Nose Catfish.
Offer a variety of foods including quality large sinking pellets/tablets, and frozen foods such as bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, and Mysis shrimp, moving on to larger foodstuffs such as earthworms and prawns as they grow. Will appreciate the occasional treat of blanched vegetables.
This species has not been bred in the home aquarium. It is said that in the wild, the male fish guards the nest of eggs