Scleromystax barbatus used to be known as Callichthys barbatus and Corydoras barbatus. The name Corydoras barbatus is still commonly used in the aquarium hobby, and Scleromystax barbatus is actually very similar to Corydoras species. Compared to Corys, this fish does however grow quite big. The Bearded catfish is a subtropical freshwater fish native to coastal drainage environments in South America. It has been found from Rio de Janeiro to Santa Catarina in Brazil.
Caring for Bearded catfish
Since Scleromystax barbatus live in cool coastal regions, it will not thrive in a warm aquarium where the water temperature exceeds 23-24 degrees C. The regions around Rio de Janeiro where this fish lives are actually subjected to frost know and then. You can therefore let the water temperature drop down to 21 degrees C to simulate a winter season. You should however keep in mind that there are populations of Scleromystax barbatus that live further upstreams in the Brazilian inland where the climate is much more stable and hot. These fishes appreciate water temperatures up to 28 degrees C. If you want to breed them, you should however lower the temperature down to 24 degrees C.
The pH-value should be neutral or slightly acidic; from pH 6.5 to 70. For maintenance purposes, moderately hard water around dH 18 is recommended. Adding soft water can however trigger spawning.
Sexing Scleromystax barbatus
The male Scleromystax barbatus is darken than the female and has a lot of black markings on his head and front half of his body. There is also a row a bristles located along his “cheeks”. (Look at the bottom edge of the gill covers.) The female will have shorter pectoral fins. When sexing young Scleromystax barbatus, comparing the pectoral fins is usually the most reliable method.
Triggering spawning in Banded Corydoras, Bearded catfish
Just as with Cory’s, Scleromystax barbatus is more likely to spawn when kept in groups containing more than one male. The group should ideally contain at least a dozen specimens in all, since this is a shoaling fish. One of the most commonly used methods of triggering spawning in Scleromystax barbatus is to feed them plenty of meaty foods, such as chopped earthworms and Tubifex. A major water change and lowering of water temperature should ideally be carried out simultaneously with a lowered barometric pressure if you want to breed Scleromystax barbatus.
Scleromystax barbatus spawning
Spawning behavior is a point where Scleromystax barbatus distinguishes itself from the Corys. When Corydoras species spawn, the males will normally be very active and encircle a female. In Scleromystax barbatus it is instead the female fish that will take charge of the spawning ritual. Instead of being encircled, the female Scleromystax barbatus will swim back and forth with the males. The classic Cory "T-position" is however used by Scleromystax barbatus as well.
When the sperm has been released, the female fish will rest on one of her pectoral fins and use the other to fan the sperm over her eggs. The eggs are held by the pelvic fin. After fertilization, bunches of eggs will be fastened close to the surface. The egg laying can take up to 15 hours and over 60 eggs can be deposited. If you want to ensure a high survival rate, you should move the eggs or the adult fish. You can use a razor blade to scrape the eggs from the aquarium glass and other surfaces.
Bearded catfish fry
Scleromystax barbatus fry hatch after roughly five days. During the initial 48 hours, the fry will not need any food since the feed off their yolk sacs. When they are two days old, you can start giving them rotifers. After 14 days, they are usually big enough to eat brine shrimp.
Keeping the water quality up is of imperative importance when breeding Scleromystax barbatus. Using a mechanical filter and including at least one airstone in the fry rearing aquarium is also a good idea.
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