Maximum size : 20 cm

Royal Whiptail Catfish - Sturisoma panamense : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The Royal Whiptail Catfish (Sturisoma panamense) is renowned for its peaceful temperament and robust nature, making it a suitable addition to almost any aquarium environment. These catfish are compatible with other non-aggressive fish species that do not engage in competition for food or grazing areas. However, caution should be exercised when considering tankmates, as aggressive midwater fish may create conflicts over food resources, particularly at lower levels. It is worth noting that larger individuals of the Royal Whiptail Catfish may consume very small dwarf shrimp, particularly shrimplets. Nonetheless, many aquarists successfully maintain these catfish alongside shrimp colonies without any issues.

To promote social behaviour and well-being, it is advisable to keep Royal Whiptail Catfish in small groups consisting of 3 to 5 individuals, ensuring a higher ratio of females. Although primarily nocturnal, these catfish can become active during the day when provided with an aquarium that features an abundance of driftwood, rockwork, and various hiding places. Unlike some other suckermouth catfish species, the Royal Whiptail Catfish does not heavily consume wood; however, the addition of supplementary wood may still provide benefits. Additionally, these catfish are generally compatible with aquatic plants and will actively consume algae in the aquarium.

Maintaining adequate aeration and filtration is crucial for the health and activity of the Royal Whiptail Catfish. This ensures optimal water quality and provides the necessary oxygenation for their well-being. In terms of appearance, these catfish possess a distinct and unique charm. They feature a slender, elongated body with a brownish-yellow colouration, accentuated by tiny black markings running along their sides. The Royal Whiptail Catfish is further distinguished by its remarkable fin extensions, adding to its overall aesthetic appeal. Notably, these catfish possess a more substantial and elongated body and fins compared to their twig-like relatives, setting them apart from other whiptail species.

Overall, the Royal Whiptail Catfish exemplifies a captivating addition to an aquarium, characterized by its peaceful nature, distinctive appearance, and valuable contribution to algae control. By providing appropriate tank conditions, companionship, and adequate care, aquarists can observe the fascinating behaviour and unique attributes of these remarkable catfish.

Royal Whiptail Catfish Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between the male and female Royal Whiptail Catfish is a relatively straightforward task. Males of this species possess distinct physical characteristics that set them apart from females. One notable feature is their long first dorsal fin, which extends prominently along their backs. Additionally, males exhibit whisker-like extensions on their heads, adding to their unique appearance.

In contrast, females of the Royal Whiptail Catfish exhibit a different physical profile. Their heads have a more rounded shape and lack the whiskers that are characteristic of males. This distinction in head shape and absence of whiskers aid in differentiating females from their male counterparts within this captivating species.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameSturisoma panamense
Year Described1889
Other NamesThe Royal Farlowella
GenusSturisoma panamense
OriginsPanama , Colombia , Ecuador
Max Size20 cm
Aquarium LevelBottom
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asTrios
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
LifespanUp to 8 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.5 - 7.5
GH 5 - 15
Ideal Temperature
68 - 79
20 - 26

Natural Habitat

In central and southern America, the Royal Whiptail Catfish is endemic to Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. Fast-moving rivers and streams with well-oxygenated water and cool temperatures are ideal habitats for these fish.


When the Royal Whiptail Catfish is in optimal physical condition, they often exhibit breeding behaviour. During the spawning process, up to 60 brownish-yellow eggs are laid in a compact, circular mass on a clean, flat surface, with each egg carefully positioned without touching neighbouring eggs.

Subsequently, the male assumes the role of guardian, diligently protecting the eggs by covering them with his body and continuously fanning them with his pectoral and ventral fins. He displays unwavering dedication to this task, only momentarily leaving the eggs for rare feeding occasions. The male's constant care and attention ensure proper oxygenation and prevent fungal growth on the eggs.

Conversely, the female, once the spawning is complete, displays disinterest in the eggs and plays no active role in their care. It is noteworthy that the presence of the female in the aquarium does not disturb or agitate the male's commitment to egg protection. This behaviour is characteristic of the Royal Whiptail Catfish's reproductive strategy.

Approximately 7 to 8 days following the initial egg deposition, hatching begins, continuing over several days until all the eggs have hatched. The male remains vigilant during this period, ensuring the safety of the emerging fry. Once the fry has absorbed their yolk sacs within a span of 2 to 3 days, they become more active and display an increased inclination to swim.

At this stage, the fry exhibits a preference for areas with relatively strong water currents. They position themselves strategically to take advantage of these currents, which provide both a source of oxygenation and a means to disperse them throughout the aquarium. The fry's instinctual behaviour aligns with their natural habitat preferences.

Given their vulnerability to potential starvation during this critical stage of development, it is imperative to ensure a constant and sufficient supply of food to sustain their growth and well-being. Nutrient-rich diets consisting of freshly hatched brine shrimp, finely crushed flakes, or other suitable fry foods should be provided in small, frequent feedings. This consistent food supply supports the fry's growth and aids in their successful transition to the next stages of development.

Diet & feeding

In the home aquarium, Royal Whiptail Catfish readily accept a wide range of high-quality dried foods, such as granules and sinking pellets. These modern food products have been specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements essential for maintaining the health and well-being of your fish. They provide a comprehensive and balanced diet that fulfils the dietary needs of this species.

While dried foods can serve as the primary food source for Royal Whiptail Catfish, incorporating additional foodstuffs can provide additional benefits to their overall health. Offering live, frozen, or freeze-dried meals, such as bloodworms, daphnia, and tubifex, once or twice a week can enhance their diet and contribute to their well-being. However, it is important to note that bloodworms should only be given as an occasional treat due to their potential to cause digestion difficulties and blockages if overfed.

In their natural habitat, Royal Whiptail Catfish are omnivorous, consuming some vegetable matter. Most modern fish foods take this into consideration and include plant-based ingredients in their formulations. However, you can supplement your fish's diet by providing blanched vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and zucchini. These vegetables offer additional nutritional variety and contribute to the overall dietary needs of your fish.

It is crucial to practice moderation and avoid overfeeding your Royal Whiptail Catfish. Feeding an appropriate amount and removing any uneaten food the following day helps maintain optimal water quality and prevents potential health issues associated with overfeeding.

Other Other Catfish of interest