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

Updated: October 24, 2022

The whiptail catfish is a hardy and peaceful freshwater fish that is perfect for beginners. They are very easy to care for and can live in a wide range of water conditions.

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

Species overview

Whiptail catfish (Rineloricaria sp.) are a freshwater fish that can be found in a variety of habitats throughout South America.

They are most commonly found in slow-moving rivers and streams with a sandy or muddy bottom. These areas are typically heavily vegetated, which provides the fish with plenty of places to hide.

Whiptail catfish are mostly bottom-dwellers and prefer to stay hidden among the plants and debris on the river bottom. They are not very active fish and will spend most of their time hiding and waiting for food to come to them.

These fish are not very demanding and can be kept in a wide range of water conditions. They are also very peaceful and can be kept with a variety of tank mates.


Whiptail catfish

Whiptail catfish are very long, thin, and eel-like in their appearance. Their bodies are brown or tan with black spots that run along their sides. These spots are sometimes in the shape of stripes.

The spots and stripes provide some camouflage for these fish in the wild as they hide amongst the plants and debris.

The dorsal fin on these fish is very long and starts almost at the head of the fish. It runs the entire length of their bodies and tapers off at the end.

Their anal fins are also very long and start just behind the ventral fins. These fins are also slightly transparent.

The ventral fins are small and located just behind the head of the fish.

Whiptail catfish have a very long, thin, and barbels that are located on their chin. These barbels are used to help the fish find food in murky waters.

The caudal fin on these fish is forked and symmetrical.


Whiptail catfish have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years. This obviously varies based on the individual fish and the environment they’re in.

As with any fish, the water quality is going to have a big impact on their lifespan. These fish also tend to be rather delicate, so it’s important to take care when handling them.

If you provide them with a good environment and take good care of them, they can easily live for 10 years or more.


The average size of a Whiptail catfish is between 4 and 6 inches, with some specimens reaching up to 8 inches in length. These fish are relatively slender, so they don’t need a ton of space to swim around.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a whiptail catfish is 30 gallons. If you’re looking for a bottom-dwelling fish to add to your freshwater aquarium, the whiptail catfish is a good option.

This species of fish is relatively peaceful but can grow up to 12 inches in length, so you need to make sure you have enough space for them to swim and hide.

Whiptail catfish are also social creatures so we recommend keeping them in groups of at least 3 fish. This will give them the best chance to thrive and stay healthy in your aquarium.

Water Parameters

Whiptail catfish are a little bit more delicate than some of the other options on this list. Because of that, it’s important to take extra care when setting up their tank and monitoring their water parameters.

The most important thing to remember is to avoid sudden changes. These fish are very sensitive to any sudden change in their environment, whether it’s a new tankmate or a new piece of decor.

If you do need to make a change, do it gradually. This will give the fish time to adjust and reduce the risk of stress or illness.

Here are a few water parameters to keep in mind when setting up a whiptail catfish tank.

  • Water Temperature: 72 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

When it comes to setting up the inside of an aquarium for a whiptail catfish, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, these fish need a lot of space to swim. They’re not the type of fish that will spend a lot of time hiding, so you need to make sure there’s plenty of room for them to move around.

The second thing to consider is the type of substrate you use. Whiptail catfish are known to dig, so a soft substrate is a must. Sand or small gravel is ideal.

As for decorations, it’s really up to you. These fish aren’t too picky. Rocks, driftwood, and plants are all suitable options. Just make sure there’s enough open space for them to swim!

Common Diseases

Whiptail catfish are pretty hardy fish, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick. There are a few diseases that these fish are prone to, and it’s important to be aware of them.

The most common disease that affects whiptail catfish is ich. This is a parasite that will attach itself to your fish and cause white spots to appear on their body.

If left untreated, ich can be fatal. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to treat if you catch it early.

Another common disease is bacterial infections. These can occur if your fish are kept in water that is too dirty or if they have an injury that becomes infected.

The most common symptom of a bacterial infection is redness or inflammation around the affected area. If you notice this, it’s important to take your fish to the vet so they can be treated with antibiotics.

Finally, whiptail catfish are also susceptible to parasites. These can be either internal or external, and they can cause a variety of different symptoms.

If you notice any strange behavior or changes in appearance, it’s always best to take your fish to the vet to be safe.

Behavior & Temperament

Whiptail catfish are peaceful, social creatures that do best in groups. They’re relatively inactive during the day, hiding among plants or in caves. When night falls, they become much more active and will swim around the tank in search of food.

Whiptail catfish are mostly peaceful, but they can be a bit nippy. They’re known to nibble on the fins of other fish. This is usually just a sign of playfulness, but it can sometimes turn into aggression if the fish doesn’t back off.

For the most part, these fish get along with others. They’re not territorial and will usually leave other fish alone. The only time you might have a problem is if you have a tank that’s too small. Whiptail catfish need plenty of space to swim, so a cramped tank is a recipe for disaster.

Tank Mates

Whiptail catfish are peaceful community fish that get along with most species. These fish are native to South America, so they do best in warm water.

They’re also bottom dwellers, so they’re not likely to bother fish that occupy other parts of the water column.

In terms of compatible tank mates, the sky’s the limit. As long as the fish can tolerate warm water and won’t see the whiptail catfish as food, they’ll likely get along just fine.

Some good whiptail catfish tank mates include:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • plecos
  • Snails


Whiptail catfish are easy to care for, but they can be difficult to breed. These fish are not sexually dimorphic, so it can be tricky to tell males and females apart. The only way to be sure is to wait until they’re ready to spawn.

When that time comes, the female will be much larger than the male. She will also have a gravid spot, which is a dark area near the base of the tail.

To breed these fish, you will need a breeding tank that is at least 30 gallons. The water should be soft and acidic, with a temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You will also need a lot of live plants. Whiptail catfish like to lay their eggs on plant leaves. The more plants you have, the more likely you are to have a successful spawn.

When the female is ready to lay eggs, she will do so on the leaves of the plants. The male will then fertilize them. Once the eggs are fertilized, the parents will eat them.

To prevent this from happening, you will need to remove the parents as soon as the eggs are laid. You can then incubate the eggs in a separate tank.

Eggs usually hatch in 7-10 days. When they hatch, they will be very small and need to be fed Infusoria or baby brine shrimp.


The Whiptail Catfish is a great addition to any freshwater aquarium. They’re relatively easy to care for and get along well with other fish.

They’re also a lot of fun to watch as they swim around and explore their tank.

If you’re looking for a fun and low-maintenance fish, the Whiptail Catfish is a great option!