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Help with Black Antenna Whiptail Catfish


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Hi all.

Looking for some advice from anyone with experience keeping Black Antenna Whiptail Catfish. I've posted on some other fish forums with no luck (save for the kind person who recommended I post here) so, hoping someone on here can assist me. 

I apologize in advance for the length of my post below. I don’t know what all may be of importance in helping me with my fish situation, so I want to give you as much of the story as I can.

I’ve been fish keeping since 2008. I’ve kept a small variety of different kinds of fish over the years (mainly tropical) but I have never experienced a situation like this one before and it has me worried about my new fish. I’m genuinely concerned she is going to pass away if I don’t help her, but how to help her is where I’m stuck.

So, I discovered whiptail catfish a few years ago and fell in love with them, with Red Lizard Whiptail Catfish being my favorite due to their color, attitude, and smaller size. However, in my research of the other various types of whiptail catfish out there I had come across pictures of the Black Antenna Whiptail Catfish. There isn’t much information on these guys though. Anything I have been able to find I have read multiple times. Ultimately, I determined I would never get my hands on them because they are kind of rare, until my LFS got 2 in recently.

I purchased about 3 weeks ago a juvenile male and an adult female Black Antenna Whiptail Catfish when I saw that my LFS miraculously got them in. The plan was for them to go into my 43 gallon – just them and some baby Corydoras who are growing out. In the meantime, I put them in my already established 20L quarantine tank to start their 4 to 6 week hold. I normally keep the QT pretty bare bones, but I did add a large air stone bar (supposedly high oxygen lovers), turned the filter flow as high as it will go (they apparently like a bit of current), and I cranked the heater up a touch to 79, almost 80 F (research says they like warmer water). Because my other whiptails always seemed to appreciate it while in QT, I also added some aquarium driftwood with some nice biofilm on it to the tank as well as 2 bunches of live plants. I even threw in some spare pieces of slate stones, left over from my other tanks. Basically, I scaped my QT for them, trying to meet their every need and comfort based on my research of what little information there is to be had.

And yet, unhappy fish!!! So unhappy.

They clung to the glass, unmoving for days, refusing food. Per my research this means they are stressed and unsettled. I tried to tell myself they will come around as the same research told me they are slow to settle. Finally, after a week, the male did start to move a bit, though he still wouldn’t eat. He unfortunately passed away a few days ago. When I pulled him out he looked like he had a cut on his neck. I don’t think she could have done this to him, so I can only assume he may have injured himself on a sharp piece of the driftwood. I’m devastated at losing him though. I have since replaced the driftwood with driftwood I actually took a Dremel to and made sure there were absolutely no sharp points anywhere. The female still refused to move through all this from her spot on the front of the glass.

So, day after the male passed, I decided to add some more bundles of plants to her tank thinking maybe she wanted/needed more cover. I had just gotten a large shipment in so I had plenty to spare. I very slowly started to drop weighted bundles into the tank, trying to not disturb her. Didn’t matter. The addition of these plants GREATLY angered her. This completely still fish who refused to leave this one section of glass suddenly came to life, darting all over the tank, up and down, left and right. Ya’ll, this was an ANGRY fish! Then…she found the ONE spot near the filter I didn’t have covered. Apparently, these fish can jump?! Jumped clean out of the tank and of course BEHIND the solid tank stand, though fortunately onto some plush carpet. I don’t know how I managed it, adrenaline in guess, but I pulled that stand back so fast, grabbed her, and got her back in relatively quickly. She started her laps again and tried to jump out AGAIN, but I stopped her with a box while I then custom cut a piece of plastic and taped it down good. Unable to jump out again, she finally settled back on her favorite spot of glass. I don’t think she sustained any injuries from the fall – she’s still acting the same. You know, completely unmoving and all…

Now we are at about 3 weeks of not eating and barely moving from "the spot" (except for the heart attack inducing tank escape). She still looks to be in good body condition – plump – but I’m worried that the longer she doesn’t eat, the more likely she never will and then she’ll eventually die of starvation. I will note that since I’ve had her, while not eating, she was pooping quite a bit that first week to week and half, though because of not eating since I've had her she’s doesn’t have much left in her now.

As far as food options, there are biofilm and some algae in the tank. I have tried shrimp pellets, frozen blood worms, like ALL the different varieties of Bug Bites (I feel like I can open a shop), frozen peas thawed and shelled, and spirulina in paste form, flake form and wafer form. My Red Lizards love ALL of these. Black Antenna? No so much. I’ve had to siphon everything out – they just never even moved to even try any of it.

So, if you’ve stayed with me through my tale of woe, you can tell I’m at a loss now.

Is there another food I should try?

Should I re-scape the quarantine tank differently?

Should I switch her from treated tap water to RO water?

Should I move her to the 43 gallon already (honestly, scaped very similarly to the QT) and nix the rest of quarantine?

To recap the quarantine tank she is in now:
*20 gallon long – fully cycled.
*Full spectrum aquarium light, sunlight and sunset mode enabled, set to only get up to 20% right now (it’s surprisingly a bright light)
*20 gallon rated HOB filter.
*Tank length air stone bars, full blast.
*Heater set to 79/80 F.
*Real driftwood (manzanita) with biofilm
*Live plants
*Slate, 3 pieces
*Water is from tap, treated with Seachem Prime and Seachem Stress Guard
*Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite: 0
*pH: 6.5
*GH: 30
*50% water change weekly.
*No other fish but her.

Any advice at all would be greatly appreciated. I really want her to pull through and thrive.

Thank you!


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It could be internal parasites that why she not eating as there more than likely wild caught I would treat for parasites with paracleanse it can take 2-3 course 2weeks apart also try feeding cucumber blanched spinach and lettuce blood worms hikari algae wafers Sera wood chips repashy soilent green or bottom scratcher if you can see if it has a nice round belly it more then likely eating when you not a round if its belly hollow and sunken then I would worry

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Thank you for your response!

I do not have paracleanse on hand, but I do have almost all of the Seachem medications on hand. I will compare them to paracleanse. If I have one similar enough I'll go ahead and start her on it today, otherwise I'll have to order and wait for paracleanse.

She is not worryingly thin yet. When I got her she was pretty plump already, so she's not concerningly thin yet, but I certainly don't want to get there. She really isn't producing waste anymore either, so I really don't think she is eating.

I ordered a variety of different foods last night to try to add to the ever growing collection, several you mentioned above, and I also picked up some more frozen varieties from my LFS. I already tried blood worms a few times previously and she is completely uninterested. I haven't tried cucumber or spinach yet, just peas, but I will give them a shot as well.

If there is any change with her I'll update here.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought I would give an update for anyone interested.

First, I refuse to tally up how much I have spent on this fish since I bought her, most especially in the food department. The low number in my bank account is all I need to know. I think it's safe to assume at this point I am invested in this fish's survival.

The first change I made since my original post was adding a wave maker to her tank for an even stronger flow. She actually liked this very much. She no longer clings to the glass, front and center. She'll either take up post right in front of the wave maker, or she'll bask on a piece of slate in the path of the wave maker. Improvement there. Not so good news is the wave maker I originally bought was on the cheaper end as it was more of a test so it broke rather quickly. I think it lasted 3 days. I removed it and she had to suffer for 2 days as we waited for the new one to arrive. She quickly started to revert to her glass clinging ways, but once I got the new one in there she started to improve again. I have a feeling I'm going to have to invest some money on an even better one for the 43 gallon when she makes the move. I am open to recommendations as wave makers are new to me.

The second change I made was to remove most of the plants I had added to the tank thinking she might like it, but then if you read my original post know that they had lead to "The Great Tank Escape of 2021". She does seem better with them mostly gone, oddly. And besides, my betta tanks could use a little more green anyways.

Thirdly was I did a parasite treatment on her just in case.

Additionally, since my last post, I have also purchased more pellets, wafers, 5 different kinds of frozen varieties (she turns her nose up at my frozen bloodworms, but I now have 6 different frozen options for my fish if you count the bloodworms, the spoiled brats) as well as Repashy Superfoods Soilent Green Gel Premix which I mixed and poured into mini silicone ice trays. Heck, I even bought seaweed rated for freshwater fish AND a glass clip for it. With my Black Antenna Whiptail Catfish I feel as though we have officially tried them all. But, I can now happily report that we do seem to have a winner as I am starting to see her little poops again in the tank - haven't seen those in about 2 weeks! Seriously, I was getting worried.

So the food that was the winner is: Emerald Entree option within the San Francisco Bay Brand Frozen Freshwater Multipack from Petco as well as well as the Repashy Superfoods Soilent Green Gel Premix I got off Chewy. She doesn't eat either of these with gusto, but the fact that she eats them at all I am taking as a good sign.



Edited by MegsNC
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