Firewood catfish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The firewood catfish is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is perfect for any aquarium.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about firewood catfish care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

The firewood catfish (scientific name: Panaque nigrolineatus) is a freshwater fish that’s native to South America. Its primary habitat is in the Amazon River basin, although it can also be found in other parts of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.

This fish gets its name from its love of wood. In the wild, firewood catfish spend a lot of time hiding among driftwood and other pieces of wood at the bottom of rivers.

They are also known to eat wood, which helps them break down all of the cellulose and other plant matter that they would otherwise have a hard time digesting.

In the aquarium, firewood catfish need a lot of wood to be happy and healthy. They will also eat live plants, so it’s important to choose plants that are tough and can withstand a bit of nibbling.


Firewood catfish

The Firewood catfish is a species that’s known for being quite unique in the aquarium world. These fish have a very long and thin body that can grow up to a foot in length!

They’re dark brown or black in coloration with a few white spots dotting their body. These spots are usually more prominent on their fins and tail.

The fins on this fish are very long and thin. The dorsal fin starts about halfway back on their body and extends almost to the end of their tail. The anal fin is a bit shorter and starts closer to the head of the fish.

They have a forked caudal fin that’s slightly taller than it is wide. The pectoral fins are very thin and long, and the ventral fins are short and close to their body.

One of the most unique things about the Firewood catfish is the wood-like growths on their body. These growths can be any number of things including actual wood, plants, or even other fish!

These growths serve a few purposes for the Firewood catfish. They provide camouflage, allow the fish to blend in with their surroundings, and can even provide shelter for the fish.


The lifespan of a firewood catfish is around 7 to 8 years long. This relatively long lifespan is due in part to their great hardiness.

These fish are very adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. They’re also not particularly sensitive to changes in the water, which helps them to live a long, stress-free life.


The common size for a fully grown Firewood Catfish is around 6 inches, but some have been known to grow up to 8 inches. These guys are a bit larger than your average aquarium catfish, so you’ll need to take that into consideration when setting up their home.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for a single firewood catfish is 30 gallons. This number goes up to 50 gallons if you plan on keeping more than one fish in the same tank.

While these fish are not as large as some of the other species on this list, they still need a bit of extra space to move around and stay active.

Water Parameters

The firewood catfish is a tropical fish that requires warm water to thrive. They are also a bit more sensitive to water conditions than some other freshwater fish.

That means you need to be more precise when it comes to replicating their natural habitat. The parameters below are what you should aim for, but try to stay as close to the ideal range as possible.

  • Water Temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

These fish come from a fast-moving river environment so they’re used to a lot of water movement. We recommend using a filter that can provide a moderate to strong flow in your tank.

As for the substrate, these fish don’t really have any preferences. Gravel, sand, or even a bare-bottom tank will work just fine.

Since they come from such a densely planted area, you might want to consider adding some plants to their tank. Hornwort, water wisteria, and java moss are all great choices.

You should also include some driftwood or rocks in their habitat. These provide hiding spots for your fish and can help make the tank feel more natural.

One final thing to keep in mind is that these fish like to dig. If you have a soft substrate (like sand) then they might end up stirring it up a bit. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to be aware of.

Common Diseases

The most common disease that affects firewood catfish is parasitic infection. This is usually caused by poor water quality and can result in a number of different issues for your fish.

The most common symptom of parasitic infection is heavy scratching and/or rubbing against objects in the tank. This is the fish’s way of trying to get rid of the parasites that are irritating their skin.

If left untreated, this can lead to secondary bacterial infections and a whole host of other problems.

The best way to prevent this is to maintain clean and stable water conditions in the tank. This will go a long way in keeping your fish healthy and disease-free.

Behavior & Temperament

The firewood catfish is a nocturnal bottom-dweller that spends most of its time hiding in the shadows. They’re a shy fish, so don’t expect to see them out and about very often.

Even when they are out, they’re not very active. They tend to move slowly and deliberately, often sticking close to the wood or plants in their environment.

Although they’re not the most social fish, they typically do well in groups. They’re not aggressive and usually leave other fish alone. The only time you might see them become territorial is if there isn’t enough hiding places in the tank. In that case, they may fight over who gets to stay hidden and who has to stay out in the open.

Other than that, these fish are pretty easy-going. They’re not fussy eaters and they don’t need a lot of space. As long as they have a place to hide, they’ll be happy.

Tank Mates

When it comes to finding the right tank mates for firewood catfish, there are a few things to consider.

First of all, these fish come from fast-moving streams. As a result, they prefer tanks with plenty of water movement. A good filter will help create this environment.

Secondly, firewood catfish are peaceful. They’re not aggressive and will do fine in a community tank.

Finally, these fish prefer to stick to the bottom of the tank. They’re not known to swim in the upper levels very often.

With these things in mind, here are some compatible tank mates:

  • Neon Tetras
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails
  • Endler’s Livebearers
  • Cherry Shrimp
  • Ghost Shrimp


The firewood catfish is a relatively easy species to breed in captivity. However, there are a few things you need to do to make sure they are successful.

First, you will need to set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 30 gallons and have a water temperature of 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank should also be well-filtered and have a lot of hiding places.

Next, you will need to sex your fish. Males have a more slender body, while females are rounder. Once you have your males and females, you will need to add two females for every one male.

Now, you will need to wait for the spawning to take place. The female will lay her eggs on a leaf or piece of wood. Once she has done that, the male will fertilize them.

After about a week, the eggs will hatch. You can then remove the adults and begin feeding the fry baby brine shrimp.


Overall, the Firewood Catfish is an excellent choice for a beginner fish owner or someone who wants a low-maintenance pet.

They’re easy to care for and don’t require a lot of attention, which is great if you’re new to fish ownership or don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to your pet.

They’re also a lot of fun to watch, and their playful nature will keep you entertained for hours on end.

If you’re looking for a new pet that won’t require a lot of work, the Firewood Catfish is a great choice!